When it comes to writing a law to legalize medical marijuana in Mississippi, Tate Reeves is right when he says that exactness should take precedence over speed.
“I think getting it done right is more important than getting it done quick,” the Republican governor said.
To try to achieve that end, Reeves is refusing to call a special session, urged by legislative leaders, until the proposal is in a shape with which he is comfortable.
In particular, the governor says he wants to see limits on how much of the drug one person could buy as well as limits on its THC content, the compound that produces the high from marijuana.
Usually, when it comes to enacting legislation, many of the details are worked out after lawmakers convene. The main exception has been economic development incentives for megaplants, whose multimillion-dollar giveaways are usually formulated by a handful of individuals and rushed through the legislative process in a matter of hours.
Being deliberate in advance on medical marijuana has some advantages, the main being that it should reduce the cost of bringing lawmakers back to Jackson for the special session.
The risk is, however, that the longer Reeves puts off making the call, the more tempted lawmakers will be to punt the issue to the next regular session, which begins in January. Although the governor has the sole authority to set the agenda for a special session, the Legislature is not obligated to act on it. It can table the matter by voting to adjourn.
That probably won’t happen in this case. Voters put lawmakers on notice last November that they overwhelmingly are in favor of making marijuana legal for medicinal purposes when they passed Initiative 65 by a 3-to-1 margin. It was only a technicality and a somewhat specious Supreme Court ruling that thwarted the law’s implementation and gave legislators a chance to fix the problems with Initiative 65’s regulatory scheme. It would be politically hazardous to not pass something.
Ideally, whatever gets enacted, and whenever it happens, it will be nearly perfect. But if it’s not, the Legislature can later amend the law, something that would have been much tougher to do had the right to medical marijuana been enshrined in the state constitution, as Initiative 65 attempted to do.
- The Greenwood Commonwealth