A bill has been drafted that would legalize medical marijuana in Mississippi, as lawmakers attempt to follow up on ballot initiative 65 that was deemed invalid this summer. But state officials say the 1000+ page measure that has been drafted is too dissimilar from the original nine-page ballot initiative.
Speaking at the Department of Agriculture and Commerce, Commissioner Andy Gipson held up his oath of office. He says the state should be dedicated to establishing a quality medical marijuana program that will support what the people voted for, and do so not behind closed doors.
The proposed legislation would require the Department of Agriculture and Commerce to oversee the cultivation, processing, transportation and destruction of marijuana for the program. Commissioner Gipson estimates these roles would require the Department’s budget to be increased by 41%.
“We don’t do any of those things at the Department of Agriculture. It’s going to cost a lot of money. We don’t have the staff, we don’t have the equipment, we don’t have the vehicles, we don’t have the surveillance technology to do these things. And somebody is going to have to pay for it.”
Gipson says he and his department were not consulted by lawmakers who drafted the bill, and he would like three major questions to be answered: who will operate the program, who will pay for it, and how much it will cost taxpayers. He says he is now in talks with lawmakers about how the proposal can be modified before a special session of the legislature is called, or the 2022 legislative session begins.
The measure splits power over the program between three state agencies: The Department of Agriculture and Commerce, the Department of Revenue, and the Department of Health. He says the proposal does allow the Department of Agriculture to delegate some tasks to other agencies, however, he says that is overcomplicating the issue.
“If they’re putting it in the bill that we can farm it out, why not put the Department of Health and let them farm it out? You achieve the same result with more efficiency. We’re going to have three state agencies staffing up to do this when you could have it under one and save the taxpayers enormous amounts. And also have more government efficiency and less bureaucracy.”