The implementation of the medical marijuana program in Mississippi has gone rather awry, and citizens are angry and ready to be vocal about the whole mess. Protests were taking place this past Tuesday outside state buildings, demanding the governor call for a special session to reverse a decision made by the state Supreme Court regarding medical marijuana.
Why are Mississippi Voters Protesting the Supreme Court Decision?
November 2020 polls gave voters a chance to support the creation of a medical marijana program in Mississippi. Out of the 1.3 million Mississippi voters, 766,000 voted to approve Initiative 65.
But, on May 14th, the state Supreme Court voted 6-3 to uphold the motion that the initiative process, which allows voters to bring issues to vote by collecting citizen petitions, is outdated and invalid. Therefore, the medical marijuana program was not lawfully placed on the November ballot and is defunct.
According to the Associated Press (AP), one handwritten sign Tuesday said: “New Math: 6 (is greater than) 766K.”
State citizens gathered to demand action from Governor Tate Reeves (R), protesting at the state capitol and state supreme court building. They feel that the ruling is unjust, in that the technicality of the legal system should not prevent citizens from having access to medical marijuana.
The AP reported that, ‘Brandon Allen, 35, a military veteran from Pearl, sat holding a sign with the slogan: “Special Session Now Tater Tot.” Allen said he knows veterans who have post traumatic stress syndrome, and marijuana could help them.
“I don’t think the government should tell people how they should and shouldn’t live,” Allen said.’
Why Did the Mississippi Supreme Court Rule Against Medical Marijuana?
Unfortunately, justices felt that they had to acknowledge the discrepancies in the legal process for ballot initiatives. The process, formed in the ‘90s, calls for petitioners to gather one-fifth of signatures from each congressional district.
At the time, Mississippi had five districts, but since then, one has been eliminated, leaving only four congressional districts in the state. The verbiage of the legal process was never amended, leaving the opening for the opposition to argue that the ballot initiative could not be legally upheld.
Interestingly enough, several ballot measures have been voted upon and approved since 2000 (when the census dictated that the state eliminate one of its congressional districts). Which is where the indignation in Mississippi citizens stems from.
One of the primary opposing forces obstructing marijuana legalization in the state is Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler of Madison, Mississippi. Hawkins has been verbally outspoken against Initiative 65, stating her problem mainly stems from the fact that Mississippi cities do not get direct regulating powers when it comes to the locations of cannabis businesses.
She, and the city of Madison, sued the state last fall in an attempt to prevent the initiative from being placed on the ballot in the first place. She is quickly gaining notoriety among the large population of medical marijuana supporters, and recent mentions of her name at public events were met with boos from the crowd.
The turn of events is disheartening for cannabis enthusiasts in Mississippi. It is one of the last few states which have not enacted a state medical program. The regular session for Mississippi’s legislature ended in April, and without direct recall from the governor, legislators cannot hope to revisit this issue until the next open session.
So far, there hasn’t been any word about plans to recall legislators in an attempt to fix the broken state medical marijuana program.
However, there are some positives coming out of the situation. According to AP, a local business owner who sells hemp products in the state said on stage at the protest that ‘this cause has brought people together across lines that traditionally divide them. “Cannabis — there’s no gender gap. There’s no racial gap,” Delaney said. “There’s no red. There’s no blue. It’s just about the green today.”’
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