Governor Reeves vetoes first bill of 2022 legislative session

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – Governor Tate Reeves informed lawmakers Thursday that he had vetoed House Bill 980.

The author of House Bill 980 says the intent was simple: if the federal government declassifies a drug from the controlled substances list, the state health officer would be authorized to declassify it at the state level.

But that would only be until the legislature returns to session to decide what to do with it. The governor’s veto message said the state calendar should not automatically mirror the federal version. The House Judiciary Committee A committee voted to uphold the veto with plans to revisit the issue in the next session.

“Because we’re only in session for three months, and some federal congressmen are there year-round and they’re there to declassify stuff when we’re not there,” Rep. Nick Bain said. “So it was just kind of word of mouth to fill a hole in the law, that was all the intention. It wasn’t to decriminalize anything or to be soft on the crime that he likes to paint us sometimes. It was a common sense policy that was consistent with what the federal government was doing.

The veto message sent to the legislature was read aloud on the floor of the House Thursday morning. He said, in part:

House Bill 980 recklessly abdicates state police powers to the federal government to regulate substances and impose criminal penalties for violations of Mississippi’s controlled substance law. In some Democratic-controlled states, there is a disturbing trend of deregulation and decriminalization of hard drugs such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. While thankfully this trend has yet to catch on in Congress, I am not willing to gamble with the health, well-being, and safety of Mississippians. If the past 15 months have taught us anything, it’s that we must jealously guard the rights and powers of the states and not cede any authority to the federal government. In some cases, it may be appropriate to modify the Mississippi controlled substance schedules to reflect changes in the federal schedules while modifying the Mississippi criminal laws to reflect those changes. In other cases, it may be appropriate for Mississippi to refuse to declassify a controlled substance and instead exercise its police powers to regulate it and impose criminal penalties for violations of those regulations. In either case, the decision about which substances to control and what criminal penalties to impose for violating those regulations should be made by the Mississippi legislature on a case-by-case basis, not the federal government. For these reasons, I veto House Bill 980.

Respectfully submitted,

Tate Reeves.

Representative Nick Bain also provided the following information on why the law change is needed.

He explained that the FDA de-scheduled Epidiolex in April 2020. Epidiolex is an FDA-approved drug used primarily for children with severe forms of epilepsy.

FDA rules require drug manufacturers to have only one package for each drug, and that package must detail the classification on the federal schedule. Since Epidiolex was removed from Schedule 5 of the schedule, the packaging warrant included a statement declaring that the drug is not a scheduled drug.

Mississippi wholesalers refused to receive the drug because Epidiolex was still on schedule according to state law. Because of this, 126 patients would either have to adjust their epilepsy medications or cross state lines to get this daily medication.

Bain notes that the Legislature had arranged COVID reasons to return to Jackson. Epidiolex was postponed during an extenuating circumstance in the midst of a global pandemic.

Again, he notes that House Bill 980 sought to give the state health officer limited interim scheduling/de-scheduling authority to ensure Mississippi patients have timely access to medications. existing and new ones as they are placed/removed from the schedule by the FDA.

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