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How the regulatory process would work in Mississippi
9. Doesn’t federal law prohibit the use of medical marijuana?
Federal law does not prevent states from removing state and local criminal penalties for the medical use of marijuana, which is what our initiative would do in Mississippi. Nothing in the U.S. Constitution or federal law prohibits states from enacting penalties that differ from federal law that would prevent states from implementing their medical marijuana laws. Moreover, since late 2014, the appropriations acts approved by Congress have included riders to prevent federal funds from being used to interfere with medical marijuana laws. President Donald Trump has signaled his support for allowing state medical marijuana laws to function without federal interference, and a federal appellate court has ruled that the federal government cannot punish — or even investigate — physicians for discussing or recommending the medical use of marijuana with patients.
10. Can anyone get medical marijuana under your proposal?
No. Only those persons who have a debilitating medical condition as enumerated in the ballot initiative, have been examined by a Mississippi-licensed physician, and have obtained from that physician a certification which allows the patient to use medical marijuana. The qualified patient will then use the physician certification to apply for a Medical Marijuana ID Card through the Mississippi Department of Health. Once the patient has obtained a Medical Marijuana ID Card, they may proceed to obtain treatment from a Medical Marijuana Treatment Center in the state of Mississippi. Medical marijuana will only be dispensed to qualified patients with valid Medical Marijuana ID Cards, and Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers will confirm the following according to the rules and regulations set by the Mississippi Department of Health: the patient has a valid Medical Marijuana ID Card that is not expired, and the patient has an available allotment to purchase according to the time frame and amount allowed per the state’s regulatory requirements.
11. How do you protect someone who is using medical marijuana from getting arrested?
A medical marijuana patient’s ID card, issued to every patient by the Mississippi Department of Health, prohibits the ID card holder from arrest by any state or local law enforcement official for possession of legally obtained medical marijuana.
12. What factors determine qualification for a certification from a physician?
A physician may only certify medical marijuana after examining a patient in person and determining he or she meets one or more of the allowable diagnoses. A physician's decision to certify medical marijuana would be based upon his or her opinion that marijuana could benefit a patient. A parent of a minor must be present at the examination and provide written consent prior to the certification being issued on behalf of the minor.
13. Are physicians required to certify medical marijuana under your proposal?
No. Physicians are not required to certify medical marijuana just as they are not required to prescribe any other treatment method. This ballot initiative will grant physicians the freedom to certify medical marijuana to patients who may benefit from it. The initiative’s language expressly states that physicians are never required to certify medical marijuana, but that they do have the option to do so.
14. What if a physician improperly certifies a patient for medical marijuana?
The same rules would apply for medical marijuana certifications as for any other medication improperly prescribed by a physician. Only physicians in good standing and licensed to practice medicine in the State of Mississippi can certify patients to use medical marijuana. Those physicians are regulated by the Mississippi Board of Medical Licensure who has the duty to protect the public and discipline physicians who do not practice according to the appropriate standard of care.
15. How are physicians legally protected when they certify someone to use medical marijuana?
If adopted by the voters, the ballot initiative will become part of the state constitution. The initiative includes a provision that provides physicians with legal protection for certifications for medical marijuana for persons diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition.
16. Where will medical marijuana be available?
Medical marijuana will only be available at Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers licensed by the Mississippi Department of Health.
17. What is a medical marijuana business?
A medical marijuana business is any business that has applied for and received a license from the Mississippi Department of Health to cultivate, process, test, or sell medical marijuana. This may include: cultivation facilities (agricultural greenhouses where the plant is grown and harvested), testing facilities where the products are scientifically tested and approved, and dispensing centers (Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers) where patients can purchase the medicine.
18. Who will oversee and regulate Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers in Mississippi?
Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers will be registered with, licensed, and regulated by the Mississippi Department of Health.
