Situated in the Deep South, it is not surprising to see that both medical and recreational cannabis is still illegal in Mississippi, similar to Nebraska. However, even the Magnolia State does not lag as much as the latter in terms of marijuana reform. In fact, the state even has two medical marijuana bills set to be voted upon by residents later this year.
First of the two bills is a citizen-submitted initiative. Initiative 65 seeks the legalization of medical marijuana for patients with at least one of the 22 specified qualifying conditions. It also specifies the amount that patients could possess at a time, which is 2.5 ounces. Marijuana sales under Initiative 65 would be taxed at the state’s sales tax rate, which is 7% as of 2020.
Then there’s the Alternative 65 which restricts cannabis access to terminally ill patients. However, this initiative doesn’t lay down any specifics such as possession limits, qualifying conditions, and other details related to a medical marijuana program. Instead, it leaves it to the legislature to put such rules in place after the measure has been approved.
A 65, on the other hand, is a lot more restrictive compared to most medical marijuana bills. Many argue that it was just put on the ballot to split the vote and perhaps as a way to set a medical marijuana law that doesn’t really allow access to marijuana. It should be noted that in the past few years, the legislature did not act on more than 20 bills seeking the creation of a legislatively established medical marijuana program and only acted when Mississippians made an effort to put their own initiative forward.
This November, residents will have to vote whether they are in favor of medical marijuana or not. However, those who choose to vote against will still need to choose between Initiative 65 and 65 A so that if the option to allow medical marijuana wins, the version that receives approval from at least 40% of the ballots cast at the election gets enacted.
Overview of Mississippi Marijuana Laws
At present, both medical and recreational marijuana, as well as any form of cultivation, is illegal in Mississippi.
- Possession – Thankfully enough, the penalty for simple possession of 30 grams or less is now only a fine of $250 without jail time. However, second and subsequent offenses are charged as a misdemeanor while anything in excess of 30 grams becomes a felony.
- Second offense with 30 g or less – mandatory sentence of 5 days up to 60 days jail time and a fine of up to $250
- Third offense with 30 g or less – mandatory sentence of 5 days up to 6 months jail time and a fine of up to $1000
- 30 g to 250 g – 1 to 3 years jail time and a fine of up to $1000
- 250 g to 500 g – mandatory of 2 years up to 8 years jail time and a fine of up to $50,000
- 500 g to 1 kg – mandatory of 4 years up to 16 years jail time and a fine of up to $50,000
- 1 to 5 kg – mandatory of 6 years up to 24 years jail time and a fine of up to $500,000
- 5 kg or more – mandatory of 10 years up to 30 years jail time and a fine of up to $1,000,000
- Sale – Selling marijuana in Mississippi is automatically charged as a felony regardless of the amount.
- 30 g or less – 3 years jail time and a fine of up to $3000
- 30 g to 250 g – 5 years jail time and a fine of up to $5000
- 250 g to 500 g – 3 to 10 years and a fine of up to $15,000
- 5 kg or more – 5 to 20 years jail time and a fine of up to $20,000
- Cultivation – Cultivation is treated the same as possession or sale and the penalties are based on the amount of marijuana involved in the offense.
History of Marijuana in Mississippi
Despite it being home to one of the biggest cannabis projects approved by the federal government, marijuana reform has had the hardest time getting traction in the Magnolia State.
Marijuana Research at Ole Miss
The Marijuana Project at the University of Mississippi is one of the oldest of its kind in the nation, having been started in the 1960s. Despite having one of the most impressive stockpiles of cannabis, it did not contribute to the cause for legalization in the state. In 2014, one of the head scientists from the program even expressed his disapproval of the liberalization of marijuana laws in states like Colorado and Washington.
The needle moved in favor of marijuana a bit in 1978 where possession of small amounts got decriminalized. While one could get arrested at that time for less than 30 grams, probation was always given in lieu of jail time, often at the discretion of the arresting officer.
Harper Grace Act
The closest Mississippi came to a therapeutic cannabis act was in 2014 when Gov. Phil Bryant approved HB 1231 or “Harper Grace Act”. However, even this was criticized for being overly restrictive as it did not provide patients a realistic way of obtaining legal cannabis oil for their conditions. HB 1231 only allowed patients to use high CBD oil with only .5% THC obtained and tested by the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi and dispensed by the Department of Pharmacy Services at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
Marijuana home cultivation laws outside of Mississippi
How do Mississippi marijuana laws compare with home growing laws in other US states? Check out our post on Marijuana Growing Laws in the United States.
FAQs about marijuana legalization in Mississippi
No, adult-use cannabis is currently illegal in Mississippi.
None. Home cultivation of recreational cannabis is not allowed in Mississippi.
No, medical marijuana is currently illegal in Mississippi.
None. Home cultivation of medical cannabis is still not allowed in Mississippi.
Mississippians are will be voting whether to legalize medical marijuana in the state or not. They will also have to choose between two bills: Initiative 65 and its state-submitted alternative.
At present, only employees of Marijuana Project at the University of Mississippi are the only ones allowed to grow cannabis in Mississippi.
Residents of all ages are not allowed to cultivate marijuana, whether recreational or medical, at home in Mississippi.
Mississippi is another example of a state where its politicians are trying to push back against impending legalization despite the wishes of their constituents. According to a recent poll, as much as 81% of Mississippians are now in favor of legalizing medical marijuana. For years, lawmakers in the state have tried to turn a deaf ear to calls for legalization and now that the citizens themselves launched an initiative, the state suddenly steps in and tries to sabotage the effort. This is why the vote for medical marijuana on November is critical: it will also hopefully serve as a wake-up call to Mississippi’s lawmakers who have been grossly out of touch with their constituents’ pulse.