Tate Reeves may be forgetting in which branch of government he now works. When it comes to medical marijuana, he’s been acting more like the lieutenant governor he used to be than the governor he is now.
In an editorial published Thursday, we said we agreed with Reeves that it’s more important that the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes be done correctly than be done quickly. We still believe that.
However, our opinion is somewhat tempered after reading a subsequent account in Mississippi Today of how much Reeves has been trying to control the writing of the legislation.
The heavy-handedness of the Republican governor is reminiscent of the way he acted during the eight years when he headed the state Senate, regularly angering not just Democrats but members of his own party.
One Republican, Rep. Lee Yancey of Brandon, provided Mississippi Today with an earful of how Reeves has been trying to dictate exactly what’s in the medical marijuana bill.
Yancey, the lead House negotiator on the legislation, said that even after lawmakers agreed to several changes the governor wanted, it wasn’t enough. Reeves has made at least two more last-minute demands: namely, to lower the amount of smokable marijuana a patient could receive and to lower the THC content in the marijuana.
The legislative proposal would allow a patient with a qualifying medical condition to purchase up to 4 ounces per month, a reduction from the 5 ounces voters approved last November when they easily passed Initiative 65, which was later nullified by the state Supreme Court. Reeves, according to Yancey, wants to cut the maximum by another 20%, to about 3.2 ounces.
The governor also apparently isn’t satisfied with the limits legislators have proposed for the drug’s THC content, even though, according to Yancey, the legislative proposal would make Mississippi one of the only states with any limits on the psychoactive strength of the drug. Yancey said the first he had heard that Reeves had any concern about THC levels was this week.
Lawmakers are understandably frustrated.
The way the process is supposed to work is the legislative branch writes the law, and the governor has the power to veto it if he doesn’t agree with it. Then, the vetoed legislation goes back to the Legislature to either try to override the governor’s veto or to make changes that would pass muster with the governor.
Reeves is basically using his authority on calling a special session as a veto power in advance. He is, in effect, telling the Legislature that unless it produces the bill in the form that he wants, he won’t bring them back to Jackson to deal with medical marijuana this year.
He may be overplaying his hand, though, as that leverage is time-limited.
In less than two months, Mississippi lawmakers will be back in Jackson anyway for their annual regular session. They can just wait out the governor, let him take the blame for inaction this year, and then deal with the issue in January.
For the moment, Reeves’ one “vote” trumps the vote of all 52 members of the Senate and 122 members of the House. Come January, though, they can trump him if two-thirds in each chamber are willing to do so.
- The Greenwood Commonwealth