19. How will a Medical Marijuana Treatment Center work? What will I do once I get there?
A medical marijuana patient will show his or her Medical Marijuana ID Card at the front desk. The associate will swipe the ID card into the medical marijuana patient database to verify the patient’s information and that there is an available amount of medical marijuana allowed to be dispensed. The patient will then be able to speak with a medical marijuana patient advocate to discuss treatment options and purchase their medicine.
20. What is medical marijuana and what kind of medical marijuana product will be available in Mississippi? How will I know what to choose or how much to take?
Medical marijuana is state-regulated marijuana that is obtained from a licensed treatment center in Mississippi and that is provided to qualified patients. It can be offered in varying forms, some of which include beverages, topicals, patches, tinctures, sprays, juices, smoking, vaporizing, edibles, capsules, lozenges, creams, and ointments. Offering medical marijuana in multiple forms allows patients to utilize their treatment in the way that works best for them. Certain methods get into the bloodstream more quickly, therefore providing immediate relief, while other forms may take longer to enter the bloodstream but may provide longer-lasting relief. The preferred method will depend upon patients’ preferences for ingestion, and the type of pain and symptoms they wish to alleviate. Patient advocates will be able to assist each patient at the Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers to help them find and choose what may work best for them.
21. What training will be required for employees of Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers?
The Mississippi Department of Health will regulate requirements for employees of Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers.
22. Will there be limits to the amount and frequency that patients can obtain medical marijuana treatment?
Yes. Just as other states that allow the use of medical marijuana have limits regarding the amount and frequency by which patients can obtain treatment, Mississippi will as well. Other states impose limits that range from 1 ounce to 8 ounces. The Mississippi initiative will limit each patient to obtaining or possessing no more than 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana every fourteen days.
23. Does this initiative allow for home grow? Will there be people growing medical marijuana in my neighborhood?
No. Qualified patients may only obtain medical marijuana from licensed Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers. Although some states with medical marijuana programs allow patients to grow medical marijuana on their own property, Mississippi’s proposal will require medical marijuana patients to purchase medication from licensed and regulated Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers.
This medical marijuana initiative was drafted to allow the Mississippi Department of Health to most effectively and efficiently regulate the program while providing a free market approach for businesses to engage in the growing, processing, and selling of medical marijuana. Adding a home grow component to the initiative would have complicated the regulatory process and added to the cost of that regulation. Given the free market approach to the business side of the initiative, we believe medical marijuana will be readily available to any patient who qualifies for the program.
24. Will the number of medical marijuana businesses in the state be limited?
No. It will be a free market and there will not be a limit imposed per this initiative. Each medical marijuana business will have to apply to, and be approved and licensed by, the Mississippi Department of Health.
25. Will people be allowed to smoke medical marijuana in public?
No. The initiative makes it illegal to smoke medical marijuana in a public place. In addition, the initiative does not override any public laws or private rules related to smoking in or on public or private places.
26. Can I use medical marijuana in a hospital, nursing home, or assisted living facility?
Using medical marijuana in a hospital, nursing home, or assisted living facility will depend upon the policies and rules of each facility. Nothing in Mississippi’s initiative requires public or private businesses to make accommodations for the use of medical marijuana. A facility may make restrictions on the legal use of medical marijuana on their premises, so it is important to be familiar with the rules and policies of those facilities. The initiative does make it illegal to smoke medical marijuana in a public place.
There is currently no consensus among health care facilities in other states where medical marijuana is legal regarding consumption by patients and residents on the premises. It is common protocol for health care facilities to ask patients and residents about current drug regimens when the patient or resident enters the facility. With medical marijuana, some hospitals have taken the "don't ask, don't tell" position as they do not want to assume any risk for knowingly allowing the consumption of a federally-illegal substance on their property. Other facilities have developed procedures for allowing the consumption of medical marijuana on the premises with certain protocols, such as securing the medical marijuana in special lock boxes or by only allowing non-smokable delivery methods.
