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: 501652

Reported Deaths: 10024
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34353540
DeSoto32162408
Hinds31977631
Jackson24508383
Rankin22015390
Lee15596235
Madison14597280
Jones13867243
Forrest13461252
Lauderdale11998317
Lowndes11065188
Lamar10522136
Pearl River9547237
Lafayette8557140
Hancock7740127
Washington7443160
Oktibbeha7147133
Monroe6787178
Warren6706176
Pontotoc6677104
Neshoba6642206
Panola6542131
Marshall6476135
Bolivar6323150
Union605794
Pike5824152
Alcorn5676102
Lincoln5439135
George497479
Scott473098
Tippah470381
Prentiss469182
Leflore4663144
Itawamba4640105
Adams4592119
Tate4592111
Copiah448792
Simpson4448116
Yazoo444887
Wayne440072
Covington429094
Sunflower4240105
Marion4232108
Coahoma4168107
Leake408688
Newton381779
Grenada3711108
Stone360664
Tishomingo360092
Attala331789
Jasper330165
Winston314691
Clay308977
Chickasaw301067
Clarke292594
Calhoun279447
Holmes267987
Smith264150
Yalobusha234547
Tallahatchie228251
Greene219449
Walthall218764
Lawrence213140
Perry205956
Amite205256
Webster203046
Noxubee186840
Montgomery179657
Jefferson Davis172243
Carroll169338
Tunica160039
Benton149239
Kemper141941
Choctaw133326
Claiborne132837
Humphreys129638
Franklin120328
Quitman106528
Wilkinson105139
Jefferson94734
Sharkey64220
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 820312

Reported Deaths: 15407
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1148731924
Mobile726221339
Madison52362697
Shelby37640350
Baldwin37266552
Tuscaloosa35120612
Montgomery34123740
Lee23540246
Calhoun22236488
Morgan20958378
Etowah19838500
Marshall18381304
Houston17394412
St. Clair16078339
Cullman15468293
Limestone15354199
Elmore15271286
Lauderdale14323295
Talladega13851283
DeKalb12664261
Walker11221370
Blount10207176
Autauga10048148
Jackson9877184
Coffee9211191
Dale8904185
Colbert8877201
Tallapoosa7093198
Escambia6778134
Covington6715183
Chilton6648162
Russell637559
Franklin5969105
Chambers5612142
Marion5010127
Dallas4979200
Pike4796106
Clarke475884
Geneva4575127
Winston4522103
Lawrence4327117
Bibb425386
Barbour357876
Marengo338390
Monroe331664
Randolph329864
Butler326796
Pickens316584
Henry312866
Hale311688
Cherokee302960
Fayette294180
Washington251651
Cleburne247760
Crenshaw245375
Clay243368
Macon234863
Lamar224847
Conecuh186353
Coosa180340
Lowndes175464
Wilcox168939
Bullock151744
Perry138940
Sumter133238
Greene126744
Choctaw88527
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