On Monday, March 29, 2021, legislative conferees representing the Mississippi House of Representatives and the Mississippi Senate filed a Conference Report for House Bill 119, legislation that had been amended by the Senate to include an alternate Medical Marijuana program (Amendment No. 1). The conferees agreed to remove the amendment, thereby returning the legislation to its original purpose: the reenactment of Harper Grace’s Law – authorizing the research and dispensing of CBD oil for medical purposes.
What it means.
This action by the six legislative conferees removes the alternate Medical Marijuana program from consideration, for now. The next step in the legislative process is for both houses to vote on the H.B. 119 Conference Report. March 31 is the deadline for each chamber to either approve the report or recommit it for further consideration. An effort by either house to amend the conference report (outside of the conference committee process) or introduce a new bill would require a two-thirds vote in each chamber to suspend legislative rules. Therefore, while these developments do not necessarily amount to the final legislative chapter for an alternate Medical Marijuana program (proverbially said to occur when a measure is dead dead dead) an alternative program, at this point in time, is highly unlikely.
Should these developments hold, all eyes will be on the Mississippi Supreme Court, which is scheduled to entertain oral argument on April 14, 2021, on a direct challenge to Initiative 65, the Medical Marijuana measure approved by nearly 74% of those voting on the initiative last November.
As reported previously, the Legislature’s actions do not affect the current deadlines imposed by Initiative 65, which requires the Mississippi State Department of Health to adopt final rules and regulations to govern the program no later than July 1, 2021, and for the agency to begin issuing licenses and Medical Marijuana identification cards for patients no later than August 15 of this year.