There’s a standoff over medical cannabis in Mississippi, with the governor and state lawmakers still at odds over provisions in the proposed legislation.
It is up to Republican Governor Tate Reeves to call a special legislative session that is necessary to pass a bill that would implement a new medical marijuana law in the state––something Mississippi voters approved at the ballot last year.
But Reeves has yet to give the green light to such a session, saying Monday that there are portions of the bill written by Mississippi legislators that he simply cannot get behind.
Mississippi Public Broadcasting reported that Reeves cited one part of the proposed bill that “forbid the Department of Public Safety from having a role in the state’s potential medical marijuana industry.”
“Clearly, I wasn’t going to agree to that, so we’ve made some necessary improvements to the bill, but we haven’t gotten to the point where I am comfortable yet in ensuring that we have a program that is truly ‘medical mariuana’ that has strict rules in place,” Reeves said, as quoted by Mississippi Public Broadcasting.
The outlet reported that Reeeves said he is “in talks with lawmakers about adding additional restrictions on how much marijuana someone can purchase if they do qualify for the program,” and that absent those restrictions, “the state may be closer to having a recreational marijuana industry,” something to which he is opposed.
“If we’re going to have our true medical marijuana program with strict rules in place that ensures that those individual Mississippians who need medical marijuana can get it, but also doesn’t air on the side of opening access to any and everybody in the state, we’ve got to make some additional adjustments,” Reeves said. “And I’m hopeful that they will be able to do so.”
Reeves said the biggest disagreement between he and lawmakers deals with volume––both the amount of marijuana a patient can acquire, and the potency of the product.
“Really the one key piece left is with respect to how much marijuana can any one individual get at any one point in time and what is the THC content of that marijuana. And so, that’s really the last piece that we’re working on,” Reeves told reporters while attending an event hosted by the Mississippi Poultry Association, as reported by the website Y’all Politics.
Last year, nearly 70 percent of voters in Mississippi approved a ballot initiative that legalized medical marijuana for patients with a number of qualifying conditions, including cancer, epilepsy or other seizures, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis, among several others.
But the road to implementing the new law has been typified by delays and obstacles, most notably a decision by the state Supreme Court in May that ruled the initiative unconstitutional.
Since then, Reeves and members of the state legislature have been negotiating a bill to replace the struck down initiative and still legalize medical cannabis treatment. But with the regular legislative session ending in the spring, passing the bill will necessitate a special session, which only Reeves has the authority to call.
In late September, Mississippi lawmakers reached a deal on a medical marijuana bill, which they expected would prompt the special session.
But Reeves has balked, continuing to raise concerns about the language of the bill. It is also raising concerns that the legislation will be punted to the next regular legislative session, which is scheduled to begin in January.
Last month, Reeves said he believed that he would eventually call a special session.
“I am confident we will have a special session of the Legislature if we get the specifics of a couple of items that are left outstanding,” Reeves said at the time. “Again, we have made great progress working with our legislative leaders.”