Other than to joke about people thinking he might have smoked marijuana before his speech, Gov. Tate Reeves on Thursday never mentioned the issue that has had patients, lawmakers and voters on pins and needles for months: If or when he will call a special legislative session on medical marijuana as he promised.
He didn’t want to talk about it afterward, either, as he beat a hasty retreat from the Mississippi Coliseum with reporters jogging along trying to ask.
“It’s definitely a realistic possibility … We’re continuing to talk about it, as recently as yesterday,” Reeves told reporters without breaking stride before hopping in his state SUV with his security detail and leaving minutes after his speech ended.
Likewise, neither Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann nor House Speaker Philip Gunn mentioned the issue to the crowd at the Mississippi Economic Council’s annual Hobnob event on Thursday. After their speeches, they both told reporters they’ve heard squat from Reeves about it.
This silence is odd given the time and effort legislative leaders have put into medical marijuana legislation. And it’s odd given that residents have rallied for months for lawmakers to replace a medical marijuana program overwhelmingly passed by voters last November but shot down by the state Supreme Court on a constitutional technicality.
Reeves, who has sole authority to call lawmakers into special session, has said for months he would do so if lawmakers reached agreement on a bill. They did so, and informed Reeves of this on Sept. 24.
But Reeves, who as governor has no control over what lawmakers pass other than the power to veto it afterward, gave lawmakers a last-minute laundry list of things he didn’t like in the bill. Lawmakers said they conceded on many of Reeves’ issues, but called some “unreasonable.”
Since then, legislative leaders said, it’s been mostly crickets from Reeves on whether he would call the promised special session.
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“We’re ready to go,” Speaker Gunn said Thursday after his Hobnob speech. “The last communication I had with (Reeves) was about two weeks ago — or, I guess about three weeks ago now. We called him and said, ‘Hey, we’re ready to go on this.’ He said he’d think about it. That’s all I’ve heard.”
Lt. Gov. Hosemann was also asked after his speech whether he’d heard anything from the governor on a special session.
“No,” Hosemann said, then looked at his watch. “No, as of 11:36 today, no.”
Reeves also appears to be dodging the public on the issue. Medical marijuana advocates on the “We Are the 74” Facebook page on Wednesday posted video of parents with a child in a wheelchair trying to question Reeves about a special session, as Reeves did some political meet-and-greeting at the 10th Inning Bar and Grill in Southaven. Reeves appears hesitant to address them as they follow him around pushing the child’s wheelchair. Reluctantly, Reeves accepts a photo from the boy that shows him with a black eye from seizures and his mom tells Reeves, “We need his medicine and we need it soon.”
Reeves in the video says, “Yes, ma’am, I’m working really hard on that” when the mother questions Reeves about calling a special session.
“He said that, ‘We’re working on it,'” the mother says later outside the restaurant. “… He ran away from us in the restaurant as I tried to push Bryan around in his wheelchair … We handed him a photo of Bryan with a black eye from his seizures, and he tried not to take it but I forced his hand and he just kept saying, thank you, thank you and tried to walk off.
“He wouldn’t give me an answer,” she said. “We told him we know that both sides have agreed to something, and they’re waiting on him to call a session. He would not answer us as to when the session would be … pretty much, he treated Bryan like he had the plague, barely even looked at him.”
Besides patients with debilitating illness wanting medical cannabis and voters calling for their will to be reinstated after the Supreme Court decision, legislative leaders have said there is another pragmatic reason to deal with medical marijuana in special session instead of waiting for the January regular session. The Legislature has numerous, monumental issues before it, such as decennial redistricting, appropriating billions in pandemic relief and tax reform. Dealing with medical marijuana before the regular session would help clear the decks for work on the other issues.
One state leader did address medical marijuana at Hobnob on Thursday. Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson thanked lawmakers about addressing his concerns and having the Health Department, not his agency, license cultivators. Then he showed large photos on an easel of bags of California medical marijuana, brownies and edibles that “look like Fruity Pebbles” confiscated in Mississippi. He said he’s worried a state medical marijuana program will increase black market dealing and said law enforcement needs to be more involved in the Legislature’s plan.