27. What is the purpose of Medical Marijuana ID Cards?
Medical Marijuana ID Cards serve as identification for qualified patients, caregivers, and employees of Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers. Medical Marijuana ID Cards are required for patients to purchase their medicine, and enables the amounts purchased to be tracked within the medical marijuana database, which each Medical Marijuana Treatment Center uses to dispense medication to patients.
28. Will there be an expiration date for the Medical Marijuana ID Cards? What will the process for renewal be?
Most states’ programs require a renewal annually, while some states allow for two- or three-year renewals. Mississippi will require an annual renewal unless the physician opts for a shorter time period. To renew a Medical Marijuana ID Card, patients will need to complete an examination with a physician to determine if a qualifying medical condition is still present. The patient will then apply for their renewal card by submitting the physician certification to the Mississippi Department of Health.
29. Will insurance cover the costs of medical marijuana treatment?
Insurance companies are not required to cover the costs of medical marijuana treatment. Unless an insurance carrier or other third-party payer chooses to cover medical marijuana, the cost will be paid for out of pocket by the patient.
30. Will people under the age of 21 be able to use medical marijuana?
Individuals under the age of twenty-one will be able to use medical marijuana as a treatment, provided they receive a physician certification in an office visit attended by their parent or guardian who must provide written consent. Debilitating medical conditions affect children and teenagers just like they do adults. Offering medical marijuana as a treatment option provides an alternative to the heavy pharmaceutical drugs that many children and teenagers use currently. Families in other states have advocated for medical marijuana programs specifically for their children to have a safer and more effective option instead of only heavy drugs and medicines.
31. Why should children be eligible for medical marijuana?
Children suffer from debilitating medical conditions, including seizure-related illnesses, for which medical marijuana has provided significant relief and reduced the symptoms of for many patients. Medical marijuana is a helpful and effective treatment for children who either have not responded well to pharmaceutical drugs, or whose only other option is a strong cocktail of heavy pharmaceutical drugs.
By making medical marijuana available for children, physicians will be able to provide alternative treatments, including those derived from the marijuana plant that contain low levels of THC, such as CBD oil, which provides relief to children suffering from seizures.
32. Will Mississippi allow caregivers to help children and elderly patients purchase and take their medical marijuana?
Yes. All states with medical marijuana programs authorize the use of caregivers to assist qualified patients who need help with their medicine. Mississippi’s initiative would allow this as well. A caregiver is someone at least twenty-one years of age who has been granted caregiver status by the Mississippi Department of Health. Caregivers will be issued a Medical Marijuana ID Card specifically for caregivers that will include the patient’s name whom they are authorized to assist. The Caregiver Medical Marijuana ID Card will authorize caregivers to purchase medical marijuana on behalf of the patient and assist the patient with taking their medication.
33. How will the regulations for this new program be paid for?
This will be a self-funding program. The program will pay for itself and will not require the use of any general fund tax dollars. The initiative creates three sources of revenue for the Mississippi Department of Health to use in regulating and enforcing the medical marijuana program in the state. Those sources are the cost of an ID card, licensing fees for treatment centers, and a charge at the point of retail purchase of medical marijuana that cannot exceed the state’s sales tax rate. All of this revenue will go into a special fund for the Mississippi Department of Health to use exclusively for this program. In order to get the program up and running, before funds are received, the initiative authorizes the Mississippi Department of Health to receive a loan from the special source funds maintained by the state treasury. The proposal requires the repayment of any borrowed funds.
34. How much will it cost to apply for a Medical Marijuana ID Card?
The proposal allows the Mississippi Department of Health to charge up to $50 to obtain a Medical Marijuana ID Card and to renew the card.
35. If the initiative is adopted by the voters, how long will it take before medical marijuana is available in Mississippi?
Implementing a medical marijuana regulatory framework is something that 33 other states have done, and their experiences can be utilized in Mississippi. The proposal requires the Mississippi Department of Health to have the program up and running no later than August 15, 2021, if the voters approve the initiative in the November 2020 general election.