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Four Dozen Mississippi Counties and Cities Opt Out of Medical, Putting Patients at Risk

After the May 10th deadline, more than 40 Mississippi cities and counties have opted out of the state’s newly approved medical marijuana bill.

While the state’s move toward medical marijuana legalization was well-received by the public, the option for local opt-outs has resulted in a number of municipalities forfeiting their participation, and in turn, has left suffering patients at a loss.

Though we’ve seen states such as California follow similar trajectories before – and suffer the consequences – it’s safe to say Mississippians will face a similar fate.

Restrictive In Nature

While the legalization of medical marijuana feels starkly overdue, allowing counties and cities an opt-out provision means that the number of patients being treated with MMJ will be significantly reduced. Though the state has moved to legalize the purchase and consumption of MMJ, if every county opts out, not a single Mississippian will benefit from the new regulations.

Furthermore, the new law places strict restrictions on product potency and purchase amounts, oftentimes meaning that sick patients faced with chronic pain won’t have access to the dosages they need.

The state is decorating its bill with provisions that are pleasing to the eye but are nearly impossible to bring to fruition. Though the bill would not impose any limitations on the number of medical marijuana licenses issued, city & county opt-outs, as well as tight product restrictions, will undoubtedly contribute to a striking number of licenses going unclaimed.

California Nightmare

While California was the first state to legalize the use of medicinal marijuana back in 1996, business opportunities and chances for economic growth have been severely limited due to local opt-out provisions. In 2019, a meager 185 of the 500 Californian municipalities and counties opted into commercialized cannabis. This meant that despite the state’s best effort to move the medical cannabis industry forward, it has been perpetually held at a standstill due to local legislation.

Subsequently, California quickly became the standard to avoid in the medical cannabis industry. However, states such as Mississippi have blindly followed suit. According to MJBizDaily, allowing local jurisdictions to implement and enforce their own medical marijuana models creates a “patchwork of regulations and rules” that becomes difficult to manage and work through.

Facing The Facts

In a 2004 study conducted by Mississippi State’s Social Science Research Center, which surveyed 3600 adults in 6 Southern states, 37% of respondents reported some level of pain prevalence. Among those who reported some pain, 52% experienced pain at the quotidian level. Respondents reported significant interference with their ability to sleep, work, and maintain a social life.

In a survey conducted throughout the coronavirus pandemic, it was discovered that Mississippians scored the highest of all the states when it came to rates of anxiety and depression.

This year alone, more than 18,000 Mississippians have begun their battle with cancer, and nearly 7,000 have lost that battle. We can’t help but wonder how access to MMJ would have made the end of those people’s lives more comfortable.

Every day, patients in Mississippi are suffering from an array of medical and mental health difficulties, and every day, they are unable to receive medicinal-grade cannabis products that would allow them to live with less pain and suffering.

While Mississippi’s move towards legalizing medical marijuana is a step in the right direction, local opt-out provisions will likely make it next to impossible for many patients to access the products they need.

Though California outlined a detailed blueprint on how not to proceed, Mississippi has disregarded the advice, and will undoubtedly pay the price.

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