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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: 517138

Reported Deaths: 10306
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison35086559
DeSoto33512432
Hinds32826644
Jackson24938392
Rankin22621405
Lee16564245
Madison14986283
Jones14195248
Forrest13865260
Lauderdale12343323
Lowndes11401193
Lamar10715140
Pearl River9762244
Lafayette8898143
Hancock7854132
Washington7562169
Oktibbeha7246138
Monroe7106179
Pontotoc7071110
Warren6915179
Panola6815136
Neshoba6762210
Marshall6751142
Bolivar6484151
Union647099
Alcorn5969108
Pike5953157
Lincoln5550136
George511380
Prentiss511086
Tippah498483
Itawamba4916107
Scott479599
Tate4790118
Adams4789125
Leflore4765144
Copiah458995
Simpson4587117
Yazoo458692
Wayne444372
Covington435895
Sunflower4338106
Marion4313112
Coahoma4263111
Leake414491
Newton396482
Tishomingo390294
Grenada3799109
Stone366466
Attala342290
Jasper341667
Chickasaw320867
Winston319092
Clay314378
Clarke302095
Calhoun289550
Holmes273789
Smith271452
Yalobusha246547
Tallahatchie233153
Greene225549
Walthall222266
Lawrence221142
Perry214656
Amite210657
Webster207248
Noxubee188943
Montgomery182857
Carroll176341
Jefferson Davis175043
Tunica164139
Benton153539
Kemper145641
Choctaw138027
Claiborne134939
Humphreys132639
Franklin127130
Quitman107928
Wilkinson106539
Jefferson97334
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 849409

Reported Deaths: 16199
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1165042004
Mobile744951384
Madison53605739
Shelby38474373
Baldwin38236590
Tuscaloosa36225644
Montgomery34599784
Lee25712264
Calhoun22652520
Morgan22569411
Etowah20084521
Marshall18878318
Houston17806426
St. Clair16987359
Limestone16220222
Cullman16183306
Elmore15967295
Lauderdale15126308
Talladega14275302
DeKalb13099271
Walker12202380
Blount10803193
Autauga10566157
Jackson10237196
Coffee9447192
Colbert9396210
Dale9052192
Tallapoosa7291202
Russell711965
Chilton7101171
Covington6985197
Escambia6972146
Franklin6379108
Chambers5815142
Marion5451132
Dallas5307210
Pike5135109
Clarke485986
Lawrence4857130
Winston4804111
Geneva4658137
Bibb436795
Barbour370880
Butler3446101
Marengo342593
Monroe338666
Randolph338567
Pickens335590
Fayette332785
Henry321566
Cherokee321264
Hale320289
Crenshaw262278
Washington256952
Cleburne255460
Lamar253755
Clay253169
Macon246667
Conecuh193962
Coosa186248
Lowndes178468
Wilcox178338
Bullock152845
Perry141940
Sumter139841
Greene130845
Choctaw94928
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