Connect with us

Politics

American Medical Association Asks Court To Overturn Medical Marijuana Vote In Mississippi

Published

on

Two medical associations are throwing their support behind a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the medical marijuana ballot initiative that Mississippi voters overwhelmingly approved in November, arguing that it creates “risks to public health” and places a “burden” on physicians.

The American Medical Association (AMA) and its state affiliate, the Mississippi State Medical Association (MSMA), recently filed an amicus brief backing the legal challenge being considered by the state Supreme Court, which was brought by the city of Madison just days before the election.

The lawsuit argues that legalization proposal is invalid because of a state law that dictates the percentage of signatures required per district to qualify a ballot initiative.

While Mississippi’s secretary of state and attorney general have strongly criticized the suit, calling it “woefully untimely” and contesting the merits, AMA and MSMA are backing the challenge nonetheless.

“Making sure the constitutional amendment map is followed is always important, but given the nature of the initiative at issue and the substantial ramifications it poses for Mississippi’s public health and the medical community, particular care is warranted here,” the brief states, according to a blog post published by AMA on Friday.

The groups further argue that, outside of the statutory concerns outlined in the suit, the medical cannabis legalization initiative “poses significant risks to public health and puts a burden on Mississippi physicians.”

“While it is possible there may be beneficial medicinal uses of marijuana, numerous evidence-based studies demonstrate that significant deleterious effects abound,” the brief states, adding “without question, the public health risks are immense.”

Additionally, because marijuana remains federally illegal, the voter-approved measure would put physicians in “quite the pinch,” it says. “Yet physicians will be expected by their patients (though perhaps not required by Initiative 65) to sign off on certifications to receive their supply. Perhaps no liability will lie under state law, but what about federal law?”

In fact, federal courts have ruled that doctors have a First Amendment right to discuss medical cannabis with their patients without risking federal sanction.

“As everyone knows, all it takes to file a lawsuit is a piece of paper and a filing fee, so even if a physician is judged correctly and immunity is appropriate, the matter will still have to be litigated,” the AMA and MSMA brief continues. “And with increased exposure and litigation comes increased costs, not least of which is rising professional liability insurance premiums.”

The legal challenge brought by Madison cites a state law stipulating that “signatures of the qualified electors from any congressional district shall not exceed one-fifth (1/5) of the total number of signatures required to qualify an initiative petition for placement upon the ballot.” But that policy went into effect when Mississippi had five congressional districts, and that’s since been reduced to four, making it mathematically impossible to adhere to.

Advocates see desperation in the court filing, with the medical associations now making a last-ditch effort to overturn the will of voters.

“These are cynical attempts to undermine the democratic process,” Carly Wolf, state policies coordinator for NORML, said. “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,” she said. “Whether or not one supports marijuana legalization, Americans should be outraged at these overtly undemocratic tactics.”

Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, said “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.”

“It is regrettable that this organization would go on record in attempting to nullify the vote of a supermajority of Mississippi voters,” he said.

It’s also not especially surprising that these particular groups would join in this legal challenge given their earlier attempts to get voters to reject the reform initiative.

Weeks before the vote, AMA and MSMA circulated a sample ballot that instructed voters on how to reject the activist-led cannabis measure. The mailers said the associations were “asking for you to join us in educating and encouraging our population to vote against Initiative 65.”

Ultimately, however, nearly 74 percent of Mississippi voters approved the legalization initiative.

It will allow patients with debilitating medical issues to legally obtain marijuana after getting a doctor’s recommendation. It includes 22 qualifying conditions such as cancer, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder, and patients would be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana per 14-day period.

Marijuana Moment reached out to AMA and MSMA for additional information about the brief, which has not yet been posted on the state court’s public docket, but representative did not immediately respond.

The Mississippi case is just one example of legalization opponents asking the courts to overturn the will of voters who approve marijuana reform.

In South Dakota, another legal challenge against the constitutionality of a legalization initiative is playing out. In this case, plaintiffs—with the backing of Gov. Kristi Noem (R)—are claiming that the recreational marijuana measure violates a state statute requiring that proposals that appear on the ballot on deal with a single subject.

