Gov. Tate Reeves
If there’s to be a special session to address medical marijuana, Reeves indicates there are draft details that still need attention.
Today, Governor Tate Reeves answered questions regarding his current stance on a special session to handle medical marijuana during a press conference regarding workforce development.
Since his known meeting with the Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House on Monday, it has been anyone’s guess as to whether or not Reeves would call lawmakers back to the Capitol by Friday for a special session. Friday was the day requested by both chambers to return and handle the legislation.
At this time, it still remains unclear if and when one could be called. With today being Wednesday, the chances are increasingly slim Friday will indeed happen.
“There is no update as to exactly when a special session is going to occur, but I do anticipate we would have one sooner rather than later,” said Reeves.
Governor Reeves did take time to compliment leadership in the House and Senate and those members who have worked diligently to draft a proposal for the program over the last several months.
(Fast forward to the question and answer portion of the press conference around 38:00 minutes.)
However, the Governor expressed concern over the legislation saying they are a long way from getting to a final agreement, and many details need to be worked out. This includes funding, a component both Dr. Thomas Dobbs with the Mississippi State Department of Health and Commissioner Andy Gipson with the Department of Agriculture and Commerce have both been vocal about since copies of the draft bill were made public.
At Tuesday’s hearing held by the Legislative Black Caucus, Dr. Dobbs told members while they have faith lawmakers will appropriate funding for the program to run there are major concerns regarding the current draft.
“We have grave concerns about state general fund appropriation because whenever these big pots of money get into our state general fund and there’s a cut, it ends up cutting care for pregnant women and babies and these other things get fully funded,” said Dobbs.
He said this type of licensure scheme would usually be funded by fines and fees, but those will not be enough to sustain costs incurred.
Commissioner Gipson shared similar worries as he adamantly protested against the MDAC’s involvement in the program, saying the state does not have the revenue stream to cover the department’s potential budget increases with this program which they estimate to be over 40% of the current budget.
RELATED: Ag Commissioner Andy Gipson speaks out against MDAC’s participation in proposed medical marijuana bill
“Voters were clear, a true medical marijuana program is what they want,” said Reeves. “I think there will be some tweaking of the draft bill that is out there for some time.”
Governor Reeves said as conversations continue he anticipates an appropriation proposal will accompany the legislation to ensure the program can run without superseding agency budgets for those involved.
RELATED: Sen. Blackwell talks Medicaid and Medical Marijuana as hearings continue
The potential for the session’s agenda to also include other items of interest is not off the table. However, Reeves indicated no final decisions have been made as to whether other topics would be included.
Those that have been discussed and requested include reinstating pay to families in the event of a first responder’s death due to COVID-19, federal funding for domestic violence and human trafficking shelters be made available again and working out the provider rate freeze within Medicaid.