The Mississippi State Medical Association (MSMA) and the American Medical Association (AMA) have both challenged the medical marijuana ballot initiative that a majority of Mississippi voters approved in November.
Medical Marijuana and the AMA Lawsuit in Mississippi
While cannabis enthusiasts were about to pop a bottle of champagne, celebrating a win in Mississippi, they have woefully halted the festivities as two Mississippi medical associations have filed an amicus brief, detering the Mississippi medical marijuana rollout efforts. The lawsuit goes on to say how the ballot initiative was deemed “unconstitutional”, because of a state law established in 1992. The state constitution requires that “no more than one-fifth of the voter signatures required to place a constitutional amendment question on the ballot come from a single congressional district.”
Well in 2000, after the census results, the Mississippi congressional seats and districts dropped to 4 which had previously been 5, making the one-fifth requirement literally impossible to approve.
Further, the AMA and MSMA went on to explain why this would be damaging to the state, citing that, “While it is possible there may be beneficial medicinal uses of marijuana, numerous evidence-based studies demonstrate that significant deleterious effects abound.” They continue by saying that some of the “public health risks” include change in brain function, psychological illness, and even cancer. As outraged as some might be, others are channeling their anger into voicing reasonable arguments in favor of legalization, such as Carly Wolf from NORML.
Carly Wolf is the state policies coordinator of NORML and said, “These are cynical attempts to undermine the democratic process. 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 marijuana legalization, Americans should be outraged at these overtly undemocratic tactics.” It is likely many Mississippians who voted for medical cannabis legalization in November are experiencing similar sentiment.
Lawsuits and Legalization of Medical Marijuana in Mississippi
Some might find it amusing to consider that the AMA and MSMA had put significant effort into their early attempts to get voters to oppose the ballot initiative by fueling propaganda campaigns statewide. AMA and MSMA had sent out sample ballots that instructed voters on the necessary steps to reject the marijuana legalization measure and encouraged collective opposition to Initiative 65. Despite their efforts, 74% of Mississippi voters approved the initiative.
Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, went on to say that, “AMA’s position is woefully out of step with both public opinion and scientific consensus, as well as the opinion of the majority of physicians. It is regrettable that this organization would go on record in attempting to nullify the vote of a supermajority of Mississippi voters.” This lawsuit would make it harder for physicians to sign off certifications for those in need of medical marijuana, putting them at risk of criminal and civil liability as well as making them vulnerable to professional discipline.
Medical Marijuana Challenged in Other States
Mississippi is not the only state that is getting pushback from courts trying to overturn voter-approved cannabis reform. In Nebraska, the Supreme Court made a ruling last September that, even though activists had collected the allotted amount of signatures to qualify for a ballot, the initiative was not allowed to appear on the state’s ballot due to the assertion that it violated Nebraska’s single-subject rule. However, there is a small glimmer of hope as activists are currently working to create an adult-use legalization measure that would satisfy the court’s interpretation of the law.
In Montana, when anti-marijuana activists had attempted to persuade the Supreme Court to invalidate the measure ahead of the vote, they were ultimately rebuffed when the court rejected their request, allowing the vote to continue as planned. This further exasperated legalization opponents and spurned them to “pursue action in lower court,” arguing that the statutory proposal, “unlawfully appropriates funds, violating a portion of the state Constitution that prohibits such allocations from being included in a citizen initiative.” Only time will tell if their continued efforts prove fruitful.
Finally, in South Dakota the constitutionality of an initiative was facing a legal challenge as the Governor Kristi Noem backed the plaintiffs citing, “the recreational marijuana measure violates a state statute requiring that proposals that appear on the ballot deal with a single subject.” Again, there hasn’t been much development on this front, but only time will tell. In the meantime, to continue the ongoing effort to educate communities on cannabis, encourage your fellow marijuana enthusiasts to make their voices on these issues heard and to maintain regular contact with their elected officials.
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