Mississippi lawmakers working to complete medical marijuana bill draft

Published 3:22 pm Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Lawmakers working on a proposal to bring a medical marijuana program to Mississippi plan to have a draft of the legislation ready later this summer, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Tuesday.

“I think we’ll have something that we can have serious discussions about, hopefully relatively soon,” the Republican governor said.

Reeves addressed the issue of medical marijuana in Mississippi after he was asked about it by reporters during an unrelated news conference about a new occupational licensing law going into effect this week.

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The state Supreme Court ruled in May that a voter-approved medical marijuana initiative is void because Mississippi’s initiative process is outdated.

Medical marijuana advocates were outraged after Initiative 65, a state constitutional amendment approved by voters in November, was thrown out. It would have required the Health Department to create a program to make marijuana available to people with “debilitating” medical conditions. The long list included cancer, epilepsy and sickle cell anemia.

Many lawmakers, including Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, have said the Legislature should honor the will of the voters by returning to the Capitol outside of the normal session and passing medical marijuana legislation.

To do so, they need the approval of the governor. Reeves has said he will support a special session, but he does not want it to go on for too long, costing more taxpayer money. The governor said lawmakers need to come to a consensus on how to implement the program before returning to the Capitol.

Reeves said Tuesday that he’s had several conversations with Republican Sen. Kevin Blackwell, a lawmaker working to draft the proposed legislation. He said he understands legislators expect to have a draft bill “within the next couple of weeks.”

Blackwell, of Southaven, is Senate Medicaid committee chairman and a member of the Senate committee on Public Health and Welfare, which has held hearings in the past few weeks on the issue.

Blackwell led an effort to get medical marijuana legislation passed during the 2021 legislative session. It would have acted as a backup to the ballot initiative, allowing some sort of medical marijuana program to come to the state if the Supreme Court threw out Initiative 65. That legislation passed the Senate, but not the House.