After spirited debate, Mississippi Senate passes medical marijuana bill
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A long morning of questions leads to the first hurdle cleared for medical marijuana at the State Capitol. The bill passed with only five no votes.
But that does not mean it was free of a spirited debate.
Before the questions started rolling in, senators were passing joints and bags of hemp as part of an attempt from Sen. Kevin Blackwell to give examples for what the allowable amounts would look like.
“The amount of marijuana that we’re going to allow, this is a packet before everybody flips out, this is only hemp. And the other samples I have are only hemp. But this is three-and-a-half grams of flour. So basically under our formula, what we’re gonna do is allow people to have one unit, which would be one of these, and we’re gonna allow them to purchase seven in a week. So it’s basically one of these a day.”
Blackwell passed around a 3.5 gram bag, one ounce bag and hemp joint.
“Everybody must get stoned. You may recognize those lyrics from Bob Dylan. It’s basically to draw attention to that almost hysterical paranoid reefer madness, Chicken Little belief expressed by a few skeptics that if we pass a medical cannabis bill, the streets of Mississippi will be flooded by pot smoking zombies, crime will explode, planes will fall from the sky and the world as we know it will simply come to an end. Some of you may share illogical beliefs, but they’re simply not true.”
The visual aids were a component of the debate that advocates believe was key.
“The Governor’s colorful descriptions of cannabis have kind of scared people,” noted Bethany Hill, president of We Are The 74. “So, I think Blackwell when he did that... he needed to bring that in. People needed those visuals and they needed to see the kind of medicine that they were going to be able to have in the amount.”
One amendment attempted to altogether replace the bill with one that would get pharmacists involved. But it would also limit the forms of allowable cannabis.
“It does not allow combustible cannabis,” said Sen. Angela Hill in reference to her strike all amendment. “Because in my 56 years, I have never seen anyone call combustible smoking medicine.”
The amendment, along with several others, failed. In total, the debate lasted 2.5 hours - worth it for those hoping to see patients helped by the legislation.
“For all the patients in our state, they shouldn’t have to suffer any longer,” said Angie Calhoun, founder and CEO of the Mississippi Patients Alliance.
There was a motion to reconsider filed, but it is expected to move to the House by next week. Again, Thursday’s vote was 47-5 in favor of it.
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