Red State Trend: Mississippi Supreme Court Strikes Down Marijuana Ballot Measure

Red State Trend: Mississippi Supreme Court Strikes Down Marijuana Ballot Measure

Voters in a deep red state are once again learning a painful lesson: Their voices don’t matter. Literally. This time it’s Mississippi voters who are getting schooled by their own Supreme Court. Today the justices ruled the state’s medical marijuana ballot initiative is unconstitutional, in spite of the fact that 69% of voters supported it in November.

“Today is a cruel and tragic day for sick and suffering people in Mississippi,” Matthew Schweich, the deputy director at the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a press release. “As a result, tens of thousands of Mississippians with debilitating health conditions will be denied safe, legal access to something that can alleviate their pain and improve their quality of life. Instead, they will once again be treated as criminals under the law.”

Conservative leaders in the state are surely cheering, including many of their federally elected lawmakers, like Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, who was no fan of the measure when The News Station asked him about it back in January.

“Nobody fully understood it, except that the cannabis industry was willing to pour millions of dollars into it,” the Republican told The News Station at the US Capitol.

“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”

Matthew Schweich

The measure was aimed at people with the most debilitating medical conditions, including “cancer, epilepsy or other seizures, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cachexia, post-traumatic stress disorder,” etc.  

“It’s not something that I was involved in. I’m speaking to you as a citizen,” Wicker, a sitting US senator, said. “I didn’t take a position.”

That’s curious because Wicker co-sponsored the federal Right to Try Act – which grants terminally ill patients access to unapproved pharmaceutical drugs – but medical marijuana was a step too far.

Wicker recently chaired the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which helps funnel money to Republican Senate candidates nationwide. While not taking a position is a position for federal lawmakers, Wicker did let slip he followed it.

“Here’s what happened: There was an enormous spending advantage on behalf of a yes vote, and there was hardly any advertising against by the opposition,” Wicker bemoaned of the measure.

After gathering more than 105,000 signatures to get it on the ballot, Mississippians for Compassionate Care raised more than $5 million. The measure sailed through with roughly 67% of voters supporting it.  

What does the will of 67% of your people matter anyway?

It’s not just Mississippi. In South Dakota, everyone’s watching the state Supreme Court after it heard arguments this spring on the validity of the recreational marijuana ballot measure 54% of voters passed in 2020. The law’s already been invalidated by a circuit court.

Over in Montana, after nearly 60% of voters approved recreational marijuana in the election, the state legislature and governor amended the measure, making it so each adult can only grow two mature cannabis plants, instead of the four voters approved, among other items. 

In Florida, just last month, the state’s Supreme Court tossed out a recreational marijuana ballot measure. That angered proponents, including Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is also a medicinal marijuana user. She called the court’s ruling “another infringement on the will of Floridians.”

“Florida’s voters are smart and they understand the federal status of adult-use marijuana. They also understand that states all over the country are working to overcome this, with residents getting what they’ve been asking for all along,” the statement Fried’s office emailed The News Station at the time reads.

“It’s clear those in power don’t appreciate these citizens initiatives based on the bills they keep passing”

Florida Ag. Commissioner Nikki Fried

Similar to advocates in red states on the other side of the nation, Fried bemoans the heavy-handed nature of her state’s high court.

“Florida voters have taken this into their own hands because the Florida Legislature failed to do right by the people in taking legislative action on legalization,” Fried said. “It’s clear those in power don’t appreciate these citizens initiatives based on the bills they keep passing.”

Advocates say the same problem was on full display in Mississippi today, because the justices didn’t just throw out the medical marijuana initiative (Amendment 65). The state Supreme Court’s ruling also effectively ends voter’s ability to bring any ballot initiatives forward in the conservative southern state.

“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,” Schweich, of the Marijuana Policy Project, continued.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.”

To many, it’s not a political issue at all, rather a medical one.

“Our hearts are broken for the patients in Mississippi who need access to medical cannabis,” Schweich said, “as well as their families who will continue to watch their loved ones needlessly suffer.”

Matt Laslo is Managing Editor of The News Station. To learn more about the veteran political reporter and professor -- or to read more of his work -- his bio page is here.

Matt Laslo is Managing Editor of The News Station. To learn more about the veteran political reporter and professor -- or to read more of his work -- his bio page is here.

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