Group behind Initiative 65 says court overturned “will of the people”

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The Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association, the group behind Initiative 65, is expressing their disappointment following the State Supreme Court’s ruling nullifying the program adopted by voters in November. 

After an overwhelming majority of voters supported the ballot initiative, Ken Newburger, the association’s executive director stated his belief that the state’s highest court “overturned the will of the people.” The measure passed with 74% of the vote last November. 

“Patients will now continue the suffering that so many Mississippians voted to end,” Newburger said. “The Court ignored existing case law and prior decisions. Their reasoning ignores the intent of the constitution and takes away people’s constitutional right. It’s a sad day for Mississippi when the Supreme Court communicates to a vast majority of the voters that their vote doesn’t matter.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling did not strike down the initiative because of medical marijuana, but rather the state’s initiative process. Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler filed the suit challenging the process based on language that mandates signatures come from the state’s five Congressional Districts as they were in 2000. That language has not been updated since the state lost that fifth seat, therefore, the court deemed that the initiative was improperly certified by the Secretary of State’s Office. 

After the measure passed in November, the Mississippi State Department of Health was working toward an August launch date for the program.

“228,000 Mississippians signed petitions to put medical marijuana on the ballot last year, and an overwhelming majority of the state voted to approve it in November,” Angie Calhoun, board member of the MMM Association, said. “In addition to silencing the votes of three-fourths of the state, today the Supreme Court squashed the hope of thousands of patients like my son, who will now not be able to find relief through medical marijuana. As a mother of a patient, I am heartbroken and outraged that this was allowed to happen.”

So what’s next for medical marijuana in Mississippi? The state Senate attempted to pass a backup option during the previous session, but it died in the House. In a statement, Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann stated that the issue will be revisited in 2022. 

“The Senate passed backstop legislation which we anticipate revisiting in January,’’ he said. 

Unless the Legislature acts to alter the language at the center of the lawsuit, the state’s initiative process will no longer be a viable option for any measure. 

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