In a clear sign of the bipartisan support that marijuana reform enjoys in this Congress, more than half of Republicans joined a unanimous Democratic caucus in voting for of a bill on Monday to protect banks that service state-legal cannabis businesses.
This is the fourth time that the chamber has cleared the proposal in some form since 2019. But as lawmakers move to enact broader legalization, this week’s vote serves as another signal that interest in changing federal marijuana laws—even if that’s through a more modest vehicle—is growing within Congress.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) is the chief sponsor of the the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which cleared the body in a 321-101 vote, including 106 GOP members. He said following its passage that he was “thrilled to see overwhelming support once again” for “bipartisan, commonsense legislation.”
The bill passed by a vote of 321 to 101, including 106 Republicans. Thank you to Reps. Velázquez, Stivers and Davidson for their partnership, and I look forward to working with Senators Merkley and Daines to get the SAFE Banking Act passed in the Senate and signed into law.
— Rep. Ed Perlmutter (@RepPerlmutter) April 19, 2021
Here’s an analysis on the latest House vote on the SAFE Banking Act:
Five members who voted on the bill the last time it was on the floor as standalone legislation changed their vote from “nay” to “yea,” compared to three who opposed the measure this round after supporting it in 2019.
“Nay” to “Yea” flips
- Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL)
- Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA)
- Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI)
- Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD)
- Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN)
“Yea” to “Nay” flips
- Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA)
- Rep. Charles Fleishmann (R-TN)
- Rep. Lance Gooden (R-TX)
Significantly more freshmen members of the House who didn’t have the chance to vote on the SAFE Banking Act three years ago voted in favor of the bill this week (46) compared those new lawmakers who voted against it (18). Among those freshman “yea” votes were 30 Republicans—another example of how the issue’s bipartisan nature seems to increase on a generational basis. As more younger members come into Congress, it stands to reason that support for marijuana reform across the board will continue to increase.
Eighteen former members of Congress who voted against the bill in 2019 have since left Congress. By contrast, 49 lawmakers who approved the legislation that year have since retired, lost their reelection bids or passed away. Four additional members who are still in Congress and voted “yea” last time did not participate in this year’s vote.
There were 53 legislators who voted against the proposal who represent states that either have adult-use marijuana markets or comprehensive medical cannabis programs. All of those members who effectively said that businesses run by constituents in their states don’t deserve access to bank accounts are Republicans. (The following analysis doesn’t include those states that have only limited or CBD-only programs.)
GOP members who voted “no” representing legal states:
- Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR)
- Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ)
- Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ)
- Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ)
- Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA)
- Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA)
- Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA)
- Rep. Michelle Steel (R-CA)
- Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO)
- Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO)
- Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)
- Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL)
- Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL)
- Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL)
- Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL)
- Rep. Neal Dunn (R-FL)
- Rep. John Rutherford (R-FL)
- Rep. Scott Franklin (R-FL)
- Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL)
- Rep. Mary Miller (R-IL)
- Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA)
- Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA)
- Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA)
- Rep. Julia Letlow (R-LA)
- Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD)
- Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI)
- Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI)
- Rep. John Moolenaar (R-MI)
- Rep. Lisa McClain (R-MI)
- Rep. Michelle Fischbach (R-MN)
- Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO)
- Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)
- Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO)
- Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO)
- Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS)
- Rep. Trent Kelly (R-MS)
- Rep. Michael Guest (R-MS)
- Rep. Matthew Rosendale (R-MT)
- Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ)
- Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-NM)
- Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH)
- Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH)
- Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH)
- Rep. Robert Latta (R-OH)
- Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH)
- Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK)
- Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK)
- Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-OR)
- Rep. John Joyce (R-PA)
- Rep. Chris Steward (R-UT)
- Rep. Robert Whittman (R-VA)
- Rep. Ben Cline (R-VA)
- Rep. Bob Good (R-VA)
In 2019, there were 41 GOP members who opposed the SAFE Banking Act despite representing states with businesses and constituents who could benefit from the reform. The higher number this year isn’t a product of waning support as much as it is a reflection of how the successful legalization movement has continued to spread to more states.
But while it’s clear that the legislation is largely non-controversial this session, there are some political dynamics at play within the legalization movement that could affect whether the standalone legislation advances through the Senate and makes it to the president’s desk.
