The state’s highest court has struck down the medical marijuana program adopted by Mississippi voters last November after ruling that it was improperly placed on the ballot.
The Mississippi State Supreme Court ruled in favor of Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler, who filed a lawsuit claiming that Initiative 65 was unconstitutionally certified by the Secretary of State’s Office. Her argument centered around a section of Mississippi code dictating that a certain portion of the signatures required for an initiative must come from each of Mississippi’s five Congressional Districts as they existed in the year 2000, however, Mississippi lost that fifth seat following the 2000 census.
Because the Mississippi Legislature has failed to update this code section in the time since, the Supreme Court’s ruling states that the initiative did not meet the requirement for proper certification—negating the will of the 74% of Mississippians that voted in favor of the initiative.
“Because Initiative 65 was placed on the ballot without meeting the section 273(3) prerequisites for doing so, it was placed on the ballot in violation of the Mississippi Constitution. Whether with intent, by oversight, or for some other reason, the drafters of section 273(3) wrote a ballot-initiative process that cannot work in a world where Mississippi has fewer than five representatives in Congress. To work in today’s reality, it will need amending—something that lies beyond the power of the Supreme Court.”
During the 2021 session, the Senate attempted to pass a bill that would’ve acted as a failsafe option should the court strike down the initiative, but it died in the House. So, for now, Mississippi is without a medical marijuana program once again.
Today’s ruling essentially leaves Mississippians without a path to placing an initiative on the ballot. Currently, there are five such measures that will be hung out to dry including Medicaid expansion, the legalization of recreational marijuana, early voting, term limits and an effort to bring back the retired Mississippi flag.
It also remains to be seen how this will affect other measures that were adopted through the initiative process since the loss of the fifth seat, which includes Mississippi’s voter ID law.
Read the court’s full opinion, here.