SB 2765 has an interesting history and only made it out of the Senate after some unorthodox late night/early morning maneuvering. When the bill was transferred to the House, it was ultimately assigned to the Ways and Means Committee. On Tuesday, March 2, a deadline day for reporting bills out of committee originating in the other chamber, the Ways and Means committee chairman called a late afternoon meeting to take up SB 2765.
As initially drafted, SB 2765 would have created a drastically different medical marijuana program than that created by Initiative 65. Among many other variances, it contained a cap on the number of licenses available for medical marijuana businesses and only required the Department of Health to authorize one dispensary per county. It also established strict zoning provisions and required patients to only shop at one designated dispensary. Though slightly revised, the version transferred to the House was still a conceptual departure from what Mississippi voters overwhelmingly approved.
In a strategic move, Representative Joel Bomgar offered an amendment in the committee meeting on Tuesday to replace the current language of the bill with the text from Initiative 65, a motion that the committee approved, as first reported by Mississippi Today. Now the bill goes to the House floor and, if approved, is sent back to the Senate for concurrence, meaning the Senate decides whether to agree to the House’s changes.
Some legislators have stated that the purpose of SB 2765 is to be a backstop if the Mississippi Supreme Court overturns Initiative 65. If that’s true (and does happen), then the most appropriate bill for the legislature to adopt would be a replica of Initiative 65, not a legislative alternative that fundamentally changes the state’s medical marijuana program. The will of Mississippi voters is clear: for the state to have a medical marijuana program as created by Initiative 65. This is a good outcome for this bill, though it has a long way to go.