Mississippi session requested on medical marijuana proposal
JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) – Mississippi legislative leaders said on Friday they were asking Republican Gov. Tate Reeves to call the House and Senate into special session to pass a medical marijuana program and approve financial aid for hospitals.
They also want lawmakers during the session to allow the payment of death benefits for law enforcement officers and first responders who die from COVID-19 and put money aside for shelters that help victims of child abuse and domestic violence.
Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, both Republicans, told reporters they believe lawmakers could handle the case quickly – perhaps in as little as a day.
Only a governor can call an extraordinary session and set its agenda. Reeves didn’t say what he was going to do.
“Staff from the governor’s office and the legislature met to discuss this today, and we look forward to further engagement,” governor’s spokesperson Bailey Martin said on Friday.
Hosemann and Gunn said hospital executives are struggling to retain enough nurses and other workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, as some are drawn to make more money working for private contractors.
“We are in a crisis,” Gunn said.
Legislative leaders are proposing that Mississippi donate part of its federal pandemic relief money to hospitals to provide financial incentives to employees. They did not specify an amount.
Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tindell said on Friday that current state law allows payments of $ 100,000 to survivors of law enforcement officers or first responders who die due to the work. He said the law does not allow such payments for officers or responders who die from COVID-19, but he wants lawmakers to update the law to allow such payments. Hosemann and Gunn ask Reeves to put this on the agenda for a special session.
Hosemann and Gunn said shelters that help victims of abuse lost money during the pandemic, in part due to a decrease in the payment of court fines. They want the state to cover these financial losses.
A few lawmakers have been negotiating for months on how to create a medical marijuana program. In May, the Mississippi Supreme Court launched a medical marijuana initiative that voters approved last November. The judges ruled the Mississippi initiative process was outdated and the medical marijuana proposal was not properly on the ballot.
The legislative proposal is not identical to the initiative approved by the voters. The proposal would allow local governments to limit where marijuana could be grown, processed or sold. It was not in Initiative 65.
The two main negotiators – Republican Senator Kevin Blackwell of Southaven and Republican Representative Lee Yancey of Brandon – said on Thursday that passage of a bill would take a three-fifths majority because of the tax provisions, and leaders of the House and Senate think they have enough votes lined up.
Yancey said the proposed program would help people with debilitating conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis or cancer. He also said that if the bill becomes law, cities and counties would have 90 days to refuse to allow medical marijuana grow sites, processing facilities and dispensaries. But if local boards of directors decide to do so, voters could demand an election to overturn that decision. Blackwell said if a city or county refused to allow the facilities, people who live in those places could still own and use medical marijuana.
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