From the south steps of the Capitol, Mississippi Cannabis Patients Alliance founder Angie Calhoun with supporters, makes a plea to the Governor to change his position on medical marijuana on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022, in Jackson. Credit: Vickie D. King/Mississippi Today

For some time after the Supreme Court shot down a vote of the people to create a Mississippi medical marijuana, it appeared fait accompli that lawmakers would enact a program, per the “will of the voters.”

Legislative leaders got to work over the summer to draft a bill. Gov. Tate Reeves said he would call lawmakers into special session to pass it once there was general agreement on the plan.

But it took a while to get such a draft together, and it wasn’t until late September that legislative leaders told Reeves they had consensus on a bill. Then Reeves said he had problems with it — particularly that it would allow patients to receive too much marijuana (even though the 4 ounces a month was less than the 5 ounces voters had approved in 2020). Law enforcement, religious, medical and other lobbies stepped up opposition to the measure.

As the debate devolved into how many joints can be rolled from a gram of pot, the potential for a special session faded. Last week, the regular legislative session began, and whatever golden hour there might have been for medical marijuana after the 2020 passage of Initiative 65 appears to have faded.

As time drags on, passage of a Mississippi medical marijuana program in a legislative session crowded with many other major issues becomes less assured , or even less likely. Senate leadership has indicated they intend to move relatively quickly — as early as this week — on the issue, but even those that support a program in general are coming up with pet peeves with the draft or things they want taken out or put into the measure. Alternative bills are being drafted.

And in the House, which doesn’t plan to take up its own version of the bill, Speaker Philip Gunn stated bluntly last week that “candidly, that is not a top issue for us” and that House leadership was trying to push the bill in “a more conservative direction,” indicating that there’s no longer agreement on the agreements ostensibly reached in the fall.

And for that matter, Reeves has threatened a veto if lawmakers pass what they agreed to then. Some legislative leaders have said they’re standing pat on the amount of marijuana allowed in the bill, but Gunn’s comments would at the least raise doubt about a veto-proof vote on that issue.

READ MORE: Lost in the shuffle: Chronically ill people suffer as Mississippi politicians quibble over medical marijuana

The overwhelming 2020 vote for Initiative 65 obviously caught politicians’ attention and prompted promises to quickly reinstate the program after the high court shot it down. There’s been a dearth of publicly released polling on the issue lately, but it would appear many politicians — perhaps with some internal polling in hand — don’t view it as No. 1 with a bullet among voters any more, or at least not an issue that could get your photo stripped from the Capitol hallway.

Medical marijuana has been a divisive issue in the Legislature for years, hence the citizen-and marijuana industry-led initiative.

As the clock ticks, headwinds appear to grow against lawmakers passing a Mississippi medical marijuana program.

READ MORE: Mississippi’s medical marijuana mess


We want to hear from you!

Central to our mission at Mississippi Today is inspiring civic engagement. We think critically about how we can foster healthy dialogue between people who think differently about government and politics. We believe that conversation — raw, earnest talking and listening to better understand each other — is vital to the future of Mississippi. We encourage you to engage with us and each other on our social media accounts, email our reporters directly or leave a comment for our editor by clicking the button below.


Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

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.