Mississippi Supreme Court dismisses opportunity to legalize medical cannabis via voter initiative


Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

On Friday, May 14, the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned a medical cannabis initiative that gained voter approval last November. As a direct effect of this ruling, various other voter initiatives introduced in the state are likely to be shot down as well. 

More than half (766,000) of the 1.3 million state residents who cast ballot votes last year voted in favor of Mississippi’s medical cannabis program.

Unfortunately, a 6-3 ruling in the state’s high court led to the initiative being turned down. The reason for this is because of a purported defect in the state constitution’s voter initiative process. 

Originally approved back in the 1990s, the medical cannabis measure required residents from the state’s five congressional districts to submit a specific percentage of signatures. Failure to meet signature requirements meant that the measure would not be featured on the ballot.

The judge made a point of discussing the 2000 U.S. Census, which led to the state forfeiting one of the congressional districts; just four districts remain.

Those who voted against the ballot measure contested “that four (the number of districts) multiplied by twenty (the maximum percentage of signatures that may come from any one congressional district) equals only 80.” 

Amendments required for medical cannabis in Mississippi to be considered 

Due to the fact that Mississippi lost one of its congressional districts, the Petitioners maintain that placing Initiative 65 on the ballot for proper certification was an unachievable task. The judges agreed.

According to Judge Josiah Coleman’s majority decision writing “whether with intent, by oversight, or for some other reason, the [provision] drafters wrote a ballot-initiative process that cannot work in a world where Mississippi has fewer than five representatives in Congress.”

Judge Coleman continued by saying that, in order for Mississippi’s medical cannabis measure to work, it must undergo a number of revisions. The problem with this is that the Supreme Court does not maintain the power to make such amendments.

Three judges claimed that their colleagues successfully amended the constitution by “stepping completely outside of Mississippi law” in an effort “to employ an interpretation that not only amends but judicially kills Mississippi’s citizen initiative process.”

Organizers were optimistic about approving other initiatives  

Mississippi’s medical cannabis measure may not have been successful, but organizers of the forthcoming 2022 ballot still made it their mission to get other initiatives approved. 

For example, organizers pushed to include a measure that would expand Medicaid care, as well as one that would necessitate early voting in state counties. The politicians who have a say over what happens in the conservative state are unlikely to promote the passing of these measures.

Should Mississippi’s medical cannabis measure be reintroduced in the future, its fate could be quite different. Well, that is if voting initiative provision, Section 273, is fixed; something that Coleman highlighted in his ruling. According to the judge, state legislators have turned a blind eye to Section 273, which must be amended.

“From 2003 to 2015, at least six attempts were made by individual legislators to amend section 273 to reflect the new reality of four congressional districts. None made it out of committee,” his ruling stated.

Gov. Tate Reeves and a number of other leading officials opposed Initiative 65.