The voters in the state of Mississippi are outraged. They passed a law to legalize medical marijuana and the powers that be who are running the state snatched it away from them. It wasn’t supposed to have been on the ballot, they claim. It seems that they have a little problem and the way things stand now, no ballot initiative, no matter what it is for, is allowed either. They plan a special session to fix it.
The law isn’t legal
Two weeks ago, the Mississippi Supreme Court issued a controversial ruling. They said that “Initiative 65 was improperly placed on the ballot.” Dope smokers across the state were furious. They finally managed to pass a law allowing medical use of marijuana last November but it didn’t stick.
People are wondering why we even have elections anymore. Secretary of State Michel Watson showed up at a local radio studio to disappoint everyone even further. He kicked it around with the lawyers and decided “an appeal will not be filed.” It would only be a waste of time and money, he declares.
Watson explained that they could file a motion “for a rehearing in the case” because not only did the reefer referendum go up in smoke but the whole “citizen-led initiative process in Mississippi” has been sidelined. The problem is murky wording in the language of the relevant statutes.
Watson let the 14-day deadline go whooshing past because he decided not to file an appeal. “We looked at the court’s past performance, and different case law, and kind of made some decisions based on that as well as what we thought would happen.”
They thought they would lose. “I think it would be a waste of time, in a sense that I don’t think it would be a successful effort. By that, we’re not going to petition for a rehearing on this.” That’s the spirit!
This law is a dead horse no matter how hard you beat it, Watkins insists. “In a sense, you would be delaying the inevitable, so instead of doing that, let’s get this off the table and move forward with it in a special session.”
Hold a special session
The 6-3 state Supreme Court ruling favored Plaintiff Mary Hawkins Butler, who is Mayor of Madison, Mississippi. The ballot-initiative process, they write, “cannot work in a world where Mississippi has fewer than five representatives in Congress” because of the way the State Constitution is written.
They lost their fifth Congressional District as a result of the 2000 census. The medical marijuana law remains in limbo along with the rest of the initiative process.
The next move is up to Governor Tate Reeves. He can call a special session of the state lawmakers to write the MMJ referendum up as an official state law. After all, the voters made their will on the issue crystal clear at the ballot box.
Meanwhile, SOS Watson thinks he has an idea for a band-aid solution to reinstate citizen-led initiatives. “As was mentioned in the hearing, I filed a concurrent resolution to amend section 273(3) of our Constitution in 2015, and strongly encourage my former colleagues to do so again. By changing the words ‘one-fifth (1/5)’ to its ‘pro-rata share,’ Mississippians will regain the ability to change our Constitution no matter the number of congressional districts we have.”
If a special session is called to try to fix the broken law, it will take quite a while to make it happen. In “order to amend the language in question, a fix would require a 2/3 vote in each chamber and approval by Mississippi voters during the next statewide election.”
The Senate, pundits note, “passed a backup plan for Initiative 65 during the previous session,” the only problem was it was DOA in the House.