Mississippi Governor indicates that he will veto medical cannabis measure if purchase limits aren’t reduced

Mississippi+Governor+indicates+that+he+will+veto+medical+cannabis+measure+if+purchase+limits+aren%E2%80%99t+reduced

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

The Governor of Mississippi has dropped some hints about vetoing a medical cannabis bill that has been facing strong debate from lawmakers. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) says that, unless lawmakers reduce purchase limits, he will rescind the measure.

Gov. Reeves wants the legislature to “simply cut that amount in half to start the program” and, should patients require more of their medicine in the future, reevaluate the limit after several years have passed.

He announced the news in a Facebook post on Tuesday, December 28. Specifically, he said that the 3.5 gram patient limit is too much. 

“I’ve repeatedly told the members of the Legislature that I am willing to sign a bill that is truly medical cannabis. One that has reasonable restrictions to ensure that it doesn’t have an adverse effect on Mississippi’s economy. One that has reasonable restrictions to ensure that it doesn’t disrupt Mississippi families. A program that helps those Mississippians who truly need it for an illness,” reads the post.

The State of Mississippi is still trying to enact a robust medical cannabis program after a voter-approved initiative from 2020 was invalidated by the highest court.

“In many ways, the work done on the original draft of the Legislature’s bill helped address some of these issues. There is one remaining point in question that is VERY important: how much cannabis any one individual can get in any given day,” continued the Governor.

“1.2 billion legal joints” could be lawfully dispensed under Mississippi’s medical cannabis measure

In the event that the lawmaker-proposed medical cannabis bill is implemented into state law, Gov. Reeves says that patients would have to, collectively, acquire “1.2 billion legal joints” in order to max out their out daily purchase limit. 

“Call me crazy, but I just think that’s too broad of a starting point,” the governor wrote. “If it is determined in the future that more pot is needed in Mississippi, that could always be increased in future legislative sessions,” he said. 

He figured this out based on the number of standard unit joints that could lawfully be dispensed across the state annually on the condition that Mississippi had 300,000 patients who exceeded their daily 3.5 gram limit.

“Why not start carefully? I believe that is a reasonable approach,” added Reeves, who noted that the existing bill introduced by lawmakers offers “virtually unlimited access to cannabis once you qualify.” 

Lawmakers have already tried to satisfy the governor by making plenty of adjustments to the voter-approved ballot measure.

Cannabis industry lobbyists took the constant compromises as a sign that the revised law would be passed by Reeves during a special session last year, but it’s clear that the situation will have to wait until the 2022 session.

Legislators have been forced to make compromises to Mississippi’s medical cannabis measure

In September, House and Senate leaders publicly declared that they had come to a middle ground on cannabis reform. However, much to their dismay, the governor responded with a list of orders – described as  “unreasonable demands” by leadership – that instructed legislators to revise their plan. 

“If you disagree, I respect your opinion. We can sit down five years from now and take a thorough review of the actual outcomes. But, as the dad of three daughters that I love dearly, I cannot put my name on a bill that puts that much cannabis on the streets of Mississippi,” he wrote to his Facebook followers.

Despite the governor’s request, lawmakers have not yet shown any signs of amending the existing legal framework for Mississippi’s medical cannabis measure. Most advocates and patients are crossing their fingers that the existing plan will not face a gubernatorial veto. 

After all, had legalization passed during a special session before the year’s end, lawmakers could have helped to resolve many problems pertaining to the allocation of COVID-19 funds.

“I hope that legislative leaders will see fit to consider reducing the tremendous amount of weed they seek to make legally accessible so that I can sign their bill and we can put this issue to rest,” Reeves finished.

Lawmakers (and the state attorney general) have also struggled with requests from Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Andy Gipson, who previously urged for a rule change so as to ensure that his department was not responsible for licensing. Legislators responded by tasking the Health Department with the time-consuming duty.