Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill in to law Wednesday evening legalizing the medical use of marijuana. File Photo by Circe Denyer/publicdomainpictures
Feb. 3 (UPI) -- Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill legalizing the use of medical marijuana, making it the 37th state to allow patients access to the oft-debated medicine.
The Republican governor signed the bill Wednesday night after months of negotiations on its final form.
On Thursday, Reeves issued a statement, saying his goal during the entire process of approving the bill was to ensure that those seeking recreational marijuana don't have access to the drug.
"There is no doubt that there are individuals in our state who could do significantly better if they had access to medically prescribed doses of cannabis," he said. "There are also those who really want a recreational marijuana program that could lead to more people smoking and less people working, with all of the societal and family ills that that brings."
In 2020, nearly 74% of Mississippi voters supported allowing patients up to 5 ounces of medical marijuana a month, but Reeves pushed back, stating on social media that the quantity was too much and suggesting he wouldn't sign it.
The legislature then reduced the allowable amount to 3 ounces, and in late January after both the state's House and the Senate moved the bill to Reeve's desk, the governor told WLOX he was "very pleased" with the reduction achieved.
While the bill legalizes the use of medical marijuana for patients with "debilitating medical conditions," it also includes several restrictions, such as allowing medical professionals to only prescribe the drug within the scope of their practice to patients they know following an in-person visit.
It also states only doctors of medicine and doctors of osteopathic medicine can prescribe the drug to those between the ages of 18 and 25 and bars dispensaries from operating with 1,000 feet of a church or school.
The Mississippi Department of Health will also promulgate rules under the bill concerning packaging and advertising to limit its use by youth.
"I have made it clear that the bill on my desk is not the one that I would have written," Reeves said. "But it is a fact that the legislators who wrote the final version of the bill made significant improvements to get us towards accomplishing the ultimate goal."
"Now, hopefully, we can put this issue behind us and move on to other pressing matters facing our state," he said.
With Reeves' signature on Wednesday, Mississippi is now among the 37 states and four territories to allow the use of medical marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.