There is consensus among local legislators, who agree a medical marijuana program must be put in place by the Mississippi government.
“The voters have spoken and we need to listen,” said Republican Rep. Bubba Carpenter of Burnsville, who represents a portion of Alcorn County and northern Tishomingo County. “We need to get this fixed for our constituents who urgently need this for their medical needs.”
The people in November overwhelmingly voted to pass Initiative 65, which would have amended the state Constitution allowing licensed treatment centers to provide medical marijuana to qualified patients with debilitating medical conditions. The City of Madison quickly filed a lawsuit against the state, and the Supreme Court struck down Initiative 65 – calling the state’s ballot initiative process invalid.
Carpenter, along with fellow Republican representatives Nick Bain of Corinth, Tracy Arnold of Booneville and Jody Steverson of Ripley and Republican Sen. Rita Potts Parks of Corinth, all believe lawmakers must right the wrong when it comes to medical marijuana. And they also know the ballot initiative process must be fixed.
“It’s really just a simple tweak of some language in the ballot initiative process that needs to be looked at,” said Bain, who represents most of the city of Corinth and a portion of Alcorn County. “The Supreme Court found some legitimate issues and we must correct those errors – the citizens must have an initiative process in place.”
Arnold, who covers a few boxes in Alcorn County including Rienzi and most of Prentiss County, said he has already drafted a bill to fix the ballot initiative problem.
“The bill states that an initiative would require the signatures to be collected in the number of districts determined by the last census,” said Arnold. “This creates a flexibility in the number of districts as the years pass and population increases or decreases.”
There has been pressure on Gov. Tate Reeves to call a special section for lawmakers to address the two issues instead of waiting until the next legislative session begins in early 2022. Reeves has said he wants both the House and Senate to agree to a program before he calls the special session.
Steverson, who has a few boxes in Alcorn County and covers a large portion of Tippah County, is ready to handle the issues now.
“The governor should immediately call a special session. Plenty of important issues have been addressed during special sessions prior to details being worked out,” Steverson said.
Bain, Arnold and Carpenter said an agreement across both sides of the aisle is always in the best interest of the taxpayers.
“The less time we have to be in Jackson the cheaper it is,” Bain added. “I only believe that a special session should be called if a consensus is reached, otherwise I think there should be public hearings and vetting of the issue prior to the regular session in January.”
The Senate is working with the Public Health Committee and has hosted several meetings recently.
Potts, who serves on the committee, said groups from other states with medical marijuana programs in place have appeared at the meetings.
“We’ve heard from people from Arkansas, Oklahoma and Colorado about the pros and cons of the current laws they have in their states,” said Potts, who represents all of Alcorn and Tippah counties. “From that, we will continue to improve upon the bill that we proposed at the end of the last session.”