Details of a medical marijuana bill are said to be close to agreement.  

Speaker of the House Philip Gunn spoke on the Gallo Radio Show with SuperTalk Mississippi on Thursday on all things Legislature. He spent the majority of his interview outlining some of the details of the greatly anticipated medical marijuana bill which many lawmakers have indicated is close to an agreement between the chambers.

Speaker Philip Gunn

“It is our belief we are in agreement on a bill,” said Gunn.

The Speaker said both the House and Senate are currently talking with members to make sure the vote is intact if and when a special session is called and the bill is presented.

Once a consensus is formed, Speaker Gunn and Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann will inform Governor Tate Reeves that an agreement has been reached. Reeves will also review the bill before calling a special session, the agenda of which the Governor will set.

“When the House and Senate and the Legislature reaches a consensus I’m willing to look at it and call a special session and we aren’t quite there yet,” said Reeves on Wednesday.

Reeves said an important priority to him is ensuring enough members are on board with the legislation to pass it in a reasonable amount of time if a special session is called.

Gov. Tate Reeves

However, there is still no final draft available for the public to read. Governor Reeves also indicated he has not yet seen a draft. This will likely not come until the bill is filed by the Senate, as Gunn indicated it will be a Senate proposal. What Gunn did present were some provisions included in the legislation as it is now.

Speaker Gunn prefaced his statements that he is not the expert on the legislation and specific details should be directed to Rep. Lee Yancey and Sen. Kevin Blackwell who have been the leads on this bill.

(From Left: Senator Kevin Blackwell; Representative Lee Yancey)

Currently, the bill will allow for the smoking of medical marijuana as prescribed by a physician with the potency per prescription being addressed but Gunn did not have specifics at this time.

One of the most contested points about a medical marijuana program brought up by local municipalities is their inability to control the “pot shops” within their cities and counties.

Gunn said the bill as drafted would allow cities to opt out of allowing medical marijuana to be sold in their area within 60 days of the passage of the bill.  If a municipality chooses to opt back in later, they could do so at any time.  It also allows municipal zoning considerations.

As anticipated, growing will only be allowed indoors. Concerns were raised earlier that growing outdoors would allow for too little control of the product. While the Mississippi State Department of Health will be the umbrella organization for the program, the Department of Agriculture and Commerce will be responsible for administering growing licenses. There will be no commission set up to oversee those licenses.

Gunn said for individuals coming from out of Mississippi, there will be a residency requirement prior to approval to grow or sell the product and product packaging will be monitored closely to discourage use by children who may see it as candy.

While there is no anticipation for a special session immediately, Governor Reeves did indicate on Wednesday that if an agreement is met and a consensus secured, he has every intention to honor the voters’ wishes at the polls in November to have a medical marijuana program. However, a special session could expand past the topic of medical marijuana.

Speaker Gunn said he would also like to see benefits for first responders who die of COVID reinstated into law and funding restored for domestic violence and human trafficking shelters from the federal government.

Governor Reeves brought up the current “chokehold” on rates for providers of Medicaid services that was included in the 2021 Medicaid Tech bill and has been widely discussed that it will need to be adjusted.

If a special session is called, it is up to the Governor to set the agenda for the time that lawmakers are in session.