Almost one year after 74 percent of Mississippians voted to pass the medical marijuana initiative there still isn’t one in place.
After the Supreme Court put a stop to the initiative on a constitutional technicality, many lawmakers backed their constituents, and work on both sides of the aisle began on a new agreement.
Gov. Tate Reeves said over the summer once both the House and Senate agreed on a new medical marijuana program, he would call a special session to pass it.
Lt. Gov. Delbert Hoseman, who presides over the Senate, and House Speaker Philip Gunn introduced a draft bill on Sept. 24, yet Reeves has yet to call a special session. He said it will happen “sooner rather than later,” but said there are details still being worked out.
According to Mississippi Today, the draft medical marijuana bill legislative leaders have agreed on would allow smoking of cannabis, allow cities and counties to “opt-out” of the program, and would be subject to state sales and excise taxes. The program would levy the state’s sales tax, currently at 7 percent, and charge a $15 per ounce excise. The bill does not, however, specify funding for how to run and regulate it. The bill routes the marijuana revenue into the general fund. This has prompted concern from state health and agriculture leaders that lawmakers would not adequately fund the agencies to stand up for such a program.
Sen. Rita Potts Parks of Corinth said the governor’s concerns about the bill are valid.
For example, she said, “The Commissioner of Agriculture has refused to provide the services as specified in the bill and the director of the Department of Health has indicated that he may not be interested in fulfilling the requirements contained in the bill.”
Parks said she is proposing an additional 1 percent tax on the sale of medical marijuana to be designated for law enforcement.
“As a state, city and county, we are already struggling due to low salaries as well as the effect of the possible additional workload,” she said.
Rep. Bubba Carpenter of Burnsville said he’s not read the bill, but will support it.
“The people voted for it and we must ensure a program is created one way or another,” he said.
Another local lawmaker – Rep. Nick Bain of Corinth said he thinks the bill is “fair and reasonable.”
“I realize that no bill or law is perfect, but there is certainly a desire among legislators to give the people what they want, yet protect the integrity and character of our state,” Bain told the Daily Corinthian.
As far as a special session, Bain said the governor has the sole authority to call one.
“If he desires for us to come back, the legislature will stand ready to do its job,” he added.
On Saturday several rallies took place around the state where protests called for a “special session now.”