Mississippi Court Just Said No to Medical Marijuana, Your Right to Ballot IniTiatives, & Legal Absurdity

The Mississippi Supreme Court said because Mississippi has 4 congressional districts instead of the 5- when the ballot initiative process was approved, it makes the legal requirements impossible to comply with…so no medical marijuana.

“The court majority ruled that the provision plainly says signatures are to be gathered equally between five districts, one of which no longer exists.

The court said: “Unlike the other two branches of government, the courts may not act proactively to address problems such as the one here … It is our duty to interpret our Constitution when its meaning is put at issue … The Court does not have jurisdiction to review, affirm, or overturn the ‘will of the people’ … The November 2020 results are not before us … The reduction in Mississippi’s congressional representation renders (the ballot initiative provision) unworkable and inoperable on its face.” https://mississippitoday.org/2021/05/14/mississippi-supreme-court-overturns-medical-marijuana-initiative-65/

The Court did not address the merits of medical marijuana, but focused on the process of how the matter was put on the ballot. It concluded “you can’t do that.”

It also left a void, no citizen can ever have any issue put on the ballot – without legislative intervention.

The Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision determined there was a problem and only the legislature could fix it, that it was not the Court’s role to mend a broken process.

Prior to medical marijuana being approved by the voters, I predicted (at the time wrongly) that it would not pass. It was passed by an overwhelmingly large percentage, north of 70%. I also predicted (now wrongly) that the initiative process would be upheld by the Court.

Why? Because of the Doctrine of Absurdity.

“In law, strictly literal interpretations of statutes can lead to seemingly absurd results. The doctrine of absurdity holds that commonsense interpretations should be preferred in such cases, rather than literal readings. Under the absurdity doctrine, American courts have interpreted statutes contrary to their plain meaning in order to avoid absurd legal conclusions.

The common sense of man approves the judgment mentioned by Pufendorf [sic. Puffendorf], that the Bolognian law which enacted “that whoever drew blood in the streets should be punished with the utmost severity”, did not extend to the surgeon who opened the vein of a person that fell down in the street in a fit. The same common sense accepts the ruling, cited by Plowden, that the statute of 1st Edward II, which enacts that a prisoner who breaks prison shall be guilty of a felony, does not extend to a prisoner who breaks out when the prison is on fire – “for he is not to be hanged because he would not stay to be burnt”

Wikipedia.

This Supreme Court ruling, a literal interpretation of the ballot initiative law, creates an absurd result. You can never have 20% from 5 districts, because there are now 4 districts. The Court could have said follow the spirit of the law.

Footnote 8 of Justice Chamberlain’s dissent stated;

“The majority’s interpretation is like a well-manicured lawn whose caretaker focuses on one isolated blade of grass—here, the term “congressional district”—while ignoring the weed that is context. Interpretation should involve a joint effort between reading the actual
words and the context in which they are found. The majority’s reading thrusts a constitutional provision into chronic limbo, creating a transient or temporary constitutional right. To be blunt, it effectively slams the lid on the initiative process. This surely cannot be the intent of the Legislature and the people. As a court, we should nip this interpretation
in the bud.”

Matthew Thompson is a civil defense/family law attorney in Mississippi and reminds you that elections matter.

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