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Successful Cannabis Initiatives In Three States Face Legal Challenges



Prohibitionist forces in three states have filed lawsuits to block cannabis legalization initiatives that were approved by voters in this month’s election. Legalization measures appeared on the general election ballots in five states this year, and all were approved by a majority of voters.

In Montana, 57% of voters approved Initiative 190, a measure to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. Attorneys for the group Wrong for Montana, which campaigned against the initiative, filed a suit claiming that the measure is unconstitutional because it allocates money from recreational cannabis taxes for specific purposes. Under the state constitution, appropriating money is the sole responsibility of the legislature. The group also opposed the wording of the ballot measure prior to the election.

“I’m a little dissatisfied at the process between the secretary of state and the attorney general to allow non-factual stuff to be set as a fact,” said Steve Zabawa, treasurer for Wrong for Montana. “And then not to look in the Montana Constitution. It’s black and white that a ballot initiative cannot appropriate the money.”

Mississippi Medical Marijuana Initiative Challenged

In Mississippi, the city of Madison has filed suit against Initiative 65, a measure legalizing medical marijuana that was approved by 73% of voters. The city alleges that the failure of the state legislature to update the requirements for the gathering of signatures to place initiatives on the ballot should invalidate the measure. The suit was filed only days before the election, and the state Supreme Court has set a December date for a hearing in the case.

Attorneys for the original petitioners of the initiative argued earlier this month that if the Supreme Courts agrees with the plaintiffs in the case, “it would have to invalidate the vote of 74% of Mississippians who supported Initiative 65 and hold an entire section of the Constitution inoperative, while drawing into question past constitutional amendments by initiative.”

Marijuana Opponents In South Dakota Also File Suit

In South Dakota, opponents are challenging Constitutional Amendment A, an initiative to establish a regulated commercial market for adult-use cannabis, saying that the measure violates a state requirement that initiatives pertain to only one subject. The suit is supported in part by Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, who said after the election that she believes that the 54% of voters who supported the initiative made the “wrong choice” by approving the measure.

“I was personally opposed to these measures and firmly believe they’re the wrong choice for South Dakota’s communities,” Noem said. “We need to be finding ways to strengthen our families, and I think we’re taking a step backward in that effort.”

NORML Slams Lawsuits

Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said in a statement from the cannabis policy reform group that the lawsuits to overturn the initiatives are an attack on the democratic process.

“These are cynical, and arguably frivolous, attempts to undermine the democratic process. Legalization opponents have shown time and time again that they cannot succeed in either the court of public opinion or at the ballot box,” said Armentano. “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. Whether or not one supports marijuana legalization, Americans should be outraged at these overtly undemocratic tactics.”


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