/Legislators discuss legalizing medical marijuana in effort to keep out of Constitution

Legislators discuss legalizing medical marijuana in effort to keep out of Constitution

An alternative to medical marijuana was passed by legislators earlier this year and placed on the ballot along with the citizen-sponsored initiative. The citizen-sponsored initiative supporters cried foul, claiming that the alternative was intended to split the votes of those who support medical cannabis. The alternative was sponsored by Rep. Trey Lamar (R-Senatobia), who said that he did so because the citizen-sponsored initiative didn’t provide enough oversight and regulation. There is talk that the Legislature might consider a bill to amend state law to allow medical marijuana to be legalized. It is possible to pass such a bill in this session, but it would be difficult. Because the deadline for considering such bills has passed, it would require a two-thirds vote from both chambers. But, Sen. Hob Bryan (D-Amory), said that he had heard of discussions about taking up a bill to legalize marijuana. “…But as with all discussions, it is being put on hold due to the coronavirus.” As a precaution against the coronavirus, the Legislature suspended the session until April, May, or June. Lamar stated that he believes medical marijuana should be included in the general law. “If we had that preference I could support it,” Lamar said. It all depends on how the bill regulates marijuana. Lamar and others like Chris Johnson (R-Hattiesburg), argue that medical cannabis should not be included in the state’s Constitution. A Constitution can be thought of as a shorter document that addresses important issues such as the separation of powers between the branches of government, government functions, and inalienable rights such as freedom to press, assembly, speech, and religion. The laws that govern a country or state are more specific and detailed. They cover legal and illegal drugs as well as many other issues. If voters approve the citizen-sponsored or legislative alternative in November, then medical marijuana will be integrated into the state’s Constitution. This is how the state’s initiative works. Citizens-sponsored initiatives cannot be taken to amend the Constitution. Constitutive proposals are also available as legislative alternatives to citizen-sponsored initiative. The Legislature created the initiative process in the early 1990s with the goal of making it as complicated as possible. They created hoops and procedures to ensure failure. In large part, legislators succeeded in reaching their goal of failing. Sixteen of the 71 proposed initiatives, including the pending medical cannabis proposal, made it to the ballot. Four of them were defeated. The Constitution now contains four of those initiatives. It prohibits the government taking private property and requires government-issued photo ID to vote. These issues could have been considered constitutionally significant. However, those initiatives that did not make it to the ballot were also proposals. It could be argued the Legislature should have passed a general bill during the 2019 session to allow advocates for medical marijuana to complete the difficult task of obtaining the 106,000 signatures required to place the initiative on a ballot. Even if medical marijuana is approved in general law, there’s still a chance that the voters will approve one of the alternatives. It is important that you remember that once language is in the state constitution, it is very difficult to remove. Either another successful initiative, or a legislative resolution that is approved by both the Senate and House with a two thirds majority. Then approval by the voters. If medical marijuana is included in the Mississippi Constitution, it will remain there for a while. Possibly, another attempt will be made to include the money-back guarantee for denturists in the Constitution.