JACKSON, Miss. (Mississippi Today) – House and Senate negotiators are expected to begin meeting next week to try to draft a medical marijuana compromise bill, and both sides say they believe the governor could call a special session in August for lawmakers to pass such a measure.
Sen. Kevin Blackwell, R-Southaven, who is leading the Senate’s efforts, on Wednesday repeated his expectation that an agreement can be reached soon, and that a special session could be called by mid-August.
Rep. Lee Yancey, who is drafting a House bill, said, “I don’t see why not, as long as we come to an agreement soon,” on an August session. Both Yancey and Blackwell said they’ve had informal discussions, but plan to start getting down to brass tacks next week.
The Senate Public Health Committee on Wednesday held its third – and likely final – hearing on medical marijuana as the Senate drafts a bill. The panel has heard from medical experts, cannabis business associations and officials from several other states with medical and-or recreational marijuana programs.
But it appears lawmakers still have many issues to come to terms on with a medical marijuana program. Some lawmakers in both the House and Senate continue to question issues such as how strict regulations should be, whether smoking of cannabis should be allowed, whether to allow outdoor growing or only indoor and whether to allow cities to “opt out” of allowing dispensaries or other cannabis businesses.
Mississippi lawmakers are trying to reach consensus on a medical marijuana program after the state Supreme Court shot down one overwhelmingly passed by voters last year with ballot Initiative 65. The state Supreme Court ruled in May that the medical marijuana initiative and the entire ballot initiative process is invalid.
Gov. Tate Reeves holds sole authority to call a special session of the Legislature. He has said he would do so only when he’s assured the House and Senate have at least a rough agreement on a medical marijuana measure. He said he doesn’t want taxpayers to foot the bill for a drawn out session if the two chambers can’t agree on particulars and quickly pass a bill.