EDITORIAL/Legalizing marijuana

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Enshrining legalized marijuana in the state Constitution is not what most Mississippians thought they were voting for in November, but that’s what Initiative 65 would have done.

The state Supreme Court’s ruling this month overturning the marijuana initiative has caused much angst, but the decision was the right one on process.

State lawmakers and others are urging Gov. Tate Reeves to call a special session to pass a clean medical marijuana bill, but hold on a minute.

Enacting a good medical marijuana law is the right thing, but do not rush into anything. 

Louisiana, for example, seems to have  a good medical marijuana law that doesn’t allow folks to grow their own weed or smoke it, as Initiative 65 would have.

The state’s high court did not circumvent the will of the people or reverse the outcome of the November initiative that passed statewide with 58% of those voting. Justices followed the Constitution.

Considering the number of registered voters statewide, Initiative 65’s approval actually drops to about 40%.

Madison Mayor Hawkins-Butler filed the challenge on the merits of the process used to put marijuana on the ballot.

There is a clear distinction that some voters are missing — or the pot lobby refuses to see because it’s about millions and millions in profits for them.

Focus on better public policy rather than aligning with big money special interest groups. Do the right thing.

The merits of medical marijuana were not before the Court. That point was noted several times during oral arguments.

The issue before the Court was the initiative and referendum process and whether Initiative 65 should have been on the ballot based on the way that the process is currently written in the state Constitution.

The ruling is actually very straightforward. The Court simply ruled that the process was not constitutional because 1) Mississippi lost a Congressional district in 2000 2) the signature requirement for the petition part of the process is invalid because it is based on a calculation with five Congressional districts instead of four and 3) The Legislature failed to update the language in the process to account for that change on numerous occasions when bills were introduced to fix the process. 

The Legislature failed, not Mayor Hawkins-Butler in filing her challenge.

So, we circle back to the Legislature not doing its job in the first place and passing a good bill that would negate the need for an initiative.

It is now, once again, up to the Legislature to first give us a bill and then fix the language in the state Constitution because the people deserve and want an initiative process. 

The Legislature should establish a medical marijuana program by state statute sooner than later that is safe, effective and medically sound and possibly in a special session if Gov. Reeves sees fit.

The Senate passed a medical marijuana bill last session but it failed in the House. Combined with the guidelines the state Department of Health has been writing, we feel certain the details can be worked out and the will of the people satisfied.

While it’s unlikely the ruling will impact other initiatives such as Voter I.D. because much of that has been codified into law, the Legislature must fix the initiative language in the Constitution — as they should have already done. 

Voters should know the process before misplacing blame. The Supreme Court was following the law as written. Their decision was not a ruling based on the merits of “medical marijuana.” The ruling was about process and process is important. 

Initiative 65 basically legalized marijuana because there was hardly anything medical about it.

The Legislature should pass a medical marijuana bill that is safe, effective and medically sound.


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