One Mississippi Senator brought 3.5 grams worth of hemp to show Governor Tate Reeves, who has recently expressed opposition regarding the amount of cannabis allowed for the state’s medical cannabis program, in an effort to educate him about what a reasonable amount of cannabis looks like.
Amidst the many topics that are waiting to be discussed in the 2022 Mississippi legislative session, the legislative body has been building a medical cannabis program for some time now. Although both the House and Senate have expressed support for a medical cannabis program, Governor Tate Reeves’s opposition is one of the main reasons for the program’s uncertainty.
In an attempt to drive home final details for the state’s medical cannabis program, Senator Kevin Blackwell arranged a meeting with Reeves on January 5. As one of the main legislators working on building the program, Blackwell hoped to educate Reeves by bringing in a small amount of hemp as a visual guide.
The Mississippi Free Press spoke with Blackwell, who described the meeting as amicable. “I thought it went well. “[The governor] was receptive, appreciative of the meeting. Hopefully we moved the bar a little bit closer to an agreement,” Blackwell said. “He was non-committal, so they’re going to think about what we said and get back with us.” Blackwell also shared that the proposed legislation currently sits at a four ounces per month, which Blackwell believes is a “reasonable” amount. “I took samples to show him what an ounce actually looks like—what 3.5 grams actually looks like.”
On Meta (formerly Facebook) on December 28, 2021, Reeves wrote that he would absolutely support a medical cannabis bill if it were “truly medical marijuana.” He argued that the amount a single patient can use per day exceeds what he believes should be allowed, according to the current bill proposal. “The bill allows any individual to get 3.5 grams of marijuana per day. A simple google search shows that the average joint has 0.32 grams of marijuana. Therefore any one individual can get enough weed to smoke 11 joints a day. Every day,” he wrote.
He also expressed his belief that it isn’t medical at all if there aren’t any doctors involved in the process. “Unlike any other drug, this program allows virtually unlimited access to marijuana once you qualify. There is no pharmacist involved and no doctor setting the amount. There is only what legislators call a ‘budtender’ serving you pot.” He concludes with a wish to reduce the “tremendous” amount of cannabis that the current bill text would allow. “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.”
Despite Reeves’ opposition, and threats of vetoing the bill if the possession limits don’t change, Blackwell is confident that the legislation has put together a comprehensive program for patients. “Lee Yancey’s been great. Speaker [Philip Gunn] and Jason White have been great. It has been an eye-opening experience to go through a bill of this nature. I don’t know if any bill has been vetted like this…with the transparency that’s occurred,” Blackwell stated.
The bill is in the hands of Lt. Gov. Hosemann at the moment, who will soon send the bill to the Public Health Committee. According to the Mississippi Free Press, Senator Hob Bryan has confirmed his support and that he will move it to the Senate floor for consideration, “as soon as is reasonably practical.”
Voters approved a medical cannabis program in 2020 through Initiative 65, although it was overturned by a Supreme Court decision in May 2021. As a result, state lawmakers set out to draft their own medical cannabis bill. The draft proposal was initially 144 pages, crafted in tandem between both House and Senate representatives. However, after being sent to the governor for changes, it increased to a 277-page document.