Mississippi was the 35th and second Deep South state to allow medical marijuana use in 2020. Initiative 65 was supported by over three quarters of the voters but was not implemented due to an impossible legal requirement to sign ballot measures. The initiative was overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court. However, the legislature approved a bill for medical marijuana that Gov. Tate Reeves made it official yesterday.
It is clear that the broad bipartisan support of medical marijuana has grown in deep-red states since 1996, when California was the first to legalize it. It seems that this reality has sunk in everywhere but Capitol Hill.
Mississippi’s S.B. S.B. 2095 was passed in Mississippi by an 8 to 1 margin in state House and 9 to 1 in state Senate. The total number of states that now permit patients to use marijuana for symptom relief is 37. These include conservative bastions like South Dakota (where 70% of voters approved a ballot initiative for medical cannabis in 2020), and Alabama (where legislators adopted a similar law to Mississippi’s last year by a 2-to-1 margin.
Reeves was a conservative Republican and feared that medical marijuana would be used as a way to cover recreational use. He threatened to veto S.B. Reeves, a conservative Republican who was concerned that medical marijuana could be used as a cover for recreational use and threatened to veto S.B. 2095 if he didn’t address his concerns, felt forced to follow the will of voters who approved Initiative 65. The governor complained in an a statementWhen he signed it, he released the following statement. It is clear that some people in the state could be significantly more successful if they were able to access medically-prescribed cannabis. Others want recreational marijuana programs that would allow more people to smoke and less people to work, along with the many societal and familial ills it brings.
Reeves states that the amendments he sought (not all of them) were designed to weigh the health benefits of medical cannabis against the possibility of some users being able to use it for pleasure. He writes, “I made it very clear that this bill is not one I would have written.” But he adds that “significant improvements” to the bill—including a reduction in the monthly purchase limit, an in-person visit requirement for cannabis prescriptions, and a ban on marijuana dispensaries within 1,000 feet of churches or schools—made the legislation something he could stomach. While he thanks the legislators for their prompt response, he ends his remarks with a bit of a whine: “Now we can hopefully put this issue behind and get on to the more pressing issues facing our state.”
Reeves’ grudging support of medical marijuana speaks volumes regarding the politics behind prohibition, given his anti-pot preconceptions. S.B. The law 2095 provides that dispensaries of marijuana should be licensed by the state in six months. That means that patients could begin receiving their services before the end. They will operate with state approval, but they will still be in violation of federal law. Reeves is fine with it, even though he has reservations about people who prefer to smoke a joint over a cocktail.
Reeves clearly thinks that 19 of the 37 states which allow medicinal use of cannabis, more than two-fifths, allow for recreational use. South Dakota Governor. Kristi Noem (a conservative Republican) has a similar outlook. The state’s voters approved Amendment A in 2020 to allow for medical marijuana. This would have established a recreational market that could be licensed by the state. Noem was opposed to both of these measures. However, she supported Amendment A’s successful legal challenge. Amendment A was rescinded by the South Dakota Supreme Court last November, concluding it had violated the “single topic” rule for constitutional amends.
The legal arguments surrounding Amendment A were complex enough, but the issues that led to the defeat of Mississippi’s Initiative 65 were even more confusing. The state law required that the ballot initiative signatures must be from one district. This was sensible when Mississippi had five congressional district, but it now has four. It is impossible to fulfill this requirement. Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler, Mississippi, convinced the Mississippi Supreme Court to apply the law as it was written.
South Dakota lawmakers have yet to produce a bill which would achieve what Amendment A was intended, unlike Mississippi’s legislators who replaced the invalidated measure with their own legislation. Although prominent Republicans have indicated they want to, Noem threatened to veto any bill that would do this. The supporters of Amendment A are currently working to create a legalization program for 2022 that conforms with South Dakota’s Supreme Court’s “single-subject” rule.
Congress has, however, done little to end the unsustainable conflict between federal marijuana laws and their state counterparts, aside from a renewed annual spending rider which bars the Justice Department’s interference with state-run medical marijuana programs. The department, despite that rider is still helping California and Kansas cops to use civil forfeiture in order to steal the money of state-legal medicinal marijuana suppliers.
While President Joe Biden supports states being free to choose their way in this area, he is opposed to repealing the federal marijuana ban. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.The Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer (D.N.Y.), has recently rescinded a bill which would have eliminated federal banking restrictions for marijuana-licensed businesses.
Gallup’s latest poll found that 68 percent believe marijuana should be legalized. What excuse does Congress and Biden have to keep the federal ban in place when even pot-averse Republicans such as Tate Reeves openly challenge it?