Mississippi: Medical Organizations Join Legal Fight to Overturn Election Result Legalizing Medical Cannabis Access

Jackson, MS: The American Medical Association (AMA) and its state affiliate have filed a joint amicus brief urging the state’s highest court to reject a voter-approved ballot measure legalizing and regulating cannabis access to qualified patients. On Election Day, 73 percent of voters decided in favor of Measure 65, which establishes a system of state-licensed dispensaries to engage in the retail dispensing of cannabis and cannabis products to patients who possess a doctor’s authorization.

Just prior to the vote, officials representing the city of Madison – including the town’s Mayor – filed suit arguing that the legislature’s failure to update guidelines for petitioners with should invalidate the initiative vote. Specifically, state statutes call for petitioners to gather an equal percentage of signatures from five congressional districts.  However, following redistricting in 2000, there are only four congressional districts in the state. Lawmakers since that time have failed to update the statute. Nonetheless, litigants have not similarly challenged the validity of a separate initiative that also appeared on the 2020 ballot or the validity of prior ballot measures, despite the fact that petitioners for those initiatives acted no differently than did those who advocated for the marijuana measure.

Justices on the state’s Supreme Court have agreed to hear the case. Separate lawsuits in Montana and South Dakota are also seeking to overturn marijuana legalization election outcomes in those states. South Dakota’s litigation was filed at the behest of the state’s Republican Governor, Kristi Noem.

Commenting on the litigation, NORML State Policies Coordinator Carly Wolf said: “These are cynical attempts to undermine the democratic process. Legalization opponents have shown time and time again that they cannot succeed in either the court of public opinion or at the ballot box. Thus, they are now asking judges to set aside the votes of over a million Americans in a desperate effort to override undisputed election outcomes. Whether or not one supports marijuana legalization, Americans should be outraged at these overtly undemocratic tactics.”

In the AMA’s joint filing, the association argues, “[C]annabis for medicinal use should not be legalized thorough the state legislative, ballot initiative or referendum process … [because] without question, the public health risks are immense.” Their brief further highlights marijuana’s Schedule I status under federal law – which classifies the plant as possessing “no currently accepted medical use on treatment in the United States” – as a justification for throwing out the election result.

“The AMA’s position is woefully out of step with both public opinion and scientific consensus, as well as with the opinions of the majority of physicians,” NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “It is regrettable that this organization would go on record in attempting to nullify the vote of a supermajority of Mississippi voters.”