Mississippi lawmakers: Revive initiatives, marijuana program

Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn

Some Mississippi lawmakers say they want Gov. Tate Reeves to call them back to the Capitol for a special session to revive the state’s initiative process.

Posted: May 18, 2021 9:34 AM
Updated: May 18, 2021 2:21 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Some Mississippi lawmakers say they want Gov. Tate Reeves to call them back to the Capitol for a special session to revive the state's initiative process. Others want a chance to quickly revive discussion of a medical marijuana program.

The state Supreme Court ruled Friday that the medical marijuana initiative is void because Mississippi’s initiative process is outdated. That effectively killed other initiatives for which people are already petitioning.

“We 100% believe in the right of the people to use the initiative process to express their views on public policy,” Republican House Speaker Philip Gunn said Monday in a statement that did not mention medical marijuana. “If the Legislature does not act on an issue that the people of Mississippi want, then the people need a mechanism to change the law."

The Mississippi Legislature usually meets from January to April. Lawmakers can reconvene only if the governor calls them back to the Capitol.

A spokeswoman for Reeves said Monday that the Republican governor is still reviewing the case and has not decided about a special session.

At the heart of the ruling is the fact that initiatives need signatures from five congressional districts to get on the ballot, but because of Mississippi’s stagnant population, the state has only four districts.

The initiative process was added to the Mississippi Constitution in the 1990s as Section 273. It requires petitioners trying to get any initiative on the ballot to gather one-fifth of signatures from each congressional district. Mississippi had five congressional districts at the time that was written. But the state dropped to four after the 2000 census, and language dealing with the initiative process was never updated.

Republican Sen. Jeremy England of Vancleave said Monday that “there seems to be a sense of urgency” among lawmakers on both passing a medical marijuana program and restoring the ballot initiative process.

However, he said the ballot initiative issue could be a lengthy process. Because it would require a constitutional amendment, it would need two-thirds of support from lawmakers, England said. Then, the issue would need to be put on the ballot in the next statewide election, which is in November 2022.

A priority for a special session should be making sure some form of medical marijuana program is approved before the end of the year, England said.

About 1.3 million people voted in Mississippi in November, and more than 766,000 of them voted in favor of Initiative 65. That's about 10,000 more residents than voted for Donald Trump, who won handily the presidential race in the state.

England said a huge amount of money and time has been spent by business owners and the Mississippi Department of Health to implement a medical marijuana program. The department was instructed in Initiative 65 with starting the program by the middle of this year.

England said he believes “the language of Initiative 65 should be our base starting point" for the legislation. However, he said he expects debate and negotiation, especially on issues like taxation.

Republican Sen. Scott DeLano of Biloxi said lawmakers should be prepared and willing to move forward with establishing a medical marijuana program this year that is “consistent with the spirit of Initiative 65.”

“The only way for us to be able to do that before January of 2022 is if the governor calls for a special session,” DeLano said Monday. “It’s what the public wanted; it's what our constituents wanted and what they expected. I believe it’s my duty to do my part in making sure that the will of the voter is heard.”

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 514171

Reported Deaths: 10285
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34920557
DeSoto33270432
Hinds32652642
Jackson24876391
Rankin22516404
Lee16366245
Madison14932283
Jones14129247
Forrest13785260
Lauderdale12279324
Lowndes11314193
Lamar10663140
Pearl River9720244
Lafayette8855143
Hancock7839132
Washington7553169
Oktibbeha7216138
Monroe7036179
Pontotoc7003109
Warren6872178
Panola6768135
Neshoba6732210
Marshall6686142
Bolivar6451151
Union640898
Pike5933156
Alcorn5887107
Lincoln5533136
George510380
Prentiss505385
Tippah492783
Itawamba4857107
Scott478199
Adams4771125
Tate4765117
Leflore4736144
Copiah457095
Yazoo456692
Simpson4554117
Wayne443172
Covington434695
Sunflower4315106
Marion4279112
Coahoma4238109
Leake414090
Newton395782
Tishomingo384894
Grenada3777109
Stone365766
Jasper340866
Attala338790
Winston317892
Chickasaw316167
Clay312578
Clarke301295
Calhoun285949
Holmes271889
Smith269452
Yalobusha244247
Tallahatchie232053
Greene224749
Walthall221866
Lawrence219141
Perry213456
Amite209857
Webster206248
Noxubee188743
Montgomery181857
Carroll174941
Jefferson Davis173843
Tunica163339
Benton153139
Kemper145041
Choctaw136727
Claiborne134439
Humphreys132139
Franklin126029
Quitman107628
Wilkinson106139
Jefferson96934
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 845761

Reported Deaths: 16119
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1161862004
Mobile742411381
Madison53315732
Shelby38351369
Baldwin38104589
Tuscaloosa36052641
Montgomery34492781
Lee25590263
Calhoun22598518
Morgan22459406
Etowah20026518
Marshall18790316
Houston17741425
St. Clair16904358
Limestone16153219
Cullman16067303
Elmore15912294
Lauderdale14991306
Talladega14209299
DeKalb12985269
Walker12067380
Blount10729192
Autauga10526157
Jackson10170194
Coffee9425192
Colbert9341208
Dale9024192
Tallapoosa7273201
Russell708865
Chilton7042170
Escambia6956143
Covington6943195
Franklin6338108
Chambers5785142
Marion5413130
Dallas5295209
Pike5123109
Clarke484886
Lawrence4831129
Winston4780110
Geneva4643136
Bibb434594
Barbour369980
Butler3439100
Marengo342393
Monroe337466
Randolph334867
Pickens333988
Fayette330085
Henry320766
Hale318489
Cherokee318363
Crenshaw260777
Washington256952
Cleburne254560
Lamar251953
Clay251169
Macon245064
Conecuh193162
Coosa185547
Lowndes178268
Wilcox177638
Bullock152545
Perry141840
Sumter139241
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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