If the governor of Mississippi moves to veto a medical marijuana bill over his concerns about the proposed purchase limit for patients, the legislature may well move to override that decision, a key state senator said on Wednesday.
Gov. Tate Reeves (R) said on Tuesday that he wants lawmakers to slash the daily purchase limit for patients in half. The bill that lawmakers spent the summer negotiating calls for 3.5 gram of marijuana per day, and the governor signaled he’d veto the entire reform proposal if they don’t significantly reduce that amount.
But Sen. Brice Wiggins (R), chairman of the Judiciary Committee Division A who is also running for a seat in Congress this year, says the people of Mississippi spoke loud and clear when they voted to approve a medical cannabis legalization initiative last year, and lawmakers have a duty to deliver on the reform after the state Supreme Court invalidated it for procedural reasons.
He told Y’all Politics that “it wouldn’t surprise me” if the legislature voted to override the governor if he chooses to veto the bill that they’ve been working on for months.
“I would hate for Governor Reeves to have any veto overridden because, like I said, I’ve worked with him on many different things,” Wiggins said. “But the reality is is that Initiative 65 passed with close to 70 percent of the vote. And the legislature spent all summer working on this and have listened to the people.”
“I understand where he’s coming from, but in the hearings that we had in the Public Health Committee, we heard from legislators from Oklahoma, Michigan, Colorado—and now I have not been a drafter on this bill, obviously, but I trust the committee chairmen that are doing this,” he said.
“It would not surprise me that that would be the case if that was to happen,” he said, referring to the possibility of a veto override.
Lawmakers have already made several concessions to the governor as they’ve continued negotiations on legislation to replace the voter-approved ballot measure, and advocates hoped everything would be resolved in time for Reeves to convene a special session to pass it this year, as he suggested he’d do. But as the goal post continued to be pushed back, it became clear that legislators would need to tackle the reform in the 2022 session.
House and Senate leaders announced in September that they had come to an agreement on the reform, yet the governor came back with several objections, forcing legislators to go back and make some compromises. Even after they did that, Reeves held firm on what leadership says are “unreasonable demands.”
Reeves has consistently voiced his concerns with the marijuana purchase limit, including during a briefing last week.
There are plenty of reasons for urgency on getting this reform enacted. Beyond the obvious that patients are sick and may benefit from cannabis, there’s the fact that legislators worked on the reform because the state Supreme Court shot down the medical marijuana legalization ballot initiative that voters overwhelmingly passed last year on a constitutional technicality.
Lawmakers also said that giving them the chance to pass legalization during a special session before the end of the year would have helped them address large issues like appropriating coronavirus funds when the legislature comes back into session next month.
One additional complication that legislators have faced is that Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Andy Gipson strongly insisted that his department not be responsible for licensing marijuana businesses. He sent letters to lawmakers and the state attorney general to express his opposition to regulating the program.
Legislators responded by placing that responsibility with the Health Department.
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A earlier draft version of the legislature’s marijuana bill sought to build upon the measure that voters approved last year by adding hepatitis, Alzheimer’s disease, spastic quadriplegia and chronic pain as qualifying conditions.
After receiving an initial recommendation for medical cannabis from a licensed practitioner, patients would have to go back to their physician for a reevaluation six months later.
There would be a weight-based excise tax imposed on cannabis sales—$15 per ounce of flower or trim—as well as the state’s general sales tax.
No home cultivation option would be permitted under the measure. Smoking cannabis would be allowed, but not in public spaces.
A poll released in June found that a majority of Mississippi voters support legalizing marijuana for both medical and recreational use, with 63 percent saying they want the legislature to pass a bill that mirrors the ballot measure that was nullified by the court.
A Senate committee held a series of hearings to take testimony on what a medical cannabis legalization bill could look like should lawmakers decide to pass the reform legislatively.
The governor said earlier this summer that “I support the will of the voters,” and “I think we will have a medical marijuana program in Mississippi.” He said it’s “imperative that we get it done, and get it done quickly.”
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