State Supreme Court Strikes Down Pot Decision

( The Supreme Court in Mississippi struck down the state’s medical marijuana program in a decision that is likely to have further-reaching consequences for the state.

The medical marijuana program was established through a ballot initiative that voters approved last November. However, the state Supreme Court ruling voids Mississippi’s ballot initiative process altogether. That process allows voters to pass constitutional amendments at the ballot box, as long as they meet certain conditions.

The Supreme Court in this case, though, ruled that the process is “unworkable and inoperative” for now until voters and lawmakers are able to correct state law as well as the state constitution.

The ruling passed through the court with a 6-3 vote. The majority of the court ruled:

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

Voters approved ballot Initiative 65 on November. But days before that happened, a challenge was filed by Mary Hawkins Butler, the mayor of Madison.

She argued that the state’s ballot initiative process was “constitutionally flawed.” Therefore, Initiative 65 wasn’t even legal when it was presented to voters at the ballots. Butler said a provision that would require an equal number of signatures from five congressional districts in the state couldn’t be met because for the last two decades, Mississippi has only had four congressional districts.

The state Supreme Court ruled in favor of Butler’s arguments. They said that the state constitutional would have to be changed first so that the language in the ballot initiatives was correct.

In addition to invalidating the state’s medical marijuana program, the Supreme Court ruling also puts in jeopardy six other ballot initiatives in the state. One would re-instate the 1890 state flag. One would approve recreational marijuana use. One would allow early voting to occur, and another would expand the Medicaid program.

In addition to invalidating medical marijuana and jeopardizing pending ballot initiatives, the state Supreme Court ruling could allow challenges to be filed to two additional constitutional amendments that were passed by voters through the ballot initiative process since 1992.

One of those limits the powers of eminent domain the government has to take private land. The other requires people to show a government-issued identification in order to vote.

In his opinion on behalf of the majority, Justice Josiah Coleman wrote:

“The loss of congressional districts did, indeed, break (the ballot initiative provision) so that, absent amendment, it no longer functions.”

He continued:

“Unlike the two other branches of government, the courts may not act proactively to address problems such as the one here … It is our duty to interpret our Constitution when its meaning is put at issue … The Court does not have jurisdiction to review, affirm, or overturn the ‘will of the people’ … The November 2020 results are not before us … The reduction in Mississippi’s congressional representation renders (the ballot initiative provision) unworkable and inoperable on its face.”

The majority even said that the state Legislature knew of the disparity in law and constitutional provisions that the fewer congressional districts presented for years. But, they did nothing to address the disparity.