(For analysis on how the 2019 vote compared to 2014, when the House voted on a similar but more limited appropriations amendment aimed at preventing the Treasury Department from penalizing banks that service cannabis businesses, read more here).
A companion version of the bill was refiled in the Senate days after the House reintroduced it, and its sponsor Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said Congress can “start with the SAFE Banking Act” before enacting more comprehensive reform.
We’ve seen cannabis legalized or decriminalized across the country. But federal law still lags behind. It’s time to change that. We can start with the SAFE Banking Act to ensure cannabis businesses have access to the banking services they need. https://t.co/7rw49Zbrjn
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) April 20, 2021
That said, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told Marijuana Moment on Monday that he’s concerned that passing the banking legislation first could undermine support for broader legislation that he’s working on to end federal cannabis prohibition. Instead, he reasoned, the protections for financial institutions should be incorporated into a federal legalization bill.
In any case, the banking vote in the House was a hot topic among lawmakers this week, with numerous members discussing the action on social media.
Legal marijuana businesses need access to the same banking services as other businesses.
I was glad to see the House pass the SAFE Banking Act last night, which I cosponsored in the Senate, to do just that.
It's high time that we make this fix for marijuana businesses.
— Senator Jacky Rosen (@SenJackyRosen) April 20, 2021
Cannabis biz are forced to operate with cash only which sometimes makes them vulnerable targets for violent criminals. Yesterday's passage of the #SAFEbankingAct will address this issue by creating a safe harbor that allows banks & CU to provide services to these biz. #SAFE420 pic.twitter.com/6utuFzuRex
— U.S. House Committee on Financial Services (@FSCDems) April 20, 2021
I’m thrilled to see overwhelming support once again for the #SAFEBankingAct, bipartisan, commonsense legislation to allow marijuana-related businesses in states with some form of legalized marijuana and regulatory structures to access the banking system.
— Rep. Ed Perlmutter (@RepPerlmutter) April 19, 2021
As a proud original co-sponsor of the, Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, I'm thrilled that it passed the House.
For years I've stood by the effort to allow business in states that have legalized cannabis to access the banking system, just like other businesses.
— Rep. Nydia Velazquez (@NydiaVelazquez) April 20, 2021
Most Americans live in states where some form of cannabis is legal—but because of outdated federal law, cannabis-related businesses are forced to operate in cash.
— Rep. Jim McGovern (@RepMcGovern) April 20, 2021
Today, the House passed the #SAFEBanking Act so that businesses in the 47 states where some form of marijuana is legal no longer have to operate cash only.
This is a step toward ending the failed war on drugs & bringing restorative justice to our Black and Brown communities.
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) April 20, 2021
JUST IN: The House passed the SAFE Banking Act to provide marijuana businesses equal access to our banking system.
Colorado’s multi-billion-dollar marijuana industry employs thousands of people.
They should have the same security, and access to banking, as any other business.
— Rep. Diana DeGette (@RepDianaDeGette) April 19, 2021
Legal marijuana businesses in WA should be able to open bank accounts & take out loans just like every other business.
The House passed the bipartisan #SAFEBankingAct today to make sure cannabis companies in WA are treated fairly & can grow their businesses.
— Rep. Suzan DelBene (@RepDelBene) April 19, 2021
Cannabis is legal in Oregon and many other states, yet these businesses remain blocked from banking. I'm glad the House passed the #SAFEBanking Act to finally provide them access to our secure financial institutions so they no longer have to deal in cash.
— Suzanne Bonamici (@RepBonamici) April 20, 2021
Federal law treats any bank who works with ANY cannabis business as if they're a drug dealer, even if the business is in perfect compliance with state law.
