Mississippi mayor challenges medical marijuana initiative

A Mississippi mayor is challenging the petition process that put one of two medical marijuana proposals on the statewide ballot.

Posted: Oct 28, 2020 10:46 AM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi mayor on Tuesday challenged the petition process that put one of two medical marijuana proposals on the statewide ballot, arguing that the number of signatures gathered does not meet standards set in the state constitution.

Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler filed papers with the state Supreme Court one week before the Nov. 3 general election, more than a month after the start of absentee voting in Mississippi and several months after the secretary of state's office said the initiative qualified for the ballot.

Supporters of Initiative 65 said their petition process met the requirements set by the constitution and by a 2009 attorney general's opinion. They also accused Butler and the city of Madison of trying to undermine the initiative.

“The Secretary of State properly qualified Initiative 65 under the same constitutional procedures used for every other successful voter initiative,” Jamie Grantham, spokeswoman for Mississippians for Compassionate Care, said in a statement. “The lawsuit from the City of Madison is meritless.”

The Mississippi initiative process requires petitioners to gather signatures from registered voters, getting no more than one-fifth of the signatures from any congressional district.

Mississippi had five congressional districts in the 1990s when the initiative process was established, but the state dropped to four congressional districts after the 2000 Census.

In papers filed Tuesday with the state Supreme Court, Butler argued it's “a mathematical certainty” that more than one-fifth of the signatures for Initiative 65 came from at least one of the four congressional districts.

In a legal opinion dealing with initiatives, the Mississippi attorney general’s office said in 2009 that the secretary of state should require an equal number of signatures from each of the five old congressional districts.

Butler argued that the secretary of state ignored the “plain language” of the constitution when he said Initiative 65 had qualified for the ballot. Delbert Hosemann was in his final months as secretary of state when the initiative petitions were submitted, and he became lieutenant governor in January.

Justice Leslie D. King on Tuesday ordered the current secretary of state, Michael Watson, to respond to Butler's lawsuit by Wednesday. During a news conference Tuesday, Watson declined to comment on the lawsuit. Hosemann, Watson and Butler are all Republicans.

Initiative 65 would allow patients to use medical marijuana to treat debilitating conditions, as certified by physicians.

An alternative measure that is also on the Mississippi ballot, Initiative 65A, also would allow patients with debilitating conditions to use medical marijuana, but it does not specify that those would have to be certified by physicians. It says the state would create a program based on “sound medical principles.”

More than 100,000 registered voters petitioned to put Initiative 65 on the ballot. The alternative was put there by legislators. Sponsors of the original initiative say the alternative is intended to cause confusion and kill the original.

There’s a two-step process for voting on 65 and 65A. The ballot first instructs people to “Vote for approval of either, or against both.” It then says, “And vote for one” — either 65 or 65A.

Watson has said that even if people vote against both initiatives on the first part, they can still vote for one of the proposals on the second part.

The Mississippi Municipal League opposes Initiative 65, partially because the initiative limits zoning rules that local governments may put on medical marijuana centers.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 315026

Reported Deaths: 7257
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21684260
Hinds20385416
Harrison17973309
Rankin13650278
Jackson13456246
Madison10130217
Lee9988174
Jones8388163
Forrest7701152
Lauderdale7198240
Lowndes6411148
Lamar624686
Lafayette6210119
Washington5342134
Bolivar4804132
Oktibbeha463298
Panola4601107
Pearl River4524146
Marshall4454103
Warren4397121
Pontotoc421172
Monroe4120133
Union411276
Neshoba4033176
Lincoln3972110
Hancock380287
Leflore3500125
Sunflower336490
Tate335484
Pike3330105
Scott316773
Alcorn313670
Yazoo311870
Itawamba300877
Copiah297865
Coahoma295979
Simpson295388
Tippah289068
Adams288682
Prentiss280360
Marion269680
Leake268673
Wayne262941
Grenada261987
Covington260381
George249448
Newton246963
Winston227881
Tishomingo227567
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw208457
Holmes189174
Clay185654
Stone183033
Tallahatchie179041
Clarke178180
Calhoun170932
Yalobusha164838
Smith162734
Walthall134345
Greene130633
Lawrence129324
Montgomery127242
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121929
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107233
Tunica105726
Claiborne102530
Benton100125
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83923
Quitman81116
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67631
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 540267

Reported Deaths: 11038
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson798791529
Mobile41295809
Madison35175506
Tuscaloosa25932455
Shelby25309249
Montgomery24736593
Baldwin21422310
Lee15997172
Calhoun14577319
Morgan14431280
Etowah13927353
Marshall12280225
Houston10650282
Elmore10158206
Limestone10075151
St. Clair9955245
Cullman9773194
Lauderdale9465243
DeKalb8866188
Talladega8344176
Walker7261278
Autauga7010108
Jackson6840112
Blount6776139
Colbert6322135
Coffee5583118
Dale4878113
Russell445938
Chilton4383113
Franklin426382
Covington4138118
Tallapoosa4044153
Escambia395177
Chambers3598123
Dallas3569153
Clarke351561
Marion3140101
Pike312077
Lawrence303698
Winston275873
Bibb264864
Geneva254178
Marengo249865
Pickens234862
Barbour232056
Hale224078
Butler219069
Fayette213162
Henry190043
Cherokee184845
Randolph182542
Monroe178241
Washington167839
Macon161350
Clay157257
Crenshaw153657
Cleburne149641
Lamar143336
Lowndes140753
Wilcox127430
Bullock123342
Conecuh110829
Coosa109228
Perry107826
Sumter105032
Greene92634
Choctaw61024
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