It is time for Gov. Tate Reeves to call a special session for medical marijuana and force lawmakers to pass a bill or adjourn failing to follow the clear will of the people.
Since the Mississippi Supreme Court threw out the medical marijuana law passed by voters with the adoption of Initiative 65, lawmakers have held public hearings, talked behind closed doors and floated public ideas on what a medical marijuana law should look like.
Reeves, who said he opposed medical marijuana but accepts the will of the people, has said he will only call a special session when lawmakers have agreed upon a law.
Such an agreement has not been reached, and it looks unlikely to happen anytime soon — despite weeks of proclamations from various lawmakers and leaders that they were getting close to a resolution or speculated timelines that have already come and gone.
Conspiracy theories abound as to why lawmakers have not come to a consensus. Some believe key leaders don’t really want a medical marijuana bill. Others say lawmakers want it to be handled in the regular session where they can horse trade aspects of the bill to get what they want on other bills. And then there’s the very real possibility that nobody wants to compromise on what they see as the most important aspect of the bill — whether that’s taxes, restrictions on dispensaries, rules governing growers or some other specific interest.
At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter what the hold up is.
The people of Mississippi overwhelmingly support a medical marijuana program. More voters voted in support of it than for any elected official on the ballot last November.
Lawmakers are being derelict in their duty as representatives of the people who elected them, and it is time for Reeves to step up and lead on this issue by calling their hand.
The governor’s position — no special session until lawmakers come to an agreement — is admirable. We understand his not wanting to waste taxpayer money. But right now lawmakers are doing far worse: they are ignoring the clear will of the people.
And let’s be real: While expensive, special sessions cost relatively little compared to the state’s overall budget. Special sessions cost approximately $35,000 to $40,000 per day. On the high end, a three-day session — more than enough time to pass a medical marijuana program, even with vigorous debate — would cost no more than $120,000. Compared to a $6 billion budget, that’s less than one half of one half of one half of one half of one half of one half of one half of one half of 1%. In other words, it’s not even a drop in the bucket.
But what a special session would do is put lawmakers on the spot, forcing their actions and decisions under intense scrutiny, daily racking adding to the price tag of a law that should have already gone in effect July 1.
Because every day that has passed since July 1, people who had been given hope of clinically proven medical relief for a variety of painful ailments have been let down. Lest our state leaders lose sight of what’s at stake, it’s the well being of suffering Mississippians.