— Rep. Nancy Mace (@RepNancyMace) April 20, 2021
Yesterday the House passed the SAFE Banking Act – a bipartisan bill I co-sponsored to give legal cannabis-related businesses in WA and across the country the ability to access banking services – improving accountability, transparency, and public safety. https://t.co/77IZvxyssM
— Rep. Derek Kilmer (@RepDerekKilmer) April 20, 2021
The war on drugs is like many of the other forever wars that this Congress confronts: deeply unpopular in all parts of the country, except Washington D.C.https://t.co/M2QakKmKDQ
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) April 19, 2021
The #SAFEBanking Act is a bill that would reform federal cannabis laws to support the economic success of our farmers, local small businesses, and local financial institutions who are playing by the rules here in eastern CT. Proud to support this bill and vote on its passage. https://t.co/e7Cxg2scZp
— Rep. Joe Courtney (@RepJoeCourtney) April 20, 2021
BREAKING: I just voted for the bipartisan #SAFEBankingAct to support Maine’s legal marijuana industry and ensure financial transactions are done through regulated institutions, not with bags of cash! pic.twitter.com/Dj448pkad4
— Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (@chelliepingree) April 19, 2021
Conflict between state & fed marijuana law means legal businesses are forced to operate as cash-only – creating a public safety concern and cutting them off from key tools & products offered by financial institutions.
— Carolyn B. Maloney (@RepMaloney) April 19, 2021
In Nevada, legal businesses that directly or indirectly serve the cannabis industry have been shut out of the banking system.
I voted to pass the #SafeBanking Act to help bring federal financial laws into the 21st century.
— Dina Titus (@repdinatitus) April 19, 2021
Today, the House passed the SAFE Banking Act.
I'm proud to have voted for this bill, which will:
💵 Support safe access to banking for the cannabis industry
🤝 Make the industry more diverse & inclusive
🏦 Improve safety for businesses, employees, and communities around them
— Rep. Steven Horsford (@RepHorsford) April 19, 2021
Today I will vote in favor of the SAFE Banking Act.
Marijuana businesses in states that have legalized, like New Jersey, shouldn't be prevented from accessing the financial system because of archaic federal regulations that prevent banks from serving legal marijuana businesses.
— Rep. Frank Pallone (@FrankPallone) April 19, 2021
Only Congress can provide the certainty financial institutions need to start banking cannabis-related legitimate businesses. #SAFEBanking
— Rep. Stacey Plaskett (@StaceyPlaskett) April 19, 2021
For those asking about ending the federal #cannabis ban completely: I cosponsored and voted for that in the last Congress, and I'll do so again when it's reintroduced in this Congress. https://t.co/jwo24FSfy3
— Eric Swalwell (@ericswalwell) April 19, 2021
Right now, legitimate cannabis-related businesses in Washington are often forced to operate on a cash-only basis, harming local business & increasing risks.
— Rep. Rick Larsen (@RepRickLarsen) April 19, 2021
Most states, including Oregon, have legalized some form of marijuana, but cannabis businesses are still forced to operate in cash-only. I voted to pass the bipartisan #SAFEBanking Act, so these legitimate businesses will finally be allowed access to financial services.
— Rep. Kurt Schrader (@RepSchrader) April 19, 2021
As an original cosponsor of the SAFE Banking Act, I am proud to vote for this #cannabis reform legislation that would allow marijuana-related businesses to access the banking system. The current cash-only situation puts our communities at risk.
— Congressman Dwight Evans (@RepDwightEvans) April 19, 2021
Proud to cosponsor and vote tonight for @Ed4Colorado’s SAFE Banking Act. Michiganders voted overwhelmingly to say marijuana should be legal, and now marijuana businesses need to be able to be able to safely use banks. Next: delist pot and help the victims of the War on Drugs!
— Andy Levin (@Andy_Levin) April 19, 2021
Legal cannabis businesses employ 250,000 Americans & generate billions in economic activity & taxes. But unlike other businesses, federal law prevents cannabis companies from accessing basic banking services. The Safe Banking Act protects these businesses and our communities. pic.twitter.com/37ELfgQaTU
— Rep. Lou Correa (@RepLouCorrea) April 19, 2021
Forcing legal, high-volume cannabis businesses in Colorado to operate as cash-only puts a target on their backs and our communities at risk.
— Rep. Jason Crow (@RepJasonCrow) April 20, 2021
97.7% of Americans live in states where some form of marijuana is legal, but many legal businesses serving the cannabis industry have been shut out of the banking system.
Tonight, I voted in favor of the #SAFEBankingAct to promote public safety and accountability.
