The Current State of Marijuana Laws in the South
Today, marijuana is no longer an intoxicant or just a means of getting high; it is increasingly being used to treat serious health conditions. Health care experts are prescribing medical marijuana for carpal tunnel syndrome and numerous other ailments like chronic pain, insomnia, digestive ailments and even depression. Consequently, over the last few years, the hype surrounding medical marijuana in the U.S. has grabbed major attention, leading to a gain in traction for marijuana legalization efforts in the South.
Let’s take a look at the latest status of marijuana legalization in the Southern states.
The state legislature voted to legalize medical marijuana in early May. This means that medical marijuana will be legal for treating a wide range of medical conditions, including HIV/AIDS, cancer, sickle-cell anemia, autism, depression and more. It would be retailed in the form of capsules, gelatins, oils and tablets across registered cannabis dispensaries.
It could take a year or more for the state to implement the new law, so we’re looking at the fall of 2022 before medical marijuana patients could receive their card.
The picture in Arkansas is somewhat different. Here, patients may consume marijuana if and only if they are suffering from any of the qualifying health conditions and their doctors have approved it.
An initiative taken by a group named Arkansas True Grass aims to legalize marijuana for use by 21 years and older adults. Though this project failed to make a mark in the 2020 general elections, Arkansas True Grass is still gathering signatures so that it can gain a stage during the next election ballot. A total of 89,151 signatures are needed for this initiative to appear in the 2022 elections.
Louisiana recently decriminalized marijuana for the possession of small amounts (14 grams or less), but a bill to legalize marijuana in general died in the House. Medical marijuana was approved in Louisiana in 2018, and efforts are under way to expand this program. In April, a bill was approved by the House to include “smokable” marijuana in the medical program of this state. The proposal was to legalize the use of weed by adults aged 21 years and more so that safer products could be made available and generate tax revenues.
In Mississippi, voters had approved of Initiative 65 in November 2020, after which the health department of Mississippi needs to launch a medical marijuana program by the middle of 2021. Interestingly, even as the fight for legalization continues, the health department is toiling to create such a program.
During late April, a bill to legalize medical weed was closely defeated in the Tennessee House. However, efforts continue to push forward the medical marijuana issue. Two more bills are fighting to decriminalize medical marijuana in the state, however, Gov. Bill Lee continues to maintain his disapproval on this issue, including for medicinal products.
Most Southern states have been conservative to date. It might take some more time to get things rolling (pun intended). But once legalized, medical marijuana can generate business opportunities from retail to farming.