Pictured: Bryan Loftin, Christine Loftin's son, who has a mitochondrial disease that causes intense seizures. Bryan and Christine confronted Gov. Tate Reeves about medical marijuana.
Bryan Loftin, 16, has a mitochondrial disease that causes intense seizures. (Photo courtesy: Christine Loftin)

Christine Loftin didn’t know what else to do.

Loftin, a Southaven resident whose 16-year-old son Bryan has a mitochondrial disease that causes intense seizures, was a passionate advocate for a ballot initiative passed in 2020 that created a medical marijuana program.

The medicine, Loftin says, is the only thing that could really help her son. Bryan has tried over a dozen pharmaceutical drugs to treat his seizures over the years, but none have worked. Loftin has been studying the use of medical marijuana to treat seizures, hoping her son would one day have access to it.

“It’s never been an option for our family to just up and relocate (to another state), so we just had to wait,” Loftin said.

Last November, Loftin was elated when more than 759,000 Mississippians voted in favor of a medical marijuana program. She thought Bryan would finally get the medicine he needed.

But that celebratory feeling is now a distant memory.

Loftin is among thousands of Mississippians who say their will is being ignored. They feel ignored by the Mississippi Supreme Court, which overturned the marijuana program on a constitutional technicality in May.

And in recent weeks, they’ve felt ignored by a governor who is preventing a legislative alternative and is not meaningfully engaging with the public about the issue — including the patients who need the relief offered by medical marijuana.

This summer, after the Supreme Court struck down the voters’ medical marijuana program, leaders in both chambers of the state Legislature reached an agreement on a bill that would create an alternative medical marijuana program. They informed Reeves on Sept. 24 they had the votes to pass it in a special legislative session, which only the governor can call.

Though Reeves had said for months that he would call a special session if lawmakers struck a deal, he has delayed calling lawmakers to Jackson. Instead of calling the special session, Reeves gave lawmakers a last-minute laundry list of things he didn’t like in the bill. Lawmakers said they conceded on many of Reeves’ concerns, but called others “unreasonable.”

READ MORE: Legislative leaders say Gov. Tate Reeves is holding up medical marijuana with ‘unreasonable demands’

The way Loftin and many Mississippi voters see it: Reeves is now the sole obstacle standing in the way of the legislation being passed.

Loftin, who has closely followed the progress of a legislative alternative to Initiative 65, says she has left more than a dozen messages for Reeves inquiring about the special session, but never heard back. So when she heard that the governor would be having lunch a mile from her home in Southaven on Wednesday, she knew it was the best chance she had to get him to listen.

So Christine loaded up her son Bryan, who is in a wheelchair, and drove to the 10th Inning Bar and Grill for Reeves’ political meet-and-greet and waited for a chance to speak with the governor. 

Loftin told Mississippi Today that Reeves avoided them until she pushed Bryan in his wheelchair up to him. The long-awaited encounter was videoed and posted to social media.

Bryan can be seen tugging on Reeves’ coattails. When the governor turned toward the boy, Bryan handed him a photo of himself with a black eye he got after one of his seizures. Reeves reluctantly accepted the photo.

“We need his medicine and we need it soon,” Christine Loftin said to Reeves.

“Yes, ma’am, I’m working really hard on that,” Reeves replied. 

When Loftin said she knew lawmakers had reached a deal and asked what the hold-up was, or any other question on the issue, Reeves gave the same answer. 

“We’re working on it,” he said over and over again.

After a while, Christine knew the conversation wasn’t going anywhere, so she and Bryan left.

“For the first time in over a dozen years, I had hope that there was going to be something that we could do to give Bryan a better quality of life,” Loftin told Mississippi Today in an interview this week. “I can’t put into words what it’s like to have that ripped out from under you.”

After the encounter with the governor, Loftin shared her story on social media and has blasted Reeves.

“I really don’t do politics very much, one side or the other, but from where we’re standing, this is all about politics,” Loftin told Mississippi Today. “This has nothing to do with patient care. This has nothing to do with the interest of the people who need the medication. It has nothing to do with anything except for politics. And that’s infuriating.”

READ MORE: Gov. Tate Reeves dodging on promised medical marijuana session

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Will Stribling covered healthcare and breaking news for Mississippi Today.