Take it as another sign of the growing acceptance of cannabis nationwide: Two of America’s most cannaphobic states are finally making progress on reform. Things are happening in Alabama and Mississippi, y’all.
Medical legalization stalled in the Alabama Legislature, but a new commission will draft a bill for 2020.
In Alabama yesterday, Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill to create a new medical marijuana commission. That group will study medical cannabis and help draft proposed legislation ahead of the 2020 session in Montgomery. Tucked into the same bill was a clause that extends “Carly’s Law,” a sunsetting measure that allows a few patients to access CBD oil through a program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
The commission bill emerged as a compromise after a full medical cannabis legalization measure, sponsored by Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence), passed the Senate but stalled in the House.
There’s also been progress on the hemp front. Farmers across the state began planting thousands of legal hemp plants last month, in the wake of federal and state changes legalizing the crop. In late April, the state’s Department of Agriculture issued 180 hemp cultivation licenses under Alabama’s new Industrial Hemp Research Pilot Program. According to AL.com, it’s the first legal hemp crop planted in the state since 1937.
Mississippi Measure Nears Magic Number
Meanwhile, in Mississippi, a petition to legalize medical cannabis is nearing the magic number of 86,185 signatures needed to put it on the November 2020 ballot. Jamie Grantham, communications director for the group Medical Marijuana 2020, told the Jackson Free Press last week that they have two-thirds of the necessary signatures. The deadline to turn in petitions is in September.
Under the proposed initiatives, licensed physicians would be able to recommend medical marijuana for their patients. The patients would then register with the Mississippi Department of Health, which oversees the program. A state-issued ID card would allow patients to access a dispensary, which the petition calls a marijuana treatment center.
Jeff Jones, clinical liaison for special projects at the state Health Department, told the Free Press that he expects the first medical treatment center to open in early 2021 if the initiative passes. “Mississippians, I believe, will approve this because we are helping people that need help that they can’t get,” Jones told reporter Aliyah Veal. “We want to help. If we were trying to approve recreational marijuana, I’m not sure it would fly.”
In January, a poll from Millsaps College and Chism Strategies found that more than two-thirds of Mississippi residents favored legalizing medical cannabis, while 24% opposed the idea.