Pressure from citizens and top politicians is growing for lawmakers to return to Jackson for a special session to fix the ballot initiative process after the Supreme Court struck it down along with the medical marijuana program passed by voters last year.
But Gov. Tate Reeves, who is the sole elected official with the power to call lawmakers to Jackson before the next regular session begins in January 2022, says he is “a long way” from making that decision.
“(A special session) is something we are certainly willing to consider,” Reeves told Scott Simmons at WAPT in Jackson on Tuesday. “We are a long way from being able to make that decision.”
There are two main issues at play because of the Supreme Court ruling, and both could be taken up in a special session if Reeves wants. First, the state currently has no ballot initiative process, which allows citizens to vote on constitutional changes without legislative approval. Second, the medical marijuana program enshrined in the state constitution by 74% of voters in November 2020 was effectively killed by the Court.
On the ballot initiative process, Reeves told WAPT: “We have three branches of government, and it is the judicial branch’s job to interpret the law. I don’t know that I would have ruled one way or another, but I respect the court and the roles they play, and so now, it is incumbent on the legislative branch to come back and fix this process.”
On the marijuana program, Reeves said: “The people have spoken. They made their voice heard and voted overwhelmingly to have a (medical marijuana) program and Mississippi should have that.”
This week, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, who presides over the Senate, and House Speaker Philip Gunn both publicly supported the notion of a special session.
Hosemann said lawmakers could pass a marijuana program during a special session, but that they can handle the ballot initiative process during the 2022 regular legislative session.
Gunn, in public comments, has said that lawmakers should reconvene for a special session to deal with the ballot initiative process, but he has not said recently whether he supports lawmakers passing a medical marijuana program.
There have also been questions about how quickly any change to the constitution could be implemented if lawmakers pass a ballot initiative fix. Changing the constitution in the Legislature requires a two-thirds vote of both chambers, followed by approval by voters on a statewide ballot. Both Reeves and Hosemann have suggested that a vote to approve the change couldn’t occur until 2022. But lawmakers could call a special statewide election at any point to ask voters to approve the change.
Lawmakers can, however, pass a medical marijuana program themselves at any time without needing a vote of the people.