TUPELO • Gov. Tate Reeves has a hand in negotiations over the details of legislation that would sanction medical marijuana in Mississippi.
During a Tuesday trip to Tupelo, the first-term Republican governor said his administration is involved in efforts to shape a program that will replace Initiative 65, which voters widely backed in 2020 only to see the state Supreme Court void on a technicality.
“We are in those conversations literally as we speak,” Reeves said, citing meetings between his staff and key legislative leaders taking place that day.
Reeves confirmed that Sen. Kevin Blackwell, R-Southaven, is the lead lawmaker drafting a medical marijuana bill.
Amid those efforts, Blackwell has an open line of discussion with House legislative leaders, according to Speaker Philip Gunn, who spoke with the Daily Journal in Fulton on Friday.
Blackwell, who chairs the Senate Medicaid committee, told the Clarion Ledger last month that he believes a deal could be brokered and a special session ordered by sometime in August.
Gunn, however, told the Daily Journal it’s not clear when a special session may occur.
“That could change tomorrow, but there is no plan at this moment,” Gunn said. “The practice has been not to call a special session until we get the issues resolved.”
Only the governor has the power to recall lawmakers for a special session of the Legislature.
Since the Mississippi Supreme Court in May overturned Initiative 65 and tossed the voter initiative process, Reeves has been clear: He’s willing to call a special session to legalize medical marijuana, but only once there’s agreement around a particular legislative proposal.
But the longer talks continue, Gunn’s support for a special session may wane.
The speaker said that the closer January’s legislative session approaches, he would rather just address medical marijuana during that time.
“If it comes December and we get an agreement, we’ll probably just wait until January,” Gunn said.
When asked by the Daily Journal, Reeves declined to specifically say whether he’s pushing a particular program or legislative model.
Instead, the governor said conversations between his staff and legislative leaders like Blackwell center around “details and nuances” – including discussions about THC content caps and taxation.
“THC content: probably the single most important issue that can be determined. Are there going to be limits on THC content, and exactly what are these limits? Is it daily? Is it weekly? Is it monthly?” Reeves said. “What is the revenue stream going to look like? How is it going to be taxed? Is it going to be taxed? Details like that that have to be answered.”
Gunn, a Republican lawmaker from Clinton and third-term speaker, also said he is not personally advocating any particular provision be included in the program.
“We are having conversations. We are,” Gunn said. “There are a number of issues that have to be resolved. As I understand it, we have issues pertaining to growing indoors or not. How is it zoned? Some of the cities want an opt-out provision. Do you allow smoking of marijuana or not?”
Recent hearings in the state Senate have explored the widely varying approaches taken by different states to the regulation of medical cannabis.
Proponents of Initiative 65 have largely called for a program that mirrors the provision of that voter initiative, but legislative momentum behind that idea appears minimal.
Speaking on Tuesday, Reeves reiterated that he himself voted against Initiative 65.
“I also believe in the will of the voters,” he added. “I believe it’s incumbent on the Legislature to act on those people’s behalf.”
Taylor Vance contributed to this report.