‘The people of Mississippi are ready for it’: Medical marijuana advocates hopeful legislators will pass bill
The new legislative session began on Tuesday. At the top of the list for state lawmakers to discuss is the medical marijuana program.
BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Across Mississippi, people who support medical marijuana have been vocal over their frustrations with state leaders to approve the program that was passed by an overwhelming 74 percent of voters in 2020.
One of the state’s advocates in launching a medical marijuana program is Conner Reeves, a Jackson attorney who has previously served as general counsel for the Mississippi State Medical Association and as the medical policy advisor for the Medical Marijuana 2020 Campaign, which successfully saw a citizen-initiated ballot measure get passed.
WLOX’s David Elliot spoke with Conner Reeves on Wednesday about the medical marijuana program and the bill currently set to be discussed in Jackson.
“The state of Mississippi really turned out strong last fall. Initiative 65 was overwhelmingly supported in our state. Unfortunately, that was overturned by the Supreme Court earlier last year. So now it’s up to the legislators to pass a program,” explained Conner Reeves.
Legislators spent the past summer negotiating a new medical marijuana bill to take the place of Initiative 65. After months of negotiation, the House and Senate came to an agreement on the bill, which is more than 100 pages long.
“Last year, we saw the legislators come together in the off season to draft a bill, which is a really great bill. There is a lot of really great revisions in there that will make a strong medical marijuana program and would really track with what the people of Mississippi already wanted,” said Conner Reeves.
The newly drafted bill was ready for Gov. Tate Reeves in early October. He, however, refused to sign it, saying the amount of marijuana a person can receive under the program is still out of his comfort zone.
Lawmakers want to allow patients to purchase up to 3.5 grams, or an eighth of an ounce, while the governor supports limiting purchases to 2.8 ounces. A total of 36 states and the District of Columbia have all passed medical marijuana programs, with most of those allowing upwards of two ounces a month.
“No state that has ever passed medical marijuana has reversed it. Every state that has done so has kept it. It’s in the majority of the states, even some of our surrounding southern states,” said attorney Conner Reeves. “It’s incredibly popular across the country and, like I said, the people of Mississippi have already voted on this. The legislators should have full support while they’re in Jackson knowing their constituents have already approved this.”
The governor said the current bill, if passed, would theoretically allow more than a billion legal joints to be sold in Mississippi each year. His fear, he said, is that it would put too much marijuana on the streets of the Magnolia State, leading ultimately to a recreational program, which he does not support.
Attorney Conner Reeves said he thinks the primary focus needs to be on the people who need medical marijuana and the voters who supported it.
“Go ask all of the patients of Mississippi who would greatly benefit from this. They are real Mississippians with medical conditions that would benefit from having this program. They have been waiting a long time for this to happen. Some of them have already left the state to go somewhere else to get relief. Call it what you want but there are real people with real medical conditions that could benefit.”
He continued: “Patients are going to get the products they need. It’s better to do it through a regulated program where they can get high quality products that are overseen by the state of Mississippi through licensed establishments. So that’s the way it needs to be set up. That’s the program we got in this bill, and I think the people of Mississippi are ready for it,” said Conner Reeves.
WLOX spoke with Rep. Lee Yancey last week, who helped negotiate the new bill in the House. He believes the current bill will pass in both chambers, which requires a an approval vote of 60 percent or more. A vote of 67 percent or higher would be enough to override the governor if he decides to veto the bill presented to him.
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