Gov. Tate Reeves to Call Medical Marijuana Special Session

Mississippi Governor to call medical marijuana special session ‘sooner rather than later’

This story was originally published by Mississippi Today.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said he’ll call lawmakers into a special session on medical marijuana legislation “sooner rather than later,” but he would not speculate on a date when that might happen or whether he’ll also let legislators tackle pandemic pay for nurses or other COVID-19 measures they’re proposing.

Tate Reeves, a Republican, said there are still details — such as funding for a medical marijuana program — to be worked out, and he indicated a session would happen in coming weeks.

“There is no update on exactly when, but I do anticipate we are going to have one sooner rather than later,” Reeves said at a news conference on workforce training.

He said he had spoken earlier with Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann (R) and House Speaker Philip Gunn (R). “We are a long way towards getting a final agreement, but not all the way there yet,” Reeves said. “At this point it’s just a matter of working out the final details … things such as funding, an appropriation bill, what that would look like.”

After months of negotiations, Gunn and Hosemann announced a House-Senate agreement on a medical marijuana program to replace the one adopted by voters last year but shot down by the state Supreme Court on a constitutional technicality.

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Gunn and Hosemann said they have the votes to pass the measure.

The medical marijuana bill legislative leaders have agreed to would levy the state’s sales tax, currently at 7%, on marijuana, as well as a $15-per-ounce excise tax. But the bill does not specify funding for the departments of Health, Revenue and Agriculture to run and regulate it. The bill instead routes marijuana revenue into the general fund, which prompted concern from state health and agriculture leaders that lawmakers would not adequately fund the agencies for such a program.

Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson, who said he opposes his agency being involved in marijuana regulations, said the legislature is “notorious” for creating new programs or duties for agencies without providing extra funding or staff.

Reeves has sole authority to call lawmakers into special session and set the agenda.

Hosemann and Gunn have also asked Reeves to allow lawmakers to tackle COVID-19 issues in a special session. They want to give federal American Rescue Plan Act money to hospitals to pay nurses extra to help with what some health officials said is a statewide shortage of 2,000 nurses during the pandemic.

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Additionally, Hosemann and Gunn want to change wording in a law that would allow families of first responders to receive death benefits if the first responder dies from COVID-19. Public safety officials have determined that a 2016 law that provides $100,000 in benefits to families of those who die in the line of duty does not cover COVID-19 deaths.

Hosemann and Gunn also want to provide emergency money from federal funds to child abuse and domestic violence shelters and programs that have lost regular sources of funding due to the pandemic, while cases of abuse have increased.

Reeves has had a rocky relationship with the legislature, and has clashed particularly with his fellow GOP legislative leaders over control of spending federal pandemic stimulus money. Reeves has also said he doesn’t want lawmakers tied up at length in a special session, which would cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars a day.

This story was originally published by Mississippi Today.

Geoff Pender serves as senior political reporter, working closely with Mississippi Today leadership on editorial strategy and investigations. Pender brings 30 years of political and government reporting experience to Mississippi Today. Read his full bio here.

Geoff Pender serves as senior political reporter, working closely with Mississippi Today leadership on editorial strategy and investigations. Pender brings 30 years of political and government reporting experience to Mississippi Today. Read his full bio here.

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