A special session could come as early as mid-August if negotiations go well and Governor Reeves agrees.
On Wednesday, the Mississippi Senate Public Health & Welfare Committee held their last Medical Marijuana public hearing. During these three hearings, the committee met to hear from a series of speakers as lawmakers continue to gather information in preparation for a medical marijuana bill to implement a program in the state.
“I do not intend to call any additional hearings. I think the hearings we’ve had have been productive,” said Chairman Sen. Hob Bryan. “Just speaking for myself, I think that I have gotten something out of every single presentation at every single hearing which is a pretty good track record.”
Senator Kevin Blackwell, the lead lawmaker on the issue in the upper chamber, is currently working on medical marijuana legislation and expects to have a measure ready for negotiation in August. Blackwell has been in communications with Representative Lee Yancey in the House over the legislation.
“I continue to believe we will have a drafted bill ready to go by mid-August. The Senate has already started on drafting using the Senate’s amended version of HB 119 from last session as a base,” said Senator Blackwell.
Blackwell told Y’all Politics that with the information they learned in the hearings combined with the research the staff has done on programs across the nation they are positioned to deliver a model bill.
“I believe Senator Bryan did an excellent job conducting the three hearings. He brought in a variety of individuals representing a broad range of stakeholders involved in medical cannabis,” stated Sen. Blackwell. “I believe all who attended the hearings came away learning more about this very complex issue.”
Sen. Blackwell stated that they are drafting with a focus of aligning with the intention of Initiative 65. He said he has been having some light discussions with Rep. Yancey, and that within the next week they will be meeting to discuss the bills in more depth.
“Senator Blackwell and I have a good relationship, and we are talking as we go in generalities. Each side is working on building a consensus for their bill at this time,” Rep. Yancey told Y’all Politics. “There will be more specifics as time progresses and we try to put a medical marijuana program together that will give physicians another tool in the toolkit and help to alleviate the pain and discomfort of those who suffer from debilitating illnesses.”
Representative Yancey said they are working diligently to craft the House legislation and should be ready to negotiate with the Senate in a matter of weeks.
During the 2021 session, the state Senate passed its own version of a medical marijuana bill that would have become law if the Mississippi Supreme Court struck down Initiative 65, which the justices ultimately did. However, the state House chose not to join in the Senate’s efforts during the session, leaving the state without a medical marijuana as it stands until the Legislature either convenes for a special session or for the regular session that begins in January 2022.
Governor Tate Reeves has repeatedly said he would not call a special session until both chambers had reached a tentative agreement on a medical marijuana program so as to not belabor the issue while costing the taxpayers thousands of dollars.