Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce, Andy Gipson, held a press conference today to express his thoughts on the proposed draft of medical marijuana legislation.
Gipson has been adamantly opposed to the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce having a part in the program. Based on the drafting so far, the MDAC will be responsible for the issuing of licenses to growers, as well as many other enforcement procedures, in the state’s program.
Gipson shared concern with several parts of the legislation.
1. Who is going to operate this program?
2. Who is going to pay for it?
3. How much is it going to cost?
He says as it stands, multiple agencies are put in charge of the program like the Mississippi State Department of Health and The Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce. Gipson does not believe it is in the citizen’s best interest to put the program under any department except for the Department of Health. He said because this is a medical issue, it needs to be under medical authority.
Gipson said the requirements set in the bill for the MDAC are so expansive and beyond the scope of what the agency already does, it could likely cost the taxpayers a significant amount of money. Estimates in other states indicate a $2.9 billion increase in department budgets which Gipson said at this time doesn’t have a revenue source and would likely fall on the back of taxpayers.
“I’m concerned without a dedicated stream of revenue to fund this… everyone out there watching this, we are going to have to pick up the tab for what it is going to cost.” -Gipson.
— Yall Politics (@MSyallpolitics) September 27, 2021
Gipson said even if the Legislature were able to budget for the increases, there is no way the department could hire staff, secure technology and equipment in the 60 time frame that is given to begin the program.
He was not in denial that Mississippi will more than likely have a medical marijuana program at some point whether through a special or regular session. However, he plans to ensure it is the best kind of program it can be, and under the current legislation he does not believe that will happen.
Lawmakers sit in wait as to whether or not they will be called back to the Capitol in the days ahead to made a final decision on medical marijuana.
Reports from Senator Kevin Blackwell and Representative Lee Yancey indicate that a draft of the bill has been shared with Governor Tate Reeves and a request has been made by the Speaker and Lt. Governor that Reeves call lawmakers back in by Friday to handle the matter via a special session.