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Mississippi Governor Stalls Medical Cannabis Bill

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. 

Reeves is yet to grant permission for such sessions, stating Monday that portions of the bill that were created by Mississippi legislators are not his favorite.

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.

However, the path to the implementation of this new law has been plagued by delays and hurdles. The most notable was the May ruling by the state Supreme Court declaring the initiative unconstitutional. 

Reeves has been working with members of the state legislative to negotiate a bill that would replace the strike down initiative, and legalize medical marijuana treatment. Passing the bill, however, will require a special legislative session. This is something that only Reeves could call, as the regular legislative session ends in spring.

Late September saw Mississippi legislators reach a settlement on a medical cannabis bill. They expected that this would lead to a special session.

Reeves refused to sign the bill, and has continued to express concerns about its language. The legislation is being questioned about whether it will be sent to the January regular legislative session.

Reeves stated last month that he believes he will 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.”