Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs, right, watches an unmasked Gov. Tate Reeves respond to a reporter's question during a news briefing regarding Mississippi's COVID-19 response in Jackson, Miss., Aug. 13, 2021. Reeves did not wear a face mask during the 90-minute briefing. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Gov. Tate Reeves said he intends to call a special session to take up legalizing medical marijuana as soon as some final details are worked out between him and legislative leaders.

“I am confident we will have a special session of the Legislature if we get the specifics of a couple of items that are left outstanding,” Reeves said Tuesday during a news conference. “Again, we have made great progress working with our legislative leaders.”

Reeves said it is more important to get a bill to legalize marijuana done right than done quickly.

He cited as areas of concern:

  • The level of THC dosages. THC is the chemical in marijuana that produces the feeling of euphoria or a high.
  • The amount of marijuana that can be provided to people.
  • And who would be eligible to receive medical marijuana.

Legislative leaders have said they relied on industry standards in setting THC levels and amounts dispensed in their proposal.

In addition to the issues Reeves listed Tuesday, his office has also been back and forth with lawmakers adding language to ensure that marijuana businesses cannot receive state economic development incentives or credits.

While the governor said he wanted to take the time to ensure the bill “is right,” he did acknowledge the overwhelming vote in favor of a medical marijuana ballot initiative during the 2020 election. That vote, though, was ruled unconstitutional in May 2021 by the state Supreme Court because language establishing the initiative process references gathering signature to place an issue on the ballot from five congressional districts. The state has not had five districts since the 1990 census.

After the Supreme Court ruled the medical marijuana initiative vote unconstitutional, legislative leaders began drafting a proposal to legalize medical marijuana in anticipation of Reeves calling a special session. Legislative leaders said recently they had reached an agreement and were ready for Reeves to call a special session. The governor, though, has identified the areas of concern he wants addressed before the special session is called.

Even if an agreement between Reeves and legislative leaders is reached, that would not prevent it from being altered during a special session during the normal legislative process.

In addition, Reeves said he is considering other items that he might add to the special session agenda. Those included providing state death benefits for emergency first responders who died because of the coronavirus.

He also said he and legislators were beginning to discuss the spending priorities for $1.8 billion in COVID-19 relief funds approved earlier this year for Mississippi by the U.S. Congress.

Reeves said he is considering the proposal of Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and Speaker Philip Gunn to use some of those federal relief funds to provide additional pay to nurses and other health care employees to address the worker shortage that has occurred during the pandemic.

“We are very interested in developing a plan to deal with the long-term challenges in the health care arena and health care shortages,” Reeves said.

READ MORE: Ballot initiative fix not likely to occur during 2021 special session

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.

Geoff Pender serves as senior political reporter, working closely with Mississippi Today leadership on editorial strategy and investigations. Pender brings 30 years of political and government reporting experience to Mississippi Today. He was political and investigative editor at the Clarion Ledger, where he also penned a popular political column. He previously served as an investigative reporter and political editor at the Sun Herald, where he was a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team for Hurricane Katrina coverage. Originally from Florence, Mississippi, Pender is a journalism graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi and has received numerous awards throughout his career for reporting, columns and freedom of information efforts.