Updated on November 6, 2020. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
The legalization of medical cannabis in Mississippi has provided a path to constitutional changes in the state. However, in recent years, Mississippi has made progressive moves to decriminalize the possession of cannabis. It is one of 27 states in America where cannabis possession may not result in a criminal charge or incarceration.
A recent study conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that Caucasians and People of Color (POC) residents in Mississippi use cannabis at an almost equal rate. However, Black Americans in Mississippi were 2.7 times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana.
According to data provided by PrisonPolicy.org, approximately 1,039 per 100,000 citizens in Mississippi are incarcerated. This includes county jails, immigration detention, prisons, and juvenile justice centers. In 2018, the average incarceration rate in the United States was 698 per 100,000.
The move to decriminalize minor and personal use cannabis charges are aimed at reducing the growing state prison population in Mississippi. Incarcerated populations have been growing exponentially in the state since 1978. Like other states, the decriminalization of cannabis is thought of as long overdue in Mississippi.
Mississippi has decriminalized cannabis possession only for first-time offenses and when the individual has a small controlled substance. Recurrent violations still carry severe penalties in the state.
Some examples of cannabis-related charges under the new decriminalization laws include:
A first-time offender will receive a civil summons instead of being arrested, as long as they can provide proof of identity and provide a written promise that they will make a court appearance. The person will not have a criminal record, either, much like a minor traffic violation.
However, a distribution charge or possession of a large quantity of cannabis carries significant felony related consequences. An offender with more than 5 kilograms of any controlled substance (including hashish) will be charged with a felony offense. Distribution or intent to distribute charges can result in 10-30 years of imprisonment and a maximum fine of $1 million. Miss. Ann. Code § 41-29-139(c)(2)(B)
Despite decriminalization and legal reform, Mississippi will suspend your driver’s license for any cannabis-related charge. Suppose you were riding in someone else’s car, for example, and not operating a motor vehicle. In that case, you could still see your driver’s license suspended if you were charged with cannabis possession, whether it was your first-time or a subsequent charge.
The duration of a driver’s suspension for any controlled substance charge in Mississippi is a six-month term. See: “The Revocation or suspension of driving privilege of a person convicted of violation of Uniform Controlled Substance Law or violation of similar law of another jurisdiction; reduction of suspension in hardship cases.” Miss. Ann. Code § 63-1-71(1)
The measure is known as Initiative 65, and it was placed on the ballot for the November 3, 2020 election. State residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of legalizing medical marijuana in Mississippi. Initiative 65 won with 642,430 votes or a 74% majority.
The Mississippi state legislature had blocked more than twenty proposed laws to legalize medical cannabis. After voters adopted Initiative 65, Mississippi lawmakers must have a medical marijuana program launched and ready by August 2021.
The final draft of the medical marijuana program laws and requirements will be provided by July 1, 2021. Both business licenses for cannabis cultivators and medical dispensaries and the patient ID cards are expected to be issued starting in August 2021. Buying medical marijuana in Mississippi may not be possible until the fall of 2021. After growers and processors have been licensed and established an inventory for medical cannabis dispensaries.
As a new state medical marijuana program, more details will be provided in the coming months. Please refer to our website for updates to the Mississippi medical marijuana laws. Stay informed while the specifics of the new medical cannabis legislation is provided.
Initiative 65 provides accommodation for caregivers who provide support to minors or disabled or homebound family members. The qualification requirements for caregivers to administer medical cannabis as a legal guardian have yet to be determined.
But by comparison to other states, a caregiver may need to register separately and provide proof of guardianship. Additionally, caregivers may be required to submit to a criminal record check. A previous drug-related criminal charge may make a caregiver ineligible. More details will follow in 2021 as legislation from Initiative 65 (which legalized medical marijuana in Mississippi) becomes finalized.