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Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves revealed on Tuesday that he will not sign a medical cannabis bill proposed by state lawmakers, saying the legislation allows patients access to too much medical cannabis. In a message posted to Facebook, the Republican governor wrote that he would support the measure if the legislature cuts the daily cap on medical marijuana purchases in half.
“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 wrote.
Mississippi voters approved Initiative 65, a ballot measure to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana, in November 2020. However, in May, the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned the statute, citing constitutional inconsistencies in the state’s initiative process.
In September, negotiators with the Mississippi Senate and House of Representatives announced that they had reached an agreement on a medical cannabis plan that has key differences compared to Initiative 65, including provisions that would allow local jurisdictions to regulate where medical marijuana could be cultivated, processed and sold.
Reeves Rejects Cap On Cannabis Purchases in Mississippi
On Tuesday, Reeves said that the bill drafted by lawmakers addresses some of his worries about launching a medical marijuana program in Mississippi. But the governor added that he is still concerned with the question of how much cannabis a patient will be permitted to purchase.
“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,” said Reeves. “There is only what legislators call a ‘budtender’ serving you pot.”
Reeves noted that under the legislature’s plan, patients would be allowed to purchase up to 3.5 grams of medical cannabis per day. Writing that a “simple google search shows that the average joint has 0.32 grams of marijuana,” Reeves said that each patient would be entitled to enough cannabis for 11 joints every day. The governor then offered patient statistics from Oklahoma, where about 376,000 patients have registered for the medical cannabis program.
“An equivalent sign-up rate in Mississippi would yield 300,000 Mississippians with a card to get up to 11 joints per day. That would allow the disbursement of 3.3 million joints per day in our state, which is the equivalent of approximately 100 million joints per month,” Reeves extrapolated. “That would be 1.2 billion legal joints sold in Mississippi per year. Call me crazy, but I just think that’s too broad of a starting point.”
Instead, Reeves suggested that lawmakers drastically cut the daily cap on medical cannabis purchases.
“I am asking the Legislature to simply cut that amount in half to start the program,” he wrote. “It is a simple fix.”
Reeves also suggested that the limit on medical cannabis could be revisited if the amended cap proves to be insufficient for patient needs.
“We can sit down five years from now and take a thorough review of the actual outcomes,” the governor wrote. “But—as the dad of three daughters that I love dearly—I cannot put my name on a bill that puts that much marijuana on the streets of Mississippi.”
Lawmakers will take up the bill during the new legislative session, which begins early next month. Many cannabis activists are already frustrated with Reeves for failing to follow through on plans to call a special session to consider the matter.
“This program was supposed to have been up and running already,” Citizens Alliance of Mississippi founder Shea Dobson told reporters last month. “I mean, we were supposed to have had medical marijuana in place right now as we speak. And every day that goes by, the governor moves the goalposts; we continue to see patients suffer more.”
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