JACKSON, Miss. (Nov. 5, 2020) – On Tuesday, Mississippi voters approved a ballot measure to legalize medical marijuana, making it the 36th state in the nation to legalize cannabis in some form despite federal prohibition.
Mississippi voters had a choice between two competing ballot measures and had to answer two questions.
- Whether to legalize medical marijuana or not.
- If yes, which ballot measure they supported
Mississippians voted to legalize medical marijuana by a 67.9 percent to 32.1 percent margin. They then overwhelmingly picked Initiative 65 over Initiative 65A 73.7 percent to 26.3 percent.
A citizen initiative led by Mississippians for Compassionate Care put Initiative 65 on the ballot. Activists turned in more than 214,000 signatures. Patients suffering from 22 qualifying conditions will be able to access medical marijuana with a physician’s recommendation. Patients will be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis in a 14-day period.
Initiative 65 was in competition with Alternative 65A and was put on the ballot by the state legislature with the passage of HC39. It had far less detail and has more restrictions than the citizen initiative. The legislature’s passage of a competing ballot initiative was 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.
“Just like we saw in the 2018 victory in Utah, Mississippi voters have proven that medical marijuana legalization is politically viable in even the most conservative states in the country,” Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment. “This victory is especially significant considering voters were able to see past the legislature’s attempt to derail Amendment 65 by proposing a confusing and unnecessary alternative initiative of their own.”
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.
The legalization of medical marijuana in Mississippi takes the next step and removes another layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana in the state even though federal prohibition would remain in effect. 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.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
Mississippi joins a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition and nullifying it in practice.
Colorado, Washington state, 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 in 2019. South Dakota, New Jersey, Montana and Arizona all legalized recreational marijuana through ballot measures in the 2020 election.
With 36 states including Mississippi now allowing cannabis for medical use, and 15 legalizing for recreational adult-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.
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