Over in Montana, opponents of a voter-approved initiative to legalize cannabis for adult use attempted to get the state Supreme Court to invalidate the proposal ahead of the vote, but the justices rejected that request, arguing that they failed to establish the urgency needed to skip the lower court adjudication process. They didn’t rule on the merits, however.

The plaintiffs then announced they were pursuing action in a lower court, arguing that the statutory proposal unlawfully appropriates funds, violating a portion of the state Constitution that prohibits such allocations from being included in a citizen initiative.

Separately, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled in September that a medical marijuana legalization initiative could not appear on the state’s November ballot following a legal challenge, even though activists collected enough signatures to qualify.

The court determined that the measure violated Nebraska’s single-subject rule that limits the scope of what can be placed on the ballot before voters. Activists have already introduced a new initiative that they say will satisfy the court’s interpretation of state law—and their also working on a broader adult-use legalization measure.

New York Governor Releases More Details On Marijuana Legalization Proposal

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

Politics

Louisiana House Approves Marijuana Decriminalization Bill As Other Reforms Advance

Published

on

The Louisiana House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession, while a committee advanced separate legislation to impose taxes on cannabis sales if the state ends up enacting broader legalization.

Meanwhile, a measure to legalize marijuana sales is scheduled for a vote on the House floor on Wednesday after being delayed from earlier consideration while the sponsor has worked to build support.

Tuesday’s action on the narrower decriminalization bill is the latest example of marijuana reform advancing in the traditionally conservative legislature this session.

The proposal, sponsored by Rep. Cedric Glover (D), has gone through several changes since its introduction.

Originally it would have made it so possession of up to 14 grams of cannabis punishable by a $50 fine and no jail time. And while it was gutted in committee last week to maintain a penalty of $300 and/or 15 days in jail, a floor amendment was approved on Tuesday that again removed the threat of incarceration and set the fine at $100.

Members approved the revised bill in a 67-25 vote.

“This bill is about common ground,” Glover said prior to the vote. “You know there are all different iterations of us in here today, black, white, male, female, big, small, conservative, progressive—and many of us who may not agree on as much as 90 plus percent of any given topic, especially when it comes to something as controversial as marijuana.”

“The possession of a small amount of marijuana should no longer result in two things,” he said. “One is setting out a result, and a path, that leads you to becoming a convicted felon. And neither should it set you on a path to go to prison.”


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,100 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

In the House Ways and Means Committee, legislation to impose taxes on cannabis sales if Louisiana ends prohibition passed by a voice vote.

As amended by the committee, adults would pay a 15 percent sales tax on cannabis products, in addition to state and local taxes. The resulting revenues would be split between the state general fund and the local local jurisdictions where sales take place, with a chunk of the latter going to support law enforcement. The panel also advanced separate legislation to repeal a current law that requires illicit cannabis sellers to purchase tax stamps for their products. It would only take effect if legalization passes.

Meanwhile, the House approved a bill from Speaker Clay Schexnayder (R) on Monday that is meant to align Louisiana’s hemp program with U.S. Department of Agriculture rules for the crop that were finalized and took effect in March.

Additionally, a Senate committee advanced a bill on Monday that would impose taxes on raw marijuana flower if those smokeable products are legalized for medical use under another measure that cleared the House last week.

Advocates are closely monitoring each of these developments, but the adult-use legalization bill from Rep. Richard Nelson (R) is receiving the most attention.

It would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess marijuana from licensed retailers. Possession of up to two and a half pounds of cannabis would be lawful. Regulators would be tasked with creating a permit for adults to grow up to six plants for personal use.

The measure has twice been rescheduled for House floor action at the request of Nelson, who has worked on amendments intended to increase support in what is expected to be a close vote. One proposal that has been posted would remove the home cultivation provisions to address concerns that have been raised by law enforcement.

A separate measure from Nelson that the chamber is set to consider this week would establish a $2,500 annual fee for cannabis business licenses and a $100 annual fee for a personal cultivation permit.

There is an additional decriminalization bill moving through the legislature as well.

