On February 2, 2022, after 816,107 Mississippians voted in favor of legalizing medical cannabis in 2020, Governor Tate Reeves signed the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act. This act authorizes medical cannabis use by Mississippians with debilitating medical conditions, making Mississippi the 37th state in America to legalize cannabis for medicinal use — which bucks against the Mississippi brand of usually being last in line.
Most people I’ve encountered while working in the cannabis space could not believe this was actually happening in Mississippi, which is totally understandable. As a lifelong Mississippian, one thing I have recognized is that we do stubborn really well down here.
Yet, we are here now and in an exciting time: a wildly unique opportunity to grow a billion-dollar industry right here at home. The cannabis industry is expanding rapidly nationwide. There are currently more than 428,000 full-time legal cannabis industry jobs in the United States.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Mississippi’s top commodities are soybeans and corn. With Mississippi’s agricultural history, there is no reason that cannabis should not become a top commodity here as well. We could have an economic boom in one of the most economically disparaged and ravaged states in the U.S., but that depends on whether or not leadership here allows this program to work.
Unfortunately, history (and current times) suggests that our leadership will almost certainly handicap cannabis businesses with outlandish demands and nonsensical regulation.
I know “regulation” is a dirty word in these parts, but we have to make sure companies provide clean, high-quality products for Mississippi patients. No regulation or rule should curb patient access or force patients to buy more products because of an arbitrary number deemed “appropriate” by the same people who actively tried to block or postpone access to these medical products in the first place.
Understandably, there are people fearful about this new industry. “Reefer Madness” campaigns of old continue to hold sway over the general mindset of our citizens. Knee-jerk propaganda effective in the 1930s has long been dispelled by research, but unfortunately, some will continue to use incredibly outdated information to push their anti-cannabis stance. Talk of an ounce of product being as “big as a loaf of bread” or “billions of joints being on the streets” are at best nonsensical and at worst a shameful attempt to strike unwarranted fear and mania into a public that actively seeks current, research-driven information.
Change is coming to Mississippi. In fact, change has already arrived. Fighting against economic development and social progress will keep our state where it has always been — at the bottom of every list (except infant mortality, where we have the highest rate in the nation).
People will constantly clamor for the “Good Ol’ Days” or whatever their version of that is. Whenever I hear the longing for a rose-colored version of those times, I am always reminded of one of my favorite quotes from “The Wire,” in which a character named Slim Charles must remind a counterpart about living in the past: “Yeah, now, well, the thing about the old days … they the old days.”
Mississippians, take heed.