The State of Legislature

Authored by: Rhonda Shirley, Government Relations Director

On February 1, the Mississippi legislature faced a major deadline to advance general bills out of originating committees in their respective chambers with a later deadline of February 10 to pass bills on the floor of the House and Senate. All bills that did not pass out of committee in their respective chamber are now dead. At the deadline, 567 bills died in the Senate and 1,042 died in the House of Representatives.

Notable legislation that has passed thus far:

Medical Marijuana

Governor Reeves signed Senate Bill 2095 into law, also known as the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act, making Mississippi the 37th state to legalize medical marijuana. The new law permits patients to purchase 3.5 grams every 6 days which equates to 3 ounces of marijuana per month. It allows people to obtain medical marijuana for more than two dozen “debilitating conditions,” including cancer, epilepsy, muscular dystrophy, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, PTSD, sickle cell anemia, Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s disease, and other chronic debilitating pain. The Mississippi State Department of Health is the administering and regulatory agency and will begin accepting applications for licensing growers and dispensaries.

Food Security Related Legislation

House Bill 684 (As passed the House):

Extends the repealer of the law that established the Small Business and Grocer Investment Act, originally adopted in 2014. The intent of the program is to provide a dedicated source of financing for healthy food retailers operating in underserved communities in Mississippi, in both urban and rural areas; to increase access to affordable healthy food to improve diets and health; to promote the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, in natural and/or frozen form, particularly those that are Mississippi grown; and to support expanded economic opportunities in low-income and rural communities. 

The program also proposes to develop quality retail food outlets to enhance job creation opportunities, expand markets for Mississippi farmers, and support overall economic vitality in underserved communities.

In addition to increasing access to healthy food retailers and farmers markets, it is an important tool for fighting the obesity epidemic and improving health outcomes. Studies have shown that people with better access to food retailers and fresh produce tend to have healthier diets and lower levels of obesity.

**On February 3rd, the bill was transmitted to the Senate and referred to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration. The deadline for the committee to act is March 1st.

House Bill 555 (As Passed the House):

According to the actual language in the bill, this legislation will create the Mississippi Healthy Food and Families Program. This program will require the Department of Agriculture and Commerce to distribute funds to Mississippi farmers and retailers for the purpose of providing matching dollar incentives for the dollar value of eligible fruits and vegetables at farmers markets and retailers.

Subject to a legislative appropriation, the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce shall fund qualified nonprofit organizations, who will distribute incentive dollars to participating Mississippi farmers markets and retailers, for developing a nutrition incentive program to double the purchasing power of Mississippi residents with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, support farmers and invest in Mississippi’s local economy.

Definitions as reflected in the legislation:

“Eligible fruits and vegetables” – any fresh or frozen, whole, or cut fruits and vegetables that do not contain added sugar, fat, oil or salt.

“Eligible retailers” – a small business whose principal office is located in Mississippi and that has a demonstrated commitment to procuring Mississippi-grown foods, including fruits and vegetables.

** On February 3rd, the bill was transmitted to the Senate and referred to the Senate Agriculture and Appropriation Committee for consideration.