That legislation, sponsored by Rep. Candace Newell (D), would simply remove the existing criminal penalties for possession, distribution and dispensing of cannabis “if the legislature provides for a statutory regulatory system for the legal sale and distribution of marijuana and establishes a sales tax on those sales.”

When it comes to broader legalization, while advocates have generally expected resistance from the governor, who has repeatedly expressed opposition to the reform, he did say last month that he has “great interest” in the legalization proposal, and he pledged to take a serious look at its various provisions.

Last year, the legislature significantly expanded the state’s medical marijuana program by passing a bill that allows physicians to recommend cannabis to patients for any debilitating condition that they deem fit instead of from the limited list of maladies that’s used under current law.

Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) signed the measure in June 2020 and it took effect weeks later.

As state lawmakers have continued to advance these marijuana reform bills, two recent polls—including one personally commissioned by a top Republican lawmaker—show that a majority of voters are in favor of legalizing cannabis for adult use.

Top Connecticut Lawmaker Says Marijuana Legalization Bill Could Get Bumped To Special Session

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading

Politics

Schumer Reiterates That Marijuana Legalization Must Pass Before Cannabis Banking Reform

Published

on

With Democrats in control of the Senate this session, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) doesn’t plan to jeopardize a marijuana legalization bill he’s working on by advancing a more modest cannabis banking measure first.

In an interview with The Ringer that was released on Tuesday, the senator reiterated that he and his colleagues will be “introducing our bill shortly” to end cannabis prohibition—and he said banking reform legislation that’s been filed will have to wait because “we’re not going to bargain against ourselves.”

Schumer made a similar point in an interview with Marijuana Moment last month, arguing that passing a measure that protects banks that service state-legal cannabis businesses first could jeopardize the chances of advancing comprehensive reform. The thinking is that Republicans and moderate Democrats who are on the fence about a bolder policy change might be less inclined to vote for it if they have an opportunity to pass a more modest bill like the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act instead.

The House has already approved the marijuana banking bill this session along largely bipartisan lines.

“We want a strong, comprehensive bill. We’ll introduce it,” the leader told podcast host Bakari Sellers, adding that “there’s huge support” for legalization, including in conservative states like South Dakota where voters approved a reform initiative last year.

“We’re going to get some support from the right on this as well we hope, and we’re going to push it,” Schumer said. “It’s going to take a little while. We’re going to need a mass campaign. But there’s real excitement in the country to do this.”

Schumer has been working with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) to draft a legalization bill over the course of the past few months. He’s been making the case for reform everywhere from the Senate floor to a cannabis rally in New York City.

Beyond ending prohibition, Schumer said the proposal he and his colleagues are working on will “ensure restorative justice, public health and implement responsible taxes and regulations,” similar to what New York lawmakers sought to accomplish in a legalization bill that the governor signed into law late last month.

The senator also said last month that the legalization bill they’re working on will be brought to the floor of his chamber “soon.”

He, Wyden and Booker formally started their reform efforts by holding a meeting earlier this year with representatives from a variety of advocacy groups to gain feedback on the best approach to the reform.

Schumer made a point in March to say that it will specifically seek to restrict the ability of large alcohol and tobacco companies to overtake the industry.

Instead, it will prioritize small businesses, particularly those owned by people from communities most impacted by prohibition, and focus on “justice, justice, justice—as well as freedom,” he said.

He also urged voters to reach out to their congressional representatives and tell them that “this is long overdue.”

On the House side, Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said recently that he plans to reintroduced his legalization bill, the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which cleared the chamber last year but did not advance in the Senate under GOP control.

Top Connecticut Lawmaker Says Marijuana Legalization Bill Could Get Bumped To Special Session

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading

Politics

Top Connecticut Lawmaker Says Marijuana Legalization Bill Could Get Bumped To Special Session

Published

on

Facing a tight deadline, a top Connecticut lawmaker said on Tuesday that a bill to legalize marijuana may be taken up in a special session after the legislature completes its regular business for the year.

With the June 9 end of the legislative session less than a month away, House Majority Leader Jason Rojas (D) was asked about the prospects of passing legislation to end cannabis criminalization in 2021—and he said lawmakers have been having “great conversations” with Gov. Ned Lamont’s (D) administration as they work through competing reform proposals.

