In a 6-3 decision, the Mississippi Supreme Court has struck down Initiative 65 which provided for medical marijuana in Mississippi.
The court, in a ruling written by Associate Justice Josiah Coleman, states Initiative 65 is technically invalid because Mississippi's Congressional districts have dropped from five to four, making the collection of signatures from all five Congressional districts impossible.
Click here for the opinion:
From Associated Press:
The initiative process was added to the Mississippi Constitution in the 1990s as Section 273. It requires petitioners trying to get any initiative on the ballot to gather one-fifth of signatures from each congressional district. Mississippi had five congressional districts at the time that was written. The state dropped to four districts after the 2000 Census, but language dealing with the initiative process was never updated.
“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," the majority of justices wrote in their ruling Friday. "To work in today’s reality, it will need amending — something that lies beyond the power of the Supreme Court.”
Mississippi voters in November approved Initiative 65, which required the state Health Department to establish a medical marijuana program by the middle of this year. The department has been working to create a program as the legal fight continued.
To get Initiative 65 on the statewide ballot, organizers gathered signatures from the five congressional districts that Mississippi used during the 1990s. They did that based on legal advice issued years ago by the state attorney general’s office.
Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler filed a lawsuit days before the election, contending that the state’s initiative process is outdated and that the signature-gathering requirement is mathematically impossible with four congressional districts. She opposed Initiative 65 because it limits a city’s ability to regulate the location of medical marijuana businesses.
In papers filed Dec. 28 and in oral arguments before the state Supreme Court on April 14, state attorneys said Mississippi has two sets of congressional districts — one set used for congressional elections and one set used for other purposes.
An attorney for Butler argued that the only purpose of a congressional district is to have geographical boundaries for electing U.S. House members.
Chief Justice Michael Randolph said during the April 14 hearing that seven bills have been filed over the years to update Mississippi’s initiative process to remove confusion about signatures coming from old or new congressional districts, and legislators have not made the change.
During the legislative session that ended in April, the Senate tried to create rules for a state medical marijuana program, but the House defeated the effort. Republican Sen. Kevin Blackwell of DeSoto County said the proposal was a backstop to have a program in place in case the Supreme Court agrees with Butler and invalidates Initiative 65. But supporters of Initiative 65 balked at the Senate’s proposal, saying they saw it as an attempt to usurp the will of the voters.