Mississippi marijuana proposal hits snag over public notice

The Mississippi secretary of state says signature gathering will be delayed for a broad-based marijuana legalization proposal because of an error in notifying the public.

Posted: May 8, 2021 7:03 AM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Signature gathering will be delayed for a broad-based marijuana legalization proposal in Mississippi because of an error in notifying the public about the ballot initiative, the secretary of state's office said Friday.

Initiative 77 would legalize cultivation, possession and use of marijuana, authorize a 7% sales tax on the products and allow marijuana smoking wherever tobacco smoking is allowed. It proposes to replace Initiative 65, the medical marijuana ballot measure that voters approved in November.

Mississippi law requires the secretary of state to publish the title and summary for each proposed initiative within 10 days after those documents are filed The notice must appear in “a newspaper or newspapers of general circulation” in the state.

A news release from Secretary of State Michael Watson said that his office sent the notice to the Mississippi Press Association. Its affiliate, Mississippi Press Services, distributed the notice to many newspapers for them to publish, but it missed five newspapers on the list.

Layne Bruce, executive director of MPA and MPS said in the release that the organizations regret the error.

“We will work diligently to avoid this kind of oversight in the future,” Bruce said.

At the secretary of state's request, the notice about Initiative 77 will be published in the five omitted newspapers by May 13. They are the Sea Coast Echo in Bay St. Louis, the Sun Herald in Biloxi/Gulfport, the Rankin County News, the Charleston Sun Sentinel and the Clarksdale Press Register.

Sponsors of initiatives have one year to gather signatures. The secretary of state's office said the timeline for Initiative 77 will begin after the public notice has been published in the five newspapers.

The state Health Department is working to set regulations for a medical marijuana program by the middle of this year, as required by Initiative 65. The state Supreme Court heard arguments last month in a lawsuit by Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler, which seeks to block Initiative 65 by arguing that it was improperly on the ballot.

Butler filed the lawsuit days before the election, and she opposes Initiative 65 because it limits a city’s ability to regulate the location of medical marijuana businesses. Her lawsuit argues that Mississippi's initiative process is outdated.

The Mississippi Constitution says petitioners must gather an equal number of signatures from five congressional districts. The state dropped from five congressional districts to four after the 2000 Census, but the constitution’s language about initiatives was not updated. Butler’s lawsuit argues that this creates a mathematical impossibility with four districts because the constitution still specifies that no more than one-fifth of the signatures may come from any single district.

State attorneys defended the initiative process by arguing that Mississippi has two sets of congressional districts — the current four for electing U.S. House members and the old five that are used for other purposes, including the appointment or election of people to other government jobs.

Supreme Court justices did not say when they will rule.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 320107

Reported Deaths: 7378
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22291269
Hinds20741421
Harrison18444317
Rankin13917282
Jackson13731249
Madison10270224
Lee10060176
Jones8473167
Forrest7834153
Lauderdale7263242
Lowndes6523150
Lamar636088
Lafayette6314121
Washington5426137
Bolivar4841133
Panola4671110
Oktibbeha466398
Pearl River4606147
Marshall4574105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425973
Monroe4161136
Union415877
Neshoba4064180
Lincoln4009113
Hancock387087
Leflore3516125
Tate342586
Sunflower339491
Pike3372111
Alcorn327473
Scott320374
Yazoo314371
Adams308386
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma298984
Simpson298589
Tippah292268
Prentiss284261
Leake272274
Marion271280
Covington267283
Wayne264842
Grenada264087
George252251
Newton248963
Tishomingo232268
Winston230181
Jasper222148
Attala215173
Chickasaw210559
Holmes190374
Stone188733
Clay187954
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174232
Yalobusha167840
Smith164134
Walthall135447
Greene131834
Lawrence131224
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry127538
Amite126342
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108334
Tunica108127
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96729
Franklin85023
Quitman82316
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69632
Jefferson66328
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 549013

Reported Deaths: 11311
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson810461571
Mobile42145831
Madison35718525
Tuscaloosa26179458
Shelby25626254
Montgomery25089614
Baldwin21901314
Lee16287176
Calhoun14724327
Morgan14639285
Etowah14183364
Marshall12454230
Houston10791287
Elmore10301214
Limestone10188157
St. Clair10161251
Cullman9958201
Lauderdale9612250
DeKalb8977190
Talladega8462184
Walker7341280
Autauga7242113
Jackson6953113
Blount6950139
Colbert6415140
Coffee5638127
Dale4930116
Russell454941
Chilton4478116
Franklin431782
Covington4279122
Tallapoosa4144155
Escambia401880
Chambers3728124
Dallas3610158
Clarke353161
Marion3245107
Pike314578
Lawrence3134100
Winston283572
Bibb268564
Geneva258481
Marengo250665
Pickens237062
Barbour234559
Hale227178
Butler224671
Fayette218962
Henry194443
Randolph187644
Cherokee187345
Monroe180641
Washington170739
Macon163051
Clay160159
Crenshaw156357
Cleburne153644
Lamar146937
Lowndes142254
Wilcox126930
Bullock124542
Conecuh113630
Coosa111629
Perry108626
Sumter105832
Greene93634
Choctaw62125
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