By Bobby Harrison
A strong majority oppose last week’s state Supreme Court decision striking down both a voter initiative that approved medical marijuana and the entire process that Mississippians can gather signatures to place an issue on the ballot for voters to decide.
The poll also found strong support for Gov. Tate Reeves calling a special session to give legislators the opportunity to reverse the actions of the Supreme Court. While Reeves has not called a special session, a diverse set of politicians ranging from Republicans Speaker Philip Gunn and Secretary of State Michael Watson to Democratic Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley to House Democratic Leader Robert Johnson have voiced support for one. Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, who presides over the Senate, has not commented on whether he supports a special session.
The Supreme Court took the rare step of releasing the controversial decision on Friday afternoon. The poll was conducted quickly after that by Mississippi-based Chism Strategies. Chism had done work for supporters of the medical marijuana initiative that was approved by voters this past November.
The poll found almost 60.9% of respondents opposed the Supreme Court decision while 22.3% support it. In addition, 59.6% support the governor calling a special session on medical marijuana while 20.2% oppose such an effort.
Of the 905 Mississippians polled, 69.3% voted in favor of medical marijuana this past November while 25.2% opposed the initiative. On the November ballot, there were two medical marijuana initiatives: the citizen-sponsored proposal and a legislative alternative. The first question on the ballot asked voters whether they approved either. In November, 68.5% of voters said they did support one of the two, correlating closely to the 69.2% in the poll saying they voted in favor of medical marijuana.
The poll was of landline and cell phone users and was weighted to reflect likely 2022 general election results, meaning a majority of respondents normally vote Republican. The poll had a margin of error 3.26%.
Brad Chism of Chism Strategies said he was surprised how many Mississippians knew about the Supreme Court ruling.
“It is a brush fire,” Chism said. “It crosses party lines… People are mad the court would do what they did.”
The poll found that almost 52% are “somewhat” or “much” less likely to vote for a legislator who opposed medical marijuana, while just under 30% were “much” or “somewhat” more likely to support a candidate opposing the legalization of medical marijuana.
The poll also found 69.7% supported the Legislature approving a medical marijuana program that matches the one approved by voters in November. A plurality — 45% to 27.1% — support the impeachment of the Supreme Court justices who supported the ruling.
The Supreme Court ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by the city of Madison and its mayor, Mary Hawkins Butler. The lawsuit alleged the initiative process should be voided because the Constitution requires the signatures to be gathered equally from five congressional districts as they were configured in 1990. In 2000, the state lost a U.S. House seat based on U.S. Census data, rendering it impossible to gather the signatures as mandated in the Constitution, the lawsuit argued.