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Mississippi: Supreme Court Nullifies Voter-Approved Medical Cannabis Initiative

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Justices on the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled 6 to 3 to overturn a November 2020 vote legalizing the production and dispensing of medical cannabis to qualified patients.

On Election Day, 73 percent of Mississippi voters decided in favor of Initiative 65, which establishes a system of state-licensed dispensaries to engage in the retail dispensing of cannabis and cannabis products to patients who possess a doctor’s authorization. Just prior to the vote, officials representing the city of Madison – including the town’s Mayor – filed suit arguing that the legislature’s failure to update guidelines for petitioners should invalidate the initiative vote.

A majority of the Court ruled, “Whether with intent, by oversight, or for some other reason, the drafters of section 273(3) wrote a ballot-initiative process that cannot work in a world where Mississippi has fewer than five representatives in Congress. To work in today’s reality, it will need amending—something that lies beyond the power of the Supreme Court.”

Specifically, state statutes call for petitioners to gather an equal percentage of signatures from five congressional districts. However, following redistricting in 2000, there are only four congressional districts in the state. Lawmakers since that time have failed to update the statute.

In a dissent, Justice James D. Maxwell II wrote, “Not only is this particular initiative dead, but so is Mississippi’s citizen initiative process.”

NORML State Policies Manager Carly Wolf criticized the majority’s opinion. “Legalization opponents have shown time and time again that they cannot succeed in either the court of public opinion or at the ballot box. Whether or not one supports [cannabis] reform, Americans should be outraged at these overtly undemocratic tactics, and as a result, the most vulnerable Mississippians will continue to be denied safe access to a therapy that could offer them significant relief from severely debilitating conditions.”

The case is Mary Hawkins Butler v. Michael Watson, Miss., 2020-IA-01199-SCT.

 

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NORML advocates for changes in public policy so that the responsible possession and use of [cannabis] by adults is no longer subject to criminal penalties. NORML further advocates for a regulated commercial cannabis market so that activities involving the for-profit production and retail sale of cannabis and cannabis products are safe, transparent, consumer-friendly, and are subject to state and/or local licensure. Finally, NORML advocates for additional changes in legal and regulatory policies so that those who use [cannabis] responsibly no longer face either social stigma or workplace discrimination, and so that those with past criminal records for [cannabis]-related violations have the opportunity to have their records automatically expunged.

Find out more at norml.org and read our Fact Sheets on the most common misconceptions and myths regarding reform efforts around the country.

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