— Rep. Haley Stevens (@RepHaleyStevens) April 20, 2021
It is unacceptable that banks and credit unions can face penalties for working with cannabis businesses in states where cannabis is legal. Last night, we passed the bipartisan #SAFEBankingAct to fix this. https://t.co/dXZd8AwIRG
— Angie Craig (@RepAngieCraig) April 20, 2021
I voted for the bipartisan #SAFEBankingAct so businesses involved in the cannabis industry (both directly and indirectly) can have access to bank accounts. This will help keep communities and businesses safe. pic.twitter.com/fSna6LKm8w
— Rep. John Larson (@RepJohnLarson) April 20, 2021
Yesterday, I voted for the SAFE Banking Act, which protects banks that provide financial services to cannabis-related businesses. These lawful businesses have as much a right to access the same financial services as other businesses. https://t.co/bD2YUDNloD
— Rep. Elaine Luria (@RepElaineLuria) April 20, 2021
I was proud to vote for the SAFE Banking Act which will ensure that banks can provide services to marijuana companies in states where it is legal. Adults age 21 and older in Virginia can possess and cultivate small amounts of the drug starting July 1.https://t.co/val4vAs9Sa
— Elaine Luria (@ElaineLuriaVA) April 21, 2021
Cannabis businesses shouldn’t be forced to only use cash, frozen out of the banking system.https://t.co/OEpKdxqGAQ
— Rep. Jimmy Gomez (@RepJimmyGomez) April 21, 2021
Illinois Will ‘Blow Past’ $1 Billion In Legal Marijuana Sales In 2021, Chamber Of Commerce President Says
“Are we going to get to a billion dollars? I think we’re going to blow past the billion dollars based on the experience in smaller states,” the Chamber leader said.
By Elyse Kelly, The Center Square
Illinois’s cannabis industry is growing up fast, with adult-use recreational cannabis sales expected to hit $1 billion by year-end.
In March alone, Illinoisans spent $110 million on recreational marijuana.
Todd Maisch, president and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, said one factor contributing to Illinois’ explosive growth is that most neighboring states haven’t legalized marijuana yet.
“What we saw early on in states like Washington and Colorado is they did have demand come in from surrounding states, which frankly benefits our industry and benefits the taxes collected,” Maisch said.
Cannabis sales have already surpassed alcohol’s tax revenues for the state, and Maisch said he thinks $1 billion estimates are conservative.
“Are we going to get to a billion dollars? I think we’re going to blow past the billion dollars based on the experience in smaller states,” Maisch said.
There are only a couple of things that could stop Illinois’ explosive cannabis market growth, Maisch said. He said that policymakers could ruin things by pushing taxes too high as evidenced by the tobacco market.
“As taxes have gone up and up and up, they’ve pushed people all the way into the black market or they’ve created this grey market in which people are ostensibly paying some of the taxes, but they’re still getting sources of tobacco products that avoid much of the tax,” Maisch said.
The other thing that could head off continued growth is other states opening up recreational-use markets.
“So if you start to see surrounding states go to recreational, that’s definitely going to flatten the curve because we’re not going to be pulling in demand from other states,” Maisch said.
Maisch points out some concerns that accompany the explosion of Illinois’s recreational cannabis market including workforce preparedness.
“All of those individuals who are deciding to go ahead and consume this product are really taking themselves out of a lot of job opportunities that they would otherwise be qualified, so there’s a real upside and a downside,” Maisch said.
While it’s easy to track the revenues this industry brings into state coffers, he points out, it will be harder to track the lack of productivity and qualified individuals to operate heavy machinery and other jobs that require employees to pass a drug test.
DEA Finally Ready To End Federal Marijuana Research Monopoly, Agency Notifies Grower Applicants
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on Friday notified several companies that it is moving toward approving their applications to become federally authorized marijuana manufacturers for research purposes.
This is a significant development—and one of the first cannabis-related moves to come out of the Biden administration. There is currently a monopoly on federal cannabis cultivation, with the University of Mississippi having operated the only approved facility for the past half-century.
It was almost five years ago that DEA under President Barack Obama first announced that it was accepting applications for additional manufacturers. No approvals were made during the Trump administration. And the delay in getting acceptances has led to frustration—and in some cases, lawsuits—among applicants.
