Mississippi Supreme Court overturns voter-approved medical marijuana Initiative 65

Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 1:59 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The Mississippi Supreme Court has overturned Initiative 65, the state’s medical marijuana initiative approved by voters in November.

The court said, “We grant the petition, reverse the Secretary of State’s certification Initiative 65, and hold that any subsequent proceedings on it are void.”

The high court began hearing oral arguments on the closely-watched case in April.

Since last year, Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins-Butler maintained that the procedure for getting the initiative on the ballot was unconstitutional.

When the high court weighed the case, the mayor said, “It’s in the judges’ hands, and maybe this is a defining moment for Mississippi, and this will open doors to possibly take care of other antiquated laws within our state.”

“I will be clear on this,” said Senator Brice Wiggins, R. “I will say it. You can blame the legislature for not having updated this. It’s not like we haven’t had four congressional districts.”

Those who pushed for initiative 65′s passage say this is devastating for not only patients but voters as a whole.

“The Mississippi Supreme Court just overturned the will of the people of Mississippi,” said Ken Newburger, Executive Director for the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association. “Patients will now continue the suffering that so many Mississippians voted to end.”

The Mississippi Senate passed a back-up measure this session that would’ve kicked in only if and when the court ruled 65 unconstitutional.

“The Senate passed backstop legislation which we anticipate revisiting in January,” said Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann via statement Friday.

“This is why we did stay up past midnight having the debate,” added Wiggins. “We went back-and-forth because, we the Senate, were trying to provide a program that clearly the people of Mississippi want.”

Not all Senators were on board at the time. Some, like Sen. Derrick Simmons, said the legislature should wait to see what action the court might take.

“I was very disappointed that the Supreme Court made the decision it made. Because it was against 74% of the will of the people in the state of Mississippi,” said Simmons. “It is time for the legislature to come together to make medical marijuana the law in Mississippi.”

Meanwhile, the groundwork for the medical marijuana program that was being created is halted. The Mississippi State Department of Health says it will stop all program development at this time and stand ready to help the legislature if it creates a statutory program.

But what about the other initiatives? Both Senators Wiggins and Simmons say it puts the ones currently collecting signatures on hold. Simmons thinks previously passed measures could be challenged because they were collected under the same set of rules that have now been deemed unconstitutional.

“I think that those who oppose voter ID, including myself, should look immediately to filing a lawsuit based upon the ruling the Supreme Court brought down today,” added Simmons.

Others are weighing in on the decision, including former GOP Attorney General candidate and practicing attorney Andy Taggart.

“The hardest job an elected Supreme Court ever faces is when it has to apply the law in the face of political opposition,” said Taggart. “I think the Court reached the correct decision, but no matter how anyone voted in the referendum, we all owe the Court our respect for following the law as it was written.”

The Secretary of State’s office says it is still in the process of reviewing the opinion and will issue an official statement when they’ve had a chance to digest the opinion.

This landmark decision could have implications for other initiatives passed under this same process that justices now say is unconstitutional.

Also, no other initiative could appear on the ballot until the process changes.

Lawmakers created several bills to create a marijuana program in case this happened, but nothing ever passed.

Read the full ruling here.

Gov. Tate Reeve’s office has released the following statement follow Friday’s ruling:

“Like most Mississippians, Governor Reeves is interested and intrigued by the Supreme Court’s decision on the recent ballot initiative. He and his team are currently digesting the Court’s 58 page Opinion and will make further comment once that analysis is complete.”

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