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Initiative 65 just went up in smoke, according to Supreme Court ruling

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Image by Zdeněk Tobiáš from Pixabay

The Mississippi Supreme Court has issued a ruling that in effect strikes down Initiative 65 which would have created a medical marijuana program in the state.

Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler’s challenge centered around the method in which signatures were gathered to place the initiative on the ballot. The signatures were gathered using the formula for five congressional districts when the state now has four since the 2010 census.

The decision comes as a blow, as nearly 3/4 of voters voted in favor of Initiative 65. According to ballotpedia.org, 73.7% voted in favor of Initiative 65. Lawmakers attempted to pass their own version of a medical marijuana bill in March, but failed to deliver.

Since then, the medical marijuana program has only been kept alive by the hopes that a Supreme Court ruling would rule in favor of those in support of the initiative.

On Friday, six justices ruled in favor of Butler’s arguments, stating the initiative was void because of the outdated initiative process.

The court held to: “Pursuant to the duty imposed on us by article 15, section 273(9), of the Mississippi Constitution, we hold that the petition submitted to the Secretary of State seeking to place Initiative 65 on the ballot for the November 3, 2020, general election was insufficient. 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.

This ruling will raise more questions about laws currently in the books which used the same formula and passed. It remains to be seen if the Mississippi Secretary of State will choose to appeal today’s ruling.

The case information and ruling can be found here.

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