There is unquestionably a ‘disconnect’ between many states in America when it comes to marijuana legality. We have cannabis-friendly states such as California, Colorado, and Oregon on one side. On the other, there remain staunch anti-weed locations, including Indiana, Idaho, and Louisiana.
Although an increasing number of states have decriminalized pot, not every place has embraced this rational thinking. The sad story of Fate Winslow is a case-in-point. The homeless man was jailed for life in Shreveport, Louisiana, because he acted as a middleman in a $20 marijuana deal. Winslow previously served eight-and-a-half years for stealing from an unlocked car.
His conviction for a cannabis crime meant he was classified as a ‘habitual offender’ under Louisiana law. It is tragic that a man can lose his liberty forever for a combination of petty theft and a minuscule cannabis transaction. Meanwhile, people commit ‘white-collar’ crimes and receive ‘slap on the wrist’ sentences.
Data from the American Civil Liberties Union in 2015 suggested that 69 people were ‘lifers’ for marijuana crimes. The Clemency Report revealed that between 1996 and 2015, judges had sentenced 54 people to life in prison without parole for a weed crime. In numerous cases, the ‘offenders’ committed the dastardly deed of selling a few grams of marijuana to consenting adults.
Unfortunately, it is a case of not getting caught in the wrong state. A majority of states have recently decriminalized the possession of small amounts of weed. In these places, it is called a ‘civil infraction,’ and the penalty is a small fine. The incident doesn’t end up on your permanent record. Many so-called ‘red’ or ‘conservative’ states tend to have the strictest anti-cannabis laws. Does Mississippi follow suit? Let’s find out. We also investigate how CBD is perceived in the Magnolia State.
Is Marijuana Legal in Mississippi?
As you will see in the ‘penalties’ section of this article, the state of Mississippi cracks down hard on those who break the law concerning cannabis. However, the Hospitality State is nowhere near as harsh as many of its near neighbors when it comes to ‘minor’ infractions. In fact, it was one of the first states in America to introduce a more lenient stance for the possession of small amounts of weed.
Marijuana remains illegal in Mississippi. However, the state decriminalized the possession of small amounts in the late 1970s. In a law that still exists today, possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis results in a fine of $250. Even those caught with marijuana paraphernalia will face a fine of up to $1,000 but no further charge for a first-time offense. Please note that if you are caught with a small amount of weed, you need to provide proof of identity, and give a written promise to appear in court.
Is There Any Chance of Cannabis Becoming Legalized in Mississippi?
Yes! Indeed, it could happen on November 3, 2020. This is when two versions of an MMJ amendment, Initiative 65 and Alternative 65A, appear on the Mississippi ballot. While both options will alter the state’s Constitution to create a medical marijuana program, they are very different pieces of legislation.
For one thing, 89% of Republicans approved Alternative 65A, compared to just 13% of Democrats in the state legislature. As you can ascertain from this information, Alternative 65A is a lot more restrictive than Initiative 65. Under the latter amendment, patients with one of at least 22 qualifying conditions may receive MMJ. Patients could also possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis, though smoking it in public places is prohibited. Sales under Initiative 65 will be taxed at 7%, Mississippi’s sales tax rate.
Alternative 65A doesn’t specify qualifying medical conditions. Nor does it spell out a tax rate or possession limits. More importantly, it would only permit terminally ill patients to use cannabis. Only state-licensed manufacturers can produce MMJ products, and they must create ‘pharmaceutical grade’ items. All patients would be enrolled in a registry, and licensed pharmacists, nurses, and physicians would oversee treatment.
Republicans opposed to Initiative 65 claim it will lead to recreational cannabis after weed ‘floods’ the market. The reality is that Alternative 65A is nothing more than a way to help Big Pharma get involved in the cannabis market. While Initiative 65 resembles a ‘typical’ medical marijuana program, the ‘alternative’ does not. Hopefully, Mississippi voters are not fooled by the subterfuge of Republicans. A majority of residents are in favor of a real MMJ program, let’s hope the state gets it in November 2020.
What Are the Penalties for Buying, Selling, and Possessing Cannabis in Mississippi?
Although Mississippi law has decriminalized possession of small amounts of weed, the state issues harsh penalties beyond that. A second offense, when caught with under 30 grams of cannabis, is a misdemeanor and results in up to 60 days in prison. A third offense could see you spend up to six months in jail.
If you have over 30 grams of marijuana, it is a felony crime with a jail term of up to three years. It doesn’t matter if it is your first offense. The difference between having 30 and 31 grams of weed on your person in Mississippi is profound! Once caught with 250+ grams, you could receive a prison term of eight years.
The sale of any amount of cannabis in Mississippi is a felony and carries jail time of up to three years. Once the amount exceeds 500 grams, the maximum sentence increases to 20 years. Incidentally, selling to a minor, or within 1500 feet of a church, school, or another designated area, is a felony that carries double prison time and fines. Therefore, if you sell 10 grams to someone outside a school, you could spend six years in jail and receive a $6,000 fine. Of course, the money is the least of your worries in that scenario.
