As lawmakers and many voters wait to see when Gov. Tate Reeves will call a special legislative session on legalizing medical marijuana, a group is planning six rallies across the state on Saturday to urge him to do so pronto.
The “We Are the 74” Facebook group, with nearly 15,000 members, has rallies planned for 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday (originally they were scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) in Biloxi, Hattiesburg, Hernando, Jackson, Pascagoula and Tupelo calling for a “Special Session Now!” according to their page. The group was formed after voters in November passed a medical marijuana program through a ballot initiative, but then the state Supreme Court shot it down on a constitutional technicality. The 74 refers to 74% of voters that chose the Initiative 65 medical marijuana program over an alternative placed on the ballot by lawmakers.
Many in the group, according to their posts, have become angry that Reeves hasn’t called a special session yet, and their hashtags and memes include “#TimesUpTate” along with others that cannot be printed here. Medical marijuana proponents also frequently hammer Reeves on his social media posts about other issues. Reeves has only said he would likely call a session soon.
House and Senate negotiators dickered most of the summer on a plan to replace the medical marijuana program the high court shot down. Reeves had said that if lawmakers could reach an agreement, he would call them into special session to pass it.
Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and House Speaker Philip Gunn informed Reeves on Sept. 24 that an agreement on a draft bill had been reached and they believe they have the votes to pass it. But Reeves has not said when he might call a session. During a press conference on Sept. 29, Reeves said he expected he would call lawmakers into session “sooner rather than later,” but would not speculate a date or whether he’ll also let legislators tackle pandemic pay for nurses or other COVID-19 measures Gunn and Hosemann are proposing. He said at the time there were still details to work out on the marijuana measure.
Many in the We Are the 74 group and other advocates of medical marijuana have also voiced displeasure with particulars of the Legislature’s draft proposal. It includes both a sales tax and excise tax on medical marijuana, limits on the amount of the drug that can be dispensed and on THC levels that some criticize.