Mississippi: Lawmakers Advance Alternative Medical Marijuana Proposal

A three-fifths majority of the Mississippi state Senate approved Senate Bill 2765, which seeks to implement a statewide medical cannabis access program in lieu of the program initially approved by voters on Election Day. That program (Initiative 65) is being legally challenged before the state Supreme Court and would be nullified if the litigation is successful.

Senate Bill 2765 would only take effect if the Supreme Court strikes down Initiative 65. Seventy-three percent of voters decided in favor of I-65 in November.

Senate Bill 2765 is similar to I-65 in some ways. It permits qualified patients to access up to 2.5 ounces of medical cannabis per 14 day period, the same possession limits outlined in the voter-approved measure. The bill also includes broad student, housing, and parental protections for patients, and would tax medical cannabis sales at seven percent.

Lawmakers previously tried and failed to persuade voters to adopt a legislatively-backed medical cannabis program, Measure 65A. Voters in November rejected that proposal in favor of Measure 65.

The ongoing legal dispute over Measure 65 is the result of a challenge filed by representatives of the city of Madison – including the town’s Mayor. The suit argues that the legislature’s failure to update guidelines for petitioners should invalidate the initiative vote. Specifically, state statutes call for petitioners to gather an equal percentage of signatures from five congressional districts.  However, following redistricting in 2000, there are only four congressional districts in the state. Lawmakers since that time have failed to update the statute. Nonetheless, litigants have not similarly challenged the validity of a separate initiative that also appeared on the 2020 ballot or the validity of prior ballot measures, despite the fact that petitioners for those initiatives acted no differently than did those who advocated for the marijuana measure.

Separate lawsuits in Montana and South Dakota are also seeking to overturn marijuana legalization election outcomes in those states. South Dakota’s litigation was filed at the behest of the state’s Republic Governor, Kristi Noem. On Monday, a South Dakota Circuit Court Judge sided with the Governor’s office and determined that the election result should be nullified. That decision is expected to be appealed to the state’s Supreme Court. Opponents of a 2020 Nebraska medical marijuana ballot initiative succeeded in removing the measure from the ballot before Nebraskans had the opportunity to cast their vote.

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