Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Sid Salter: Will Thorny Med Marijuana Issue Endanger Voter Initiative Process?

In the 2020 election cycle, Mississippi voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of authorizing a medical marijuana voter initiative as outlined in Initiative 65 over the express objections of the majority of legislative leaders.

The voters gave Initiative 65 73.7 percent approval while giving the legislative alternative Initiative 65A only 26.3 percent of the vote. The pro-marijuana initiative outpolled Republican incumbent President Donald Trump by some 20 percentage points with state voters – even outpolling the state’s 72.98 percent decision to change the state flag.

Opposition to Initiative 65 was politically strong but voter weak. The central objection? Initiative 65 gave the new marijuana industry in Mississippi constitutional protection. But there are other concerns. Local governments didn’t want it any more than did state government.

The Mississippi State Board of Health and State Department of Health were opposed. The American and Mississippi medical associations opposed the initiative as did significant state and local political, law enforcement and religious figures.

But the voters, sympathetic to the perceived need for some type of medical marijuana program for patients who need it and tired of decades of legislative inaction on the issue, literally took matters in their own hands behind a well-organized, well-funded campaign from primarily out-of-state industry backers.

The ink wasn’t dry on the certified election results before a legal challenge ensued from Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler questioning the legality of Secretary of State Michael Watson’s certification of the initiative to be placed on the ballot based on the contention that it was done in violation of Section 273 of Article 15 of the Mississippi Constitution: “The signatures of the qualified electors from any congressional district shall not exceed one-fifth of the total number of signatures required to qualify an initiative petition for placement upon the ballot.”

The problem is that since Mississippi’s initiative process was adopted in 1992 when Mississippi had five congressional districts. Following the 2000 Census, Mississippi was one of 18 states that lost a congressional district – moving from five districts to the present four districts - but the procedures guiding the initiative process were never updated to reflect that.

Both Watson and his predecessor, now Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, say they relied on opinions from the state Attorney General’s Office in following the 1992 voter initiative guidelines for certifying signatures. The Mississippi Supreme Court will hear arguments in the legal standoff in April.

In the interim, the state Senate is attempting to “backstop” the possibility that the court overturns Initiative 65 with new legislation that implements a medical marijuana program that’s different than the one voters approved, but one that addresses some of the opposition while retaining core portions of the initiative.

Perhaps the broader question might be that if the state’s initiative process is flawed by not addressing the congressional district reduction, then shouldn’t the Legislature fix that? Certainly, but don’t look for that to happen before the Supreme Court rules in the current case.

But if the ultimate outcome is that the high court throws out Initiative 65, the Legislature will then almost have to address changing the initiative’s procedures and laws that lawmakers crafted after the 1992 constitutional amendment passed. That may be a good thing. Then again, it may not be so good.

The initiative process in Mississippi is one that was designed by the Mississippi Legislature to be difficult for those citizens who wish to circumvent lawmakers and get into the business of directly writing or changing laws for themselves.

Since 1993, there have been 66 instances in which various Mississippi citizens or groups have attempted to utilize the state’s initiative process. Like a carton of milk left unconsumed, 52 of those attempts simply expired – dying on the legal vine for lack of certified signatures or other procedural deficiencies.

Given the chance – and there is no better chance than a high court ruling that the present system is flawed – for the Legislature to raise the hood on the initiative process and tinker with the engine, the chances are that the “new and improved” voter initiative process may well become even more difficult for voters to successfully navigate than it is now.

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at sidsalter@sidsalter.com. 

 

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

The voters gave Initiative 65 73.7 percent approval while giving the legislative alternative Initiative 65A only 26.3 percent of the vote. The pro-marijuana initiative outpolled Republican incumbent President Donald Trump by some 20 percentage points with state voters – even outpolling the state’s 72.98 percent decision to change the state flag.

Apples and oranges farmer can't get it right. Must have been stoned when he penned the column.

Anonymous said...

As long as politicians think professional and political organizations actually reflect what the voters think or will do or can control the thinking of their members, politicians will continue to poll low approval ratings.

Anonymous said...

It really doesn’t matter to me, I am going to stick with picking up my weed in Liberty Park from BoBo.
If Supreme Court says this illegal, all of them are illegal. Let us have our flag back!

Anonymous said...

voters clearly want medical marijuana in this state. heck, how many of us would have stayed home instead of driving if we had used it for our mental health during an ice storm?

Anonymous said...

The need of the Medical MaryJane crowd to to twist the vote counts tips their hand.

Anonymous said...

See you at the dispensary.

Smile for the camera!

Anonymous said...

Biden* is going to go HARD at taking away 2nd amendment rights from marijuana users. Our country is going to get its magical pot and the left will get the gun confiscation it really covets. The control freak libs have got it figured out that it is way easier to roll over a stoned out citizenry that has been unarmed.

Anonymous said...

The people have spoken (loudly). Get off of your lazy asses and do your jobs. By the way, anyone who thinks these legislators are reasonably Intelligent, go sit in front of them and listen to their self serving dribble. Texas (a very progressive state) only have their legislative houses meet every 2 years with a fraction of the legislators this state has. Oh, by the way, the Texans only pay their representatives per diem.

Anonymous said...

Wow that’s pretty awesome. (If the initiative process is flawed, then shouldn’t the legislature fix it). Well duh.. like maybe twenty years ago. In fact when it suited them they did the good ole work around (ie imminent domain or voter ID). And if they didn’t care for it the usual death. Mississippi voters know what’s going on, it’s the Legislatures fault the Madison Mayor had a leg to stand on in the first place. The voters just didn’t care much......until Nov 3. Is there anyone who thinks MM would ever been brought to the legislative floor had initiative 65 not showed up on the doorstep. Not likely.

