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Legislative leaders request that more than medical marijuana be included in a special session call

Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 7:26 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 24, 2021 at 7:29 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) -The request for a special session is made. Now, the waiting game begins. The Governor is the only one with the power to call a special session, and he has full control over what lawmakers can take up when they arrive at the Capitol. But legislative leadership says if they’re called back, the call needs to include more than medical marijuana.

“We are ready,” said Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann.

There are a couple of dozen drafts in on the medical marijuana bill. But what they’ve come up with would require state agencies to stand up a medical cannabis program within 60 days of passage.

“We have a very structured way to do this,” noted Hosemann. “This is medical marijuana. This is not recreational marijuana. And we took great pains to make sure it was medical marijuana. The controls in that process are very strict — how it’s going to be grown, how it will be checked all the way through, and their distributions. We allowed for cities and counties who don’t want to be participants in this — they don’t have to be. They can elect out of the process. We also have some taxes on the growth and also on the distribution.”

The ongoing COVID crisis is the reason they think there are some more urgent needs to handle if called back for a special session. One would be a front-line retention program using American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money to keep hospital workers from leaving.

“It would be a contract that the worker would sign, and they would agree...what we’re talking about now is a five-month contract,” explained House Speaker Philip Gunn. “You as a worker would sign a five-month contract to agree to stay at your employers, wherever that is, to provide healthcare for five months in exchange for the money that would be included in that contract.”

They’d also like to direct some of that federal money to the state’s child abuse and domestic violence shelters and programs that are short due to COVID.

“Has been cut by about 40 percent,” said Gunn. “So, if we are able to put some of that ARPA money towards those centers, they tell us they will be able to continue to function, which is a critical thing for the people of our state, as well.”

And finally, legislative leaders want to change the adjust the wording in the state law to allow first responder’s families the ability to receive death benefits if they die from COVID-19.

Speaker Philip Gunn and Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann expect they can handle all four issues in one day. They’d like it to happen next Friday. But the time and specifics of a special session are totally up to the Governor, who has not indicated what he plans to do.

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