Mississippi State Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Andy Gipson is adamant he doesn’t want his department to have any part in medical marijuana oversight.
On Monday, Commissioner Gipson held a press conference to discuss “several issues of concern” he has with the state’s proposed medical marijuana bill and the role of the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce as presently drafted by legislators, stating it conflicts with what voters approved under Initiative 65 last year.
Initiative Measure 65 proposed to amend the Mississippi Constitution to enable physician-certified patients with qualifying debilitating medical conditions to use medical marijuana provided by licensed treatment centers. Under Initiative 65, the Mississippi State Department of Health would be solely responsible for the regulation and enforcement of the amendment’s provisions.
While the initiative was passed by voters, hopes for a medical cannabis program kicking off this year were quashed by a Supreme Court decision in May over a technicality.
Since then, lawmakers have been hammering out details to get a program over the line, with Governor Tate Reeves expected to call them into a special session with view to the Legislature passing the measure. Under the proposed new arrangements, oversight of the program would not just involve the Mississippi State Department of Health, but also the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Revenue.
Railing against his department’s involvement, Commissioner Gipson not only raised the intention of Initiative 65, but that the agency isn’t designed, equipped or funded for such an exercise – and that the 60 days it would have to get up to speed was simply unworkable.
“This is not what people elected me to do, be a marijuana kingpin,” said Mr. Gipson.
He also raised the issue of the program originally intended to be self-funded by the industry through fees and charges, but the new plan involves taxes and that revenue being thrown in the state general fund.
If the bill does proceed as is, Commissioner Gipson said he would consider his legal options in extricating the department from its required involvement.
Full video of Commissioner Gipson’s press conference can be viewed here.