But on Friday, organizations including the Biopharmaceutical Research Company (BRC), Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) and Groff NA Hemplex LLC were notified by the agency that their requests were conditionally accepted.
“DEA is nearing the end of its review of certain marijuana grower applications, thereby allowing it to soon register additional entities authorized to produce marijuana for research purposes,” DEA said. “Pending final approval, DEA has determined, based on currently available information, that a number of manufacturers’ applications to cultivate marijuana for research needs in the United States appears to be consistent with applicable legal standards and relevant laws. DEA has, therefore, provided a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to these manufacturers as the next step in the approval process.”
The Wall Street Journal first reported on the move, and it’s unclear just how many organizations have received a DEA communication so far.
Matt Zorn, who has represented SRI in a suit against DEA over the processing delays, told Marijuana Moment that the agency explained that it is “moving forward” with the facility’s application and that it appears to be “consistent with public interest” to give the institute the ability to grow marijuana for study purposes.
SRI’s Dr. Sue Sisley is in a process of completing a memorandum of agreement that DEA requested “so that it can be executed and official,” according to a press release.
BRC CEO George Hodgin said in another press release that after being finalized, “this federal license will forever change the trajectory of our business and the medicinal cannabis industry.”
“The DEA’s leadership will set off a nationwide wave of innovative cannabis-derived treatments, unlock valuable intellectual property and create high quality American jobs,” he said. “The BRC team is already familiar with DEA compliance procedures based on our extensive history of controlled substances activity, and our world class staff is ready to hit the ground running on this new business arm that the DEA has authorized.”
DEA said it has presented applicants that appear to meet legal requirements “with an MOA outlining the means by which the applicant and DEA will work together to facilitate the production, storage, packaging, and distribution of marijuana under the new regulations as well as other applicable legal standards and relevant laws.”
“To the extent these MOAs are finalized, DEA anticipates issuing DEA registrations to these manufacturers,” the agency said. “Each applicant will then be authorized to cultivate marijuana—up to its allotted quota—in support of the more than 575 DEA-licensed researchers across the nation.”
DEA said it “will continue to prioritize efforts to evaluate the remaining applications for registration and expects additional approvals in the future” and will publicly post information about approvals as they are finalized.
Following a 2019 suit against DEA by SRI, a court mandated that the agency take steps to process the cultivation license applications, and that legal challenge was dropped after DEA provided a status update.
That suit argued that the marijuana grown at the University of Mississippi is of poor quality, does not reflect the diversity of products available on the commercial market and is therefore inadequate for clinical studies.
That’s also a point that several policymakers have made, and it’s bolstered by research demonstrating that the federal government’s cannabis is genetically closer to hemp than marijuana that consumers can obtain in state-legal markets.
Last year, DEA finally unveiled a revised rule change proposal that it said was necessary to move forward with licensing approvals due to the high volume of applicants and to address potential complications related to international treaties to which the U.S. is a party.
SRI filed another suit against DEA in March, claiming that the agency used a “secret” document to justify its delay of approving manufacturer applications. And that was born out when the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel document was released last year as part of a settlement in the case, revealing, among other things, that the agency feels that its current licensing structure for cannabis cultivation has been in violation of international treaties for decades.
Photo by Aphiwat chuangchoem.
Mississippi Supreme Court Overturns Medical Marijuana Legalization Ballot That Voters Approved
A voter-approved initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Mississippi has been overturned by the state Supreme Court.
On Friday, the court ruled in favor of a Mississippi mayor who filed a legal challenge against the 2020 measure, nullifying its certification by the Secretary of State. The lawsuit was unrelated to the merits of the reform proposal itself, but plaintiffs argued that the constitutional amendment violated procedural rules for placing measures on the ballot.
While the court acknowledged that a “strong, if not overwhelming, majority of voters of Mississippi approved Initiative 65” to legalize medical cannabis in the state, Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler’s (R) petition was valid for statutory reasons.
Madison’s challenge 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.
The secretary of state and other officials pushed back against the lawsuit and argued that a plain reading of the state Constitution makes it clear that the intention of the district-based requirement was to ensure that signatures were collected in a geographically dispersed manner—and the result of the campaign met that standard.
