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Gov. Reeves vetoes first bill of the 2022 legislative session

(Source: WDAM)
Published: Mar. 17, 2022 at 9:39 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Governor Tate Reeves notified lawmakers Thursday that he has vetoed House Bill 980.

The author of House Bill 980 says the intent was simple: If the federal government declassifies a drug on the schedule of controlled substances, the State Health Officer would be allowed to declassify it at the state level.

But that would only be until the legislature came back in session to decide what to do with it. The Governor’s veto message said the state’s schedule shouldn’t automatically mirror the federal version. The House Judiciary A committee voted to sustain the veto with plans to revisit the issue next session.

“Because we are only in session three months, and some in the Federal Congress is there all year and they’re there declassifying stuff when we’re not here,” said Rep. Nick Bain. “So, it was just kind of a stop gap to clear up a hole in the law is all the intent of it was. It wasn’t to decriminalize anything or to be soft on crime that he likes to paint us at sometimes. It was common sense policy matching what the federal government’s doing.”

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

House Bill 980 imprudently abdicates to the federal government the police powers of the state to regulate substances and impose criminal penalties for violations of Mississippi’s Controlled Substances Act. In some Democrat controlled states, there’s a disturbing trend towards deregulating and decriminalizing such hard street drugs as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. While thankfully this trend has not yet spread to Congress, I am unwilling to gamble with the health, welfare and safety of Mississippians. If the past 15 months have taught us anything, it is that we must jealously guard states’ rights and powers and not cede any authority to the federal government. In some instances, it may be appropriate to amend Mississippi’s controlled substances schedules to mirror changes in the federal schedules while also amending Mississippi’s criminal laws do account for such changes. In other instances, it may be appropriate for Mississippi to decline to declassify controlled substance and instead exercise its police powers to regulate it and impose criminal penalties for violating such regulations. In either case, the decision of what substances should be regulated and what criminal penalties should be imposed for violations of such regulations should be made by the Mississippi Legislature on a case-by-case basis, not the federal government. For these reasons, I’m vetoing House Bill 980.

Respectfully submitted,

Tate Reeves.

Rep. Nick Bain also provided the following information about why the law change is needed.

He explained that the FDA descheduled Epidiolex in April of 2020. Epidiolex is an FDA approved drug used mostly for children with severe forms of epilepsy.

The FDA rules require that drug manufacturers have a single package for each drug, and that packaging must detail the classification on the Federal Schedule. Because Epidiolex was moved from Schedule 5 off the schedule, the packaging mandate included a statement declaring the drug is not a scheduled drug.

Wholesalers in Mississippi refused to receive the drug because Epidiolex was still on the schedule according to state law. For this reason, 126 patients would either have to adjust epilepsy medications or drive across state lines to obtain this daily medication.

Bain notes that the legislature had arranged COVID reasons to return to Jackson. Epidiolex was descheduled during an extenuating circumstance amid a global pandemic.

Again, he notes House Bill 980 sought to give the State Health Officer limited interim scheduling/descheduling authority to ensure patients in Mississippi had timely access to existing and new medications as they are placed on/removed from the schedule by the FDA.

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