What Is the Situation with CBD in Mississippi?
The 2018 Farm Bill may have legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp, but it didn’t permit the use of CBD on a federal level. As a result, each state has different cannabidiol laws. In Mississippi, CBD oil is legal for medical use, as long as a licensed physician in the state obtains it for a patient. The physician must directly supervise the administration of the oil.
The above is due to House Bill 1231, a piece of legislation passed by both House and Senate in 2014. It is a restrictive measure, as the CBD must come from one of three approved research centers. It must also contain at least 15% CBD and a maximum of 0.5% THC. Moreover, only patients with a debilitating epileptic condition need apply. What if you don’t have a catastrophic seizure disorder or intractable epilepsy? Can you still legally purchase CBD in Mississippi?
Fortunately, things have changed in the last few years as Mississippi has become slightly less harsh in its anti-cannabinoid crusade. Lawmakers passed SB 2610 in 2017. It permitted CBD use in the research of several medical conditions, including the treatment of seizures. However, it wasn’t until July 2019 that the state officially legalized a form of CBD to the general population.
HB 1547 legalized CBD products with at least 50mg of CBD per ml. Also, the maximum level of THC is 2.5mg per ml. Therefore, a 30ml bottle of CBD oil must contain at least 1,500mg of CBD and no more than 75mg of THC. In essence, CBD products need to have a CBD to THC ratio of at least 20:1.
Where Can I Buy CBD in Mississippi?
First of all, if you decide to use CBD in Mississippi, make sure you only use brands that offer third-party lab reports. This information enables you to determine how much CBD and THC are in each product. Otherwise, you could find yourself in trouble. The possession of any amount of CBD with over 2.5mg of THC per ml is illegal. Police in the state will also arrest anyone in possession of a product that resembles cannabis.
On the plus side, there are no limits on how much CBD you can buy if it falls within the legal parameters. There are also a growing number of physical stores that sell CBD in Mississippi. However, you will find that it is a better idea to rely on a reputable online brand. Top-rated companies such as PureKana and Premium Jane sell to most states with a handful of exceptions.
Does Mississippi Have an Industrial Hemp Program?
At the time of writing, Mississippi is one of only three states that doesn’t have an official hemp growing program. While the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the cultivation of the crop, it is up to individual states to take the first step. This involves submitting a hemp growing program to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for approval. Mississippi is one of the few states that hasn’t yet completed this step.
This is despite the existence of the Mississippi Hemp Cultivation Task Force, created as part of HB 1547. The Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce was told to complete a detailed study of the possible costs and benefits of hemp. When the Task Force met in December 2019, it became clear that farmers would not get to grow hemp in Mississippi in 2020.
Those who protested against hemp legalization said that it would prove a headache for cops trying to spot the difference between cannabis and hemp. Legalization would also cost taxpayers in terms of research, regulation, and law enforcement costs. It is almost as if growing hemp wouldn’t lead to enormous financial benefits! The state of Mississippi must realize that the Apocalypse has not arrived yet in all the other states that permit hemp growing.
Fortunately, common sense may yet prevail in the state. In March 2020, the Mississippi Hemp Cultivation Act easily passed the House. Recently, the Senate amended the bill, and the House concurred with the changes. Now, it is a question of the governor signing it into law. The global pandemic has slowed down proceedings, but Mississippi farmers will hopefully get to plant hemp in 2021. It seems as if the passing of the Act has come too late for this season.
Final Thoughts on Cannabis and CBD Laws in Mississippi
A lot of people are surprised when they hear about Mississippi’s relatively lenient stance on first-time possession of small amounts of weed. If you are caught with less than 30 grams, all that happens is that you pay a fine. You can face jail time if found in possession for a second time, however. Also, the ownership of more significant amounts, and sale of any quantity, become felony crimes with harsh penalties attached.
November 2020 sees two MMJ programs reach the ballot in Mississippi. Initiative 65 allows for a ‘typical’ medical marijuana program. In contrast, Alternative 65A is an incredibly restrictive measure that one could barely classify as an MMJ program at all. It only allows terminally ill patients to use Big Pharma type cannabis products. For the sake of the thousands of Mississippi residents who could really use MMJ, let’s hope voters say ‘yes’ to Initiative 65.
As far as CBD goes, those who live in Mississippi are now free to purchase it. However, products must contain at least 50mg of CBD per ml and a maximum of 2.5mg of THC per ml.
In some ways, this isn’t a bad compromise at all. Customers are guaranteed products with significant amounts of CBD. In an unregulated industry, it is handy to know that you’ll get plenty of CBD for your cash. Also, the low THC level means you don’t have to worry about getting stoned. Make sure you only buy from physical stores or online brands that provide third-party lab testing.