The Mississippi Supreme Court heard arguments this week challenging the state’s overwhelming vote in support of medical cannabis last November but advocates still have their high hopes.
The Mississippi Cannabis Trade Association released a statement following Thursday’s oral arguments that would determine the industry’s fate. If the challenge is successful it would essentially nullify the election night win for compassion in Mississippi.
The idea behind the challenge is an old law that says you need 20% of your signatures to come from each of the state’s congressional districts. The problem? Mississippi lost a congressional district in 2003 and officials never updated the law. Now the opposition is attempting to use it as a de facto ban on ballot initiatives.
“The Mississippi Cannabis Trade Association (MSCTA) looks forward to reviewing the Mississippi Supreme Court’s imminent ruling on the recent legal challenge to Initiative 65. At its very core, this is a matter of upholding the will of the citizens of Mississippi and their constitutional right to propose and enact amendments through the ballot initiative process,” the statement reads. “The state constitution expressly prescribes certain enumerated rights to the people of Mississippi, and therefore, its provisions should be interpreted in a manner that preserves these rights, not destroys them.”
The wildly high number of 75% of Mississippians voted in favor of medical cannabis for a list of 22 qualifying debilitating medical conditions last fall. To put it in perspective, that’s a 20-point larger victory margin compared to when California passed Proposition 215 in 1996.
Regardless of the stress of court, The MSCTA is excited to see regulators get the ball rolling on for the deadlines mandated by the vote.
“The MSCTA is encouraged by the recent moves by the Mississippi Board of Health to enact regulations that will lead to the creation of a vibrant and responsible cannabis marketplace in Mississippi,” they noted. “The MSCTA also would like to emphasize that legal cannabis, whether medical or adult use, is a thriving industry that is growing at breakneck speed.”
MSCTA also argued the new economic sector would create thousands of jobs the state, stating that, “As more states formally recognize the medical and economic realities behind legalized cannabis, Mississippi should not be left behind—and its people chose not to be.”
Should The Mississippi Supreme Court Even Be Entertaining Challenges?
MSCTA Executive Director Jessica Rice talked with High Times on Thursday about where things now stand.
“You know, we are excited about what’s happening with the Mississippi Department of Health and how they’re moving forward,” Rice said, “ And just, you know, we thought both the arguments were good and strong in support of upholding the initiative and we’re excited to put this chapter behind us and move forward.”
We asked Rice if she had ever seen another ballot initiative in Mississippi face this kind of scrutiny.
“Not to my knowledge,” she replied. “There have been controversial initiatives in the past, but nothing that has overwhelmingly been supported by Mississippians and then still faced so many challenges afterward.”
Rice spoke to how Mississippi voters feel watching this all play out. “I think frustration. People want to be able to be a part of the civic process,” she said, “And when they feel like they have engaged in the proper avenues and have their vote or decision undermined, it will lower their confidence in the process.”
While the namesake of the organization is technically hanging in the balance, MSCTA’s membership is actively trying to get their ducks in a row for whatever the licensing process will end up looking like.
“I think, despite the challenges that we’ve seen by the legislature and through the Supreme Court, people are still really excited about having a medical marijuana program in the state, and they are just excited to see this industry come here,” Rice said.
NORML State Policies Manager Carly Wolf also gave her take on the current legal proceedings.
“Legalization opponents have shown time and time again that they cannot succeed in either the court of public opinion or at the ballot box,” Wolf told High Times. “Thus, they are now asking judges to set aside the votes of over a million Americans in a desperate effort to override undisputed election outcomes. Whether or not one supports marijuana legalization, Americans should be outraged at these overtly undemocratic tactics, and the [Mississippi Supreme Court] should reject them.”
We’ll keep you posted on the ruling by the Mississippi Supreme Court when it happens.