Mississippi Supreme Court strikes down medical cannabis law
Last update: May 17, 2021
Last November, roughly 70% of Mississippi voters approved Amendment 65, a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment to legalize medical cannabis.
The mayor of Madison, Mississippi sued the state just days before the 2020 election in an effort to nullify the ballot measure, and in May 2021, the state’s Supreme Court sided with the mayor in a 6-3 ruling that struck down the medical cannabis law enacted by voters. Due to a change in the number of congressional districts in Mississippi in 2000, proponents of the lawsuit claimed that it is “mathematically impossible” to meet the ballot petition signature requirements laid out in the state’s constitution, implying that the measure should never have appeared on the 2020 ballot. The court’s decision effectively eliminates Mississippians’ ability to bring forward ballot initiatives and has implications for other ballot measures unrelated to cannabis policy, including some 2022 campaigns already underway as well as initiatives that have been on the books for years. The state legislature has repeatedly refused to take the action needed to amend the state constitution and update the state’s petition signature requirements.
In response to this news, Matthew Schweich, the deputy director at the Marijuana Policy Project, released the following statement:
“The state’s Supreme Court has issued a deeply flawed ruling to overturn Amendment 65, the medical cannabis law that voters overwhelmingly approved at the November 2020 election. To add insult to injury, this decision not only nullifies the will of hundreds of thousands of voters, it also effectively eliminates Mississippians’ right to bring forward ballot initiatives to amend their state’s constitution. The legislature must take action to fix the ballot initiative requirements and honor the will of their constituents by enacting Amendment 65 into law through the legislative process. Our hearts are broken for the patients in Mississippi who need access to medical cannabis, as well as their families who will continue to watch their loved ones needlessly suffer. We stand with them. The fight for a compassionate medical cannabis law in Mississippi will continue.”
Earlier this year in the legislative session, Mississippi lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on a legislative proposal that could have served as a “backup plan” if Amendment 65 was overturned by the state’s Supreme Court. Patient advocates plan to keep fighting and will urge the legislature to establish a compassionate medical cannabis program.
On Election Day, Mississippi voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 65, a constitutional ballot initiative to establish a medical marijuana program for patients with debilitating conditions.
Despite open opposition to medical marijuana from former and current elected officials, Mississippians passed the measure convincingly, with 68% of voters supporting medical marijuana and 74% siding with Amendment 65 over the legislature’s alternative measure, Amendment 65A.
In March 2020, through a process permitted by the state’s constitution, the Mississippi Legislature approved a competing medical marijuana ballot initiative, 65A, which contained far more restrictions. Mississippians for Compassionate Care, the campaign that backed Amendment 65, argued that 65A would not create a functional medical marijuana program. Voters decisively rejected the legislature’s competing measure.
Did you know Mississippi is a “decrim” state?
Mississippi is one of the 27 states that have decriminalized — or, in 15 cases, legalized — personal-use marijuana possession. First offense possession of 30 grams (a little more than an ounce) is punishable by a $250 fine instead of jail time and a civil summons as opposed to arrest, as long as the offender provides proof of identity and a written promise to appear in court.
Unfortunately, data indicates that Mississippi’s marijuana laws are not being evenly enforced. A recent study by the American Civil Liberties Union found that although blacks and whites use marijuana at nearly identical rates, blacks in Mississippi are 2.7 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.
Please write your state legislators to ask them to end marijuana prohibition in Mississippi and replace it with a taxed and regulated system, as 17 other states have done.