Medical marijuana program still being debated in the Legislature before the call of a special session.
During a radio interview Wednesday morning, Mississippi House Speaker Pro Tempore Jason White (R-HD 48) indicated that the Legislature could be ready for a special session on medical marijuana by sometime in August.
In a call with Y’all Politics Wednesday afternoon, State Senator Kevin Blackwell also said he believed an agreement would be made by mid-August.
The decision on when to call a potential special session still lies with Governor Tate Reeves, who has stated he will only call the Special Session after lawmakers have hammered out details in advance. He indicated on Wednesday in a press conference that there were no current changes to that timeline.
While the Senate has been holding hearings on the topic through their Public Health Committee, White said the House has continued conversations regarding what the program could look like between members. He said many House members have also attended the meetings, noting that State Rep. Sam Mims appears to be taking the lead in the lower chamber on this issue.
“A bunch of study from members has gone into a bunch of conversation as to what this is going to look like,” said White on the SuperTalk Paul Gallo Show.
White said the issue is not drafting the legislation, but rather working out the particulars that are still in the process. He noted that there were about 10 solid issues that Senators and Representatives were focused on before crafting a piece of legislation for the program.
Those issues include:
- Who will administer the program?
- What medical conditions will qualify?
- What kind of patient/physician relationship is required?
- Specifics on forms of consumption and dosage strength.
- What forms will it be available in?
- How many licenses will be available?
- Will there be residency ownership requirements?
- Will product be grown indoor or outdoor?
- Zoning recommendations.
- Will it be taxed?
“I’m not saying we’re far apart on any of them, but they are the big things,” said White.
Senator Blackwell said the Senate has begun drafting the bill. At this time they are working off of House Bill 119, which was the Senate amended version from 2021 session, not SB 2765, the original medical marijuana text from the Senate. He added that all of the issues White listed were being addressed in the bill.
Speaker Pro Tem White said that one particular point that seems to be up in the air between the chambers is whether or not they will allow medical marijuana in the form of combustibles, meaning if it will be able to be smoked.
“If folks aren’t allowed to smoke it, that market won’t be there. They don’t want to be in the business if they can’t smoke,” said White.
Blackwell concurred, from a medical perspective, saying, “Medical marijuana has been legal for over 10 years in many states. I’m not sure why there is so much concern over how someone takes their medicine, whether they smoke it or topical it should be left up to the doctor and patient.”
How the product can be grown is also another hot button point. White said that Initiative 65 did not address that initially, leaving it to the Department of Health to determine. He said in recent conversations with Dr. Thomas Dobbs at MSDH he recommends indoor green house growth only.
“That provides for a more of a medical grade that is easier to process, easier to pass inspection and get through those channels. You can control it better,” said White.
Alabama recently passed a very “cut and dry” medical marijuana program during their summer session. Rep. White said if it were not for political pressures it would be very easy for the Mississippi Legislature to just copy what Alabama did and implement that program.
However, Sen. Blackwell disagreed that Alabama’s legislation was good policy. He said there were some interesting components but in his opinion it was otherwise an extremely restrictive, bad bill.
When it comes to the original language of Initiative 65, White said he believed it was a one off from recreational marijuana.
Blackwell said he met with the Governor’s staff on Tuesday regarding where the Legislature was in the process in drafting the necessary bill. The Senator said no comments were made at that time from the Governor’s staff members regarding moving forward with a special session and on what timeline.