A Mississippi legislator recently introduced a bill that would legalize the use of medical marijuana in the state. The bill was introduced by Democratic Senator Deborah Dawkins from Harrison County in January and has managed to stay afloat despite heavy opposition.
Medical marijuana is currently prohibited by federal law, and it’s classified as a schedule I drug. Despite this, the Drug Enforcement Administration, charged with enforcing federal drug laws, usually does not interfere with medical marijuana patients and their caregivers, according to Americans for Safe Access.
The federal government regulates drugs through the Controlled Substances Act, which doesn’t recognize the difference between medical and recreational use of marijuana.
Likewise, the state of Mississippi also classifies marijuana as a schedule I drug, but this bill would place it in the next category: schedule II. It would join drugs like methadone, morphine and oxycodone in the schedule II category, which are available through prescription.
Medical marijuana has become a popular issue in the past few years, and many states are proposing legislation along with Mississippi, including its neighbor Alabama. Some states, such as Alaska and California, have already passed laws legalizing its use.
Known as Senate Bill 2252, it’s “an act to authorize the medical use of marijuana by seriously ill patients under a physician’s supervision.”
Dawkins uses research from the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine to support her bill. It states, “Research has discovered a beneficial use of marijuana in treating or alleviating the pain or other symptoms associated with certain medical conditions.”
This bill isn’t new to the legislature, however. This marks the fourth consecutive year Dawkins has introduced the bill, and she says it’s time for Mississippi to allow its use.
“I think most people want their doctors to help them make that decision,” Dawkins said earlier this month. “To me, we’re taking something away from them and their physicians.”
In spite of the federal government banning marijuana use, it continues to pay for extensive medical research on the plant. Mississippi even has a research lab of its own on campus at the University of Mississippi.
Ole Miss has been in contract with the federal government since 1968 to grow, harvest and process marijuana and ship it to licensed facilities across the country.
Dawkins told WLOX news that she believes it is unfair that Mississippi provides medicine for other states but not its own.
Zachary Clarke, a senior history major, agrees with Dawkins’s bill and believes it should be passed in Mississippi.
“There is no denying the medical advantages that cannabis provides,” Clarke said. “Mississippi is probably prime in agriculture for growing it, so it would be economically beneficial to the state.”
The bill does specify how much an ill patient can possess but allows a patient to own an “adequate supply.” In the bill, adequate supply means the amount can’t exceed three mature marijuana plants, four immature plants or thirty grams of usable marijuana per each mature plant.
Clarke expressed his position on marijuana legalization in general.
“One day, I believe that the constitution and civil liberties will come into play, and I hope that it wouldn’t be just a medical endeavor, but a universal legalization,” Clarke said.
The bill isn’t receiving all positive reports, however. The Gulf Coast Substance Abuse Task Force sent an open letter to Senator Dawkins and all Mississippi senators stating that the bill needs more clarity and more supportive evidence.
“An issue of such magnitude should be based on current up to date information only and certainly not on any single study,” the letter said.