JACKSON, Miss. (March 30, 2020) – Mississippi voters will have two competing medical marijuana measures to choose from on the ballot in November, despite federal prohibition.
The first measure was put on the ballot through a citizen initiative by Mississippians for Compassionate Care. Activists turned in more than 214,000 signatures to put the proposal on the ballot. The measure would allow patients suffering from 22 qualifying conditions to access medical marijuana with the recommendation of a physician. Patients would be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis per 14-day period.
With the passage of HC39, the Mississippi legislature put the competing medical marijuana legalization measure on the ballot. It has far less detail and has more restrictions than the citizen initiative.
The legislature’s passage of a competing ballot initiative is widely seen as an attempt to prevent the legalization of medical marijuana in Mississippi. According to Forbes, Gov. Phil Bryant (R) voiced opposition and suggested that the legislature propose an alternative. According to Marijuana Moment, the competing measure could split votes and prevent either measure from passing.
“Mississippi’s ballot initiative process allows the legislature to put an alternative resolution on the ballot if they don’t like what’s being offered,” Medical Marijuana 2020 Campaign communications director Jaime Grantham told Marijuana Moment. “The only reason to do that is that it’s very convoluted and it confuses the process for voters and it ultimately kills it. That’s really where we’re at right now.”
Grantham also pointed out that the legislature could have legalized medical marijuana at any time and failed to do so. She told Marijuana Moment that legislators are suddenly tackling the issue now because their hands have been forced by the qualified ballot measure and called it disingenuous.
“The reason that some people in the legislature are doing this is to kill the initiative before it even has a chance,” she said. “They’re unwilling to let Mississippi voters have a fair up-or-down vote on the initiative. It’s wrong.”
Nevertheless, the fact that the voters will have an opportunity to vote on medical marijuana in Mississipi is a step forward and gives the people an opportunity to be heard on the issue. It’s also important to note that all of this political maneuvering is happening in Mississippi despite federal prohibition.
EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION
Under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains complete prohibition of marijuana. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate cannabis within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.
By legalizing medical marijuana, the state could remove a layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition would remain in place. This is significant because FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. When states stop enforcing marijuana laws, they sweep away most of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.
Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.
These new laws further undermine prohibition make it that much more difficult for the federal government to enforce it in Mississippi.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
Legalization of medical marijuana would ignore federal prohibition and begin the process of nullifying it in practice Mississippi.
Washington, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to legalize recreational cannabis, and California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joined them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization passed in November 2016. Michigan followed suit when voters legalized cannabis for general use in 2018. Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a legislative act in 2018. Illinois followed suit this year.
With 33 states allowing cannabis for medical use, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition anymore.
“The lesson here is pretty straightforward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.
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