But in the court’s 6-3 ruling released on Friday, the justices said that their hands were tied. The legislature or administration might be able to fix the procedural ballot issue, but it had to follow the letter of the law.
“We find ourselves presented with the question squarely before us and nowhere to turn but to its answer,” the decision states. “Remaining mindful of both the November 3, 2020 election results and the clear language in section 273 seeking to preserve the right of the people to enact changes to their Constitution, we nonetheless must hold that the text of section 273 fails to account for the possibility that has become reality in Mississippi.”
In sum, a Census-driven change in the number of congressional districts in Mississippi “did, indeed, break section 273 so that, absent amendment, it no longer functions,” meaning there’s no legal way to pass a constitutional ballot initiative in the state.
“Whether with intent, by oversight, or for some other reason, the drafters of section 273(3) wrote a ballot-initiative process that cannot work in a world where Mississippi has fewer than five representatives in Congress. To work in today’s reality, it will need amending—something that lies beyond the power of the Supreme Court.”
“We grant the petition, reverse the Secretary of State’s certification of Initiative 65, and hold that any subsequent proceedings on it are void,” the court ruled.
One justice who dissented said that the district-based requirement is arbitrary as it concerns Mississippi elections. While the federal government defines the state as having four congressional districts, the state Constitution “lays out the five districts,” and “there have been zero changes to the five districts” as far as the state’s laws are concerned.
In any case, this marks a major defeat for cannabis reform activists in the state who collected more than 214,000 signatures for their initiative. Sixty-eight percent of voters approved a general ballot question on whether to allow medical cannabis, and 74 percent signed off on advocates’ specific measure in a separate question.
“The Mississippi Supreme Court just overturned the will of the people of Mississippi,” Ken Newburger, executive director for the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association, said in a press release. “Patients will now continue the suffering that so many Mississippians voted to end. The Court ignored existing case law and prior decisions. Their reasoning ignores the intent of the constitution and takes away people’s constitutional right.”
“It’s a sad day for Mississippi when the Supreme Court communicates to a vast majority of the voters that their vote doesn’t matter,” he said.
Today the MS Supreme Court ruled against the state’s ballot initiative process, killing the medical marijuana program 74% of Mississippians voted to pass. This is devastating for not only patients, but voters as a whole. Below is our statement: https://t.co/jrDoJM3K16 pic.twitter.com/AR3xuId3xR
— Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association (@medmarijuanams) May 14, 2021
Under the voter-approved initiative, patients with debilitating medical issues would have been allowed to legally obtain marijuana after getting a doctor’s recommendation. The proposal included 22 qualifying conditions such as cancer, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder, and patients would have been able to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana per 14-day period.
There was an attempt in the legislature to pass a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the event that the court overruled the voter-approved initiative, but it failed to be enacted by the session’s end.
The Mississippi State Department of Health told WJTV that it will cease work on developing medical cannabis regulations in light of the court ruling.
“However, the agency has certainly learned a lot in the process of putting together a successful medical marijuana program, and we stand ready to help the legislature if it creates a statutory program,” Liz Sharlot, director of the Office of Communications for the department, said.
This is the latest state Supreme Court setback to affect cannabis reform efforts.
Last month, the Florida Supreme Court dealt a critical blow to marijuana activists working to legalize marijuana in the state—killing an initiative that hundreds of thousands of voters have already signed and forcing them to start all over again if they want to make the 2022 ballot.
While a Nebraska campaign collected enough signatures to qualify a reform initiative in 2020, the state Supreme Court shut it down following a legal challenge. It determined that the measure violated the state’s single-subject rule, much to the disappointment of advocates.
In South Dakota, the fate of an adult-use legalization initiative that voters approved last November is also in the hands of the state’s Supreme Court, where a sheriff is challenging its constitutionality based on a single subject rule as well.
Opponents to a Montana marijuana legalization measure that was approved by voters have also filed lawsuits contesting the voter-approved initiative for procedural reasons, arguing that its allocation of revenue violates the state Constitution. While the state Supreme Court declined to hear the case last year, it did not rule on the merits and left the door open to pursuing the case in district and appeals court, which plaintiffs then pursued.
Read the Mississippi Supreme Court ruling on the medical cannabis initiative below: