You may be a University of Mississippi student with at least one qualifying medical condition, you may have a written certification issued by a state-approved health care practitioner, you may have a registration card from the Mississippi Department of Health and you may have purchased a medical marijuana product that meets all state guidelines.
You may have followed all the rules, but you still cannot consume medical marijuana on campus.
The Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act passed by the legislature this year does not change the university’s policies that prohibit the possession or consumption of marijuana on the University of Mississippi campus, according to Jacob Batte, director of news and media relations at the school.
“Marijuana remains a controlled substance under federal law, and the university is required to comply with federal law as a recipient of federal funding, including student financial aid and federal research grants,” he said in an email response to questions about use of medical marijuana on campus.
“Students or employees – even those who are registered qualifying patients under Mississippi law – found in possession or under the influence of marijuana on university property or at a university-sponsored event will be subject to discipline as outlined in university policy,” Batte wrote.
Off campus, the rules are more relaxed. Sale and consumption of medical marijuana are now legal in Oxford and Lafayette County, and although the Oxford Police Department has been a vocal opponent of the medical cannabis program, Chief Jeff McCutchen says the department is ready to tackle new procedures.
“State law (about recreational use of marijuana) is pretty cut and dry,” McCutchen said. But based on the new legislation, with people now allowed to possess marijuana for medical use, “you almost have to think of it a lot like we would from an alcohol standpoint.”
“So you have a card, but if you are driving and you are impaired, based on what you’ve ingested, now we’re looking at a totally separate incident,” McCutchen said. “That falls under like driving under the influence. And we have to think of it in the way we’ve been doing alcohol-related issues for over half a century.”Much like the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Enforcement Division of the Department of Revenue regulates the sale of beer, wine and liquor at bars, restaurants and package stores in Mississippi, the ABC is responsible for licensing and regulating medical marijuana dispensaries and enforcing medical cannabis laws as they apply to the purchase, sale and distribution of medical cannabis at those dispensaries. To meet those responsibilities, 12 additional enforcement officers have been hired, bringing the total to 36 ABC enforcement agents statewide.
Story by Brighton Bensley, Jaylin Smith and Loral Winn