“It’s just one of those issues that we’re working through some of the details that were of concern to everyone over the past couple months, but we’re making progress,” Rojas told a reporter from CT News Junkie during a press conference.

House Speaker Matt Ritter (D) chimed in to say that “if we can find a path to a deal, it’s the kind of thing that I think you could always go into overtime if you had to,” adding that “we’d all be comfortable coming to special session for that issue.”

Watch the Connecticut lawmakers discuss marijuana legalization, starting around 24:40 into the video below:

But while some progress has been made in reconciling competing reform proposals from the governor and the legislature, it’s not clear how close lawmakers are to reaching a deal and moving a proposal to floor votes—and Lamont is still waiting to review updated legalization legislation that’s in the process of being drafted, he said on Monday.

“I can tell you that [administration staff has] put together a very complete law for consideration by the legislature,” the governor said, referring to his own legalization proposal. “It’s sitting on their desk, and we’re ready for some decisions.”

Lamont’s chief of staff added that administration officials have been “meeting with legislative negotiators,” and they’re “waiting for them to provide us a revised draft” of a reform bill.

A bill to legalize marijuana for adult use that the governor is backing cleared the Judiciary Committee last month after being amended by the panel. But if a legalization measure isn’t enacted this year, Lamont said that he anticipates that the issue could go before voters.

“Marijuana is sort of interesting to me. When it goes to a vote of the people through some sort of a referendum, it passes overwhelmingly. When it goes through a legislature and a lot of telephone calls are made, it’s slim or doesn’t pass,” Lamont said. “We’re trying to do it through the legislature. Folks are elected to make a decision, and we’ll see where it goes. If it doesn’t, we’ll probably end up in a referendum.”

Ritter similarly said last year that if the legislature isn’t able to pass a legalization bill, he will move to put a question on the state’s 2022 ballot that would leave the matter to voters.

A competing legalization measure from Rep. Robyn Porter (D), which is favored by many legalization advocates for its focus on social equity, was approved in the Labor and Public Employees Committee in March.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,100 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

A survey from Sacred Heart University (SHU) that was released last month found that about 66 percent of people in the state favor legalizing cannabis for adult use, while 27 percent are opposed.

Lamont, who convened an informal work group in recent months to make recommendations on the policy change, initially described his legalization plan as a “comprehensive framework for the cultivation, manufacture, sale, possession, use, and taxation of cannabis that prioritizes public health, public safety, and social justice.”

But while advocates have strongly criticized the governor’s plan as inadequate when it comes to equity provisions, Ritter said in March that “optimism abounds” as lawmakers work to merge proposals into a final legalization bill.

Rojas also said that “in principle, equity is important to both the administration and the legislature, and we’re going to work through those details.”

To that end, the majority leader said that working groups have been formed in the Democratic caucuses of the legislature to go through the governor’s proposal and the committee-approved reform bill.

In February, a Lamont administration official stressed during a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee that Lamont’s proposal it is “not a final bill,” and they want activists “at the table” to further inform the legislation.

The legislature has considered legalization proposals on several occasions in recent years, including a bill that Democrats introduced last year on the governor’s behalf. Those bills stalled, however.

Lamont reiterated his support for legalizing marijuana during his annual State of the State address in January, stating that he would be working with the legislature to advance the reform this session.

Ritter said in November that legalization in the state is “inevitable.” He added later that month that “I think it’s got a 50–50 chance of passing [in 2021], and I think you should have a vote regardless.” The governor said in an interview earlier this year that he puts the odds of his legislation passing at “60-40 percent chance.”

The governor has compared the need for regional coordination on marijuana policy to the coronavirus response, stating that officials have “got to think regionally when it comes to how we deal with the pandemic—and I think we have to think regionally when it comes to marijuana, as well.”

He also said that legalization in Connecticut could potentially reduce the spread of COVID-19 by limiting out-of-state trips to purchase legal cannabis in neighboring states such as Massachusetts and New Jersey.

CBD Company’s Appeal Could Let Marijuana And Psychedelics Companies Trademark Businesses Pre-Legalization

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Support Marijuana Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Marijuana Moment