Mississippi’s high court to hear arguments to block medical cannabis

The Mississippi Supreme Court said it will hear the challenge to a voter-approved medical cannabis initiative on April 14, as the legal effort to thwart legalization in one of the country’s most conservative states drags on.

The legal challenge in Mississippi is one of several pending across the U.S. in the aftermath of a clean sweep for marijuana at the November ballot box.

Lawsuits also have been filed to try to block adult-use legalization in Montana and South Dakota and overturn voter-approved initiatives there.

Even if the lawsuits are unsuccessful, they could delay the implementation of new marijuana markets expected to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Mississippi voters approved a business-friendly MMJ initiative over a more restrictive one placed on the ballot by state lawmakers.

The initiative approved by voters requires the Mississippi health department to establish a medical marijuana program by the middle of this year.

A lawsuit by Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler argues that the initiative should not have been on the ballot because it didn’t meet a state standard requiring an equal number of signatures from five former congressional districts. Mississippi now has four congressional districts.

Butler filed her challenge only days before the Nov. 3 election.

State health officials filed a brief supporting Butler’s lawsuit, according to the Associated Press, saying that the MMJ initiative would transform the department “into something it is not” at a time the agency is trying to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

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