And now because of the Legislatures inaction and incompetence Prop 65 could be wrapped up in court for years. Im sure the thought of close to a million pissed off voters sent a cold chill through some of the more worthless legislators. But yet again there has been a momentary epiphany. Not only that, but a way to save face and ass. It blossomed and magically appeared. Hey here’s an ideal, let’s pass a medical marijuana bill and tax the shit out of it. Smiles broke out all over the Legislature and high fives were everywhere.

And I’m sure the thought is that the ignorant voters in Mississippi won’t remember a thing. How we screwed them over for twenty years and then with no help from them we passed a much needed law that finally helped people. Will the initiative process be in danger in Mississippi? It’s up to the voters who tolerate such treachery!!!

Anonymous said...

Lots to love about Texas ... except this week.

Anonymous said...

If our Legislature had the sense to know that Mississippi's tried and true method of representative democracy is to appease the moderation societies by leaving all vices illegal but, out of pragmatism, taxing those vices as a source of income we would not need the initiative process. Those bootleg taxes had the additional feature of being collected by local officials that fed legislative kickbacks while allowing unsanctimonious sinners to partake while appeasing the moral protectors of the godless masses. Sadly, the newest generation of representatives has forgotten the strange bedfellows system of funding government services while humoring competing segments of the electorate.

Qanon said...

“Weed and Circus” politics:: the true opiate of the masses

We here talking about it ain’t we(?)

Anonymous said...

... and then with no help from them we passed a much needed law ...

Oh, YES, it was much needed. By whom? Well, that's another story.

Level the field! said...

Legislature is moving to block Mississippians from businesses that should be Mississippi owned in favor of out of state interests. The requirements to play are out of reach for local people. In addition, they are planning on restricting outlets to create arbitrary winners and losers with the one per county outlets creating local monopolies.

Let the playing field be level and the free market will sort it out!

Anonymous said...

It's far too easy for a well funded special interest group to get an initiative on the ballot. There are companies that specialize in getting signatures. It's not a question of "can I get the signatures," it's "can I afford to pay what it costs?" That doesn't mean every initiative will pass, but if you have enough money, your chances are pretty good.

Anonymous said...

The legislature HATES that voters can think for themselves and voters have proven time and time again they have brains. Voted YES to protect property rights against eminent domain for private business development(Haley hated this one), voted NO on a very poorly worded abortion bill pushed by the legislature, voted YES for providing additional options for terminally ill patients despite what the legislature and big pharma donors told us to do.

Look for any remedy to the intitive rules to be prohibitive. Legislature hates that the initiative process even exists.

MS Cannabis Fact Checkers Association said...

Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs | Teen pot use increases with adult recreational legalization

"Teens living in states in which marijuana has been legalized for adults are more likely to use the drug than their peers in states in which it remains illegal, a report published Monday by the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found.

After California legalized adult recreational marijuana use in 2016, marijuana use among teens in the state increased by 23%, the data showed.

The percentage of teens who said they had used the drug during their lifetimes also increased by 18% following adult legalization."

Anonymous said...

12:26
You are exactly right there are 6 million reasons that initiative got on the ballot! Also of those complaining of big business stepping in with what the legislature did, who the hell do you think wrote the original initiative and "paid" to have it on the ballot!!?? One note of interest, as i have my finger on the pulse in the "Sip, is how many recreational smokers are for keeping the old flag.

Anonymous said...

8:40 - hope the ice melts on the roads soon so you can get a new stash from BoBo, cause the flag vote has nothing to do with the flawed initiative process. Realize you probably were toking when you should have been studing your civics lessons; what you missed was that there is more than one way for an initiative to get on the ballot for the voter's choice.

Anonymous said...

Sid, Sid, Sid. You got taken in by Joel's fan club as well - and can't read the numbers themselves, or maybe don't want to.

73% of the voters did not vote for 65 - as has been discussed ad nausem on this site for days now. 22% voted with their feet, as they walked passed the choice of 65 or 65a. The continued down the ballot for the next two items so it wasn't like they just quit after voting for or against Trump.

57% voted for 65, maybe you just got a little dyslexic and flipped the numbers.

Also, the legislature in its infinite wisdom (oxymoron?) has moved to fix the flawed Initiative process this year. Unlike the past seven times a bill has been filed noting the problem that Mayor Hawkins has raised, this year the bill made it both out of the committee and out of the Senate.

Guess the legislature realizes the problem their inaction has made. Wonder how Bomgar is going to vote on the two bills when they make it to the House - one that will create medical marijuana (although different than the $6 million program that he wanted to own) and the bill addressing the flaw in the process that make make his $6 million investment a wasted effort.

Anonymous said...

10:27 - Please consider that in order for a sentence to be relevant, it needn't contain forty words.

Anonymous said...

6:12.

There is nothing wrong with the initiative process for the legislature to “fix” — which is why the legislature has repeatedly batted down misguided bills to amend it.

What you call “inaction” are just defeated bills proposed by a minority of losing legislators. Bad and unnecessary bills fail everyday.

The constitution can be applied today as it always has been—using the old five congressional districts.

See how that works. Easy and no problem.

Anonymous said...

Mayor Mary has her own pet legislator in the House. If you want her to get out of the way...defeat her pet. It's time for MM to retire and let Madison get on with business. She's done a great job but at some point, you have to step aside.

Anonymous said...

I agree the with the other posters Mary is an enemy of the people. And the people must remove her next election cycle. Also we must call for the resignation of senator blackwell he is not only an absolute moron but also an enemy of the people in the pocket of other states who wish Mississippi foul.

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