While some lawmakers have stated their expectation that a special session could be called by Friday to address medical marijuana, the one person who has the authority to make the call isn’t ready to do so just yet.
During a press conference this morning, Governor Tate Reeves was asked about his intention to bring lawmakers back to Jackson after legislative leaders reached an agreement on the framework of a medical marijuana program late last week.
“There is no update on exactly when the special session is going occur, but I do anticipate that we are going to have one sooner rather than later,” he said.
Despite the lack of an updated timeline, the governor shared that he had a productive call with Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn on Monday to address areas of concern such as funding.
“We’re a long way towards getting to a final agreement, but we’re not all the way there yet,” Governor Reeves said while noting that he expects to see an appropriation proposal soon.
Ag Commissioner Andy Gipson has repeatedly requested that his agency be left out of the program, but the proposal delegates regulatory responsibilities to the Department of Agriculture. The commissioner has raised questions regarding the cost of the program.
“If the medical marijuana bill passes as currently drafted, MDAC estimates it will cost MS taxpayers approximately $3.7 million to create the new division, hire people, train, purchase equipment etc. to license and oversee “cultivation, processing, transportation and disposition.” That does NOT include any Department of Health or Department of Revenue costs. This is not what the people voted for,” Gipson said in a Facebook post.
The program will be overseen by the Mississippi State Department of Health. During a hearing held by the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus Monday, State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs shared a similar concern that there is not a concrete funding source for the program at this point.
As for whether additional items would be added to the agenda during a potential special session, Governor Reeves said that noting has been decided. It has been reported that Lt. Governor Hosemann and Speaker Gunn have asked for the ability to allocate American Rescue Plan funds to address the nursing shortage, to change language to allow families of law enforcement officers who pass away from COVID-19 to receive ‘line-of-duty death benefits and provide emergency funds for child abuse and domestic violence programs.