The Mississippi Supreme Court on Friday tossed the voter-approved medical cannabis initiative because the state constitution requires signatures from five congressional districts to get on the ballot but the state only has four districts, the Associated Press reports. The justices effectively ruled the initiative void because the process is outdated.
“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.” – Justice Josiah Coleman for the majority in the ruling
The initiative process was added to the Mississippi Constitution in the 1990s and requires petitioners to collect one-fifth of signatures from each congressional district. At the time the law was written, Mississippi had five congressional districts but following the 2000 Census the state dropped to four districts and initiative process language was never updated. The medical cannabis legalization campaign used guidance issued years ago from the state attorney general’s office and gathered signatures from the congressional districts used by the state in the 1990s.
In the dissent, which was backed by three of the nine justices, Justice James Maxwell opined that the secretary of state appropriately put the medical cannabis initiative on the ballot and that the majority opinion “correctly points out” that the high court cannot amend the constitution.
“Yet the majority does just that – stepping completely outside of Mississippi law – to employ an interpretation that not only amends but judicially kills Mississippi’s citizen initiative process,” he wrote.
Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler, who filed the legal challenge, said the city was “pleased” with the decision as the court “followed the plain language of the Mississippi Constitution.
“…Unfortunately, the current voter initiative process is broken,” Butler said in a statement to the AP.
In 2011, voters approved two ballot initiatives – a voter ID law and a limit on eminent domain – but the Supreme Court decision does not mention them in the ruling.