Analysis: Proceedings threaten Mississippi medical marijuana

Jackson, Mississippi (AP)-The court battle threatens to block the Mississippi medical marijuana program before the program begins.

According to the accreditation results, voters on November 3 have significantly approved the medical marijuana initiative (about 58%). The initiative amends the State Constitution, sets regulations in the Department of Health, and requires the program to begin by mid-2021.

Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler opposed Initiative 65 to limit the city’s ability to regulate the location of medical marijuana operations. The Republican mayor sued the state a few days before the election, claiming that the initiative was not properly voted due to the high number of signatures.

The Mississippi Supreme Court has ordered attorneys on both sides of the proceedings to submit a written discussion.

In a submission on 8 December, Butler’s attorney asked the judge to declare Initiative 65 invalid, even if approved by voters. Attorneys argued that even if the judge did, legislators could “listen to the will of the majority” and enact state legislation to create medical marijuana programs.

State attorneys advocating the Medical Marijuana Initiative have a corresponding deadline of 28 December to file a discussion.

The core issues are: Article 273 of the Mississippi Constitution creates a process for the initiative, stating that the sponsors of the initiative have one year to collect signatures from registered voters. This specifies that less than one-fifth of the signatures may come from the House constituency. When the process was written in the early 1990s, Mississippi had five House constituencies. After the 2000 census, the state fell into four districts, but the wording of the Constitution remained.

Butler argues that the Constitution creates mathematical impossibility. In the four districts, at least one-fifth of the signatures must come from each.

The State Attorney General’s office issued a legal opinion in 2009 stating that sponsors of the initiative need to collect signatures from the five districts used in the 1990s. In September 2019, then Secretary of State Delbert Hossemann stated that the Medical Marijuana Initiative was eligible for voting because the petition sponsors had sufficient signatures from each of the five older districts.

Butler’s attorney, in a document filed on December 8, discussed the separation of administrative and legislative powers in the state government. They said legislators had known about the issue of the initiative process for years, but killed multiple suggestions to fix it. The Secretary of State should not have relied on the Attorney General’s opinion on signatures from five outdated parliamentary districts when the legislature should make a decision, the lawyer said.

“It’s not the role of the Secretary of State or the Attorney General to amend the Constitution when the legislature takes no action,” Butler’s attorney wrote.

In 2011, Mississippi voters approved two other initiatives that landed on ballots under the guidance of the Attorney General. After having only four districts in the state, sponsors collected signatures from five older House constituencies.

Initiative 27 requires voters to present government-issued photo ID in voting. Initiative 31 restricts governments from using land expropriation processes to acquire land for private development.

Proponents of medical marijuana say it took too long for Butler to challenge Initiative 65. Marijuana Initiative.

“For voter IDs, the state is spending a lot of resources implementing that requirement, and there have been countless elections since its enactment,” Butler’s lawyer wrote. “For land expropriation, the state has configured an effort to comply for the past nine years …. The existence of these two other voter-led amendments is to the adequacy of the Petition for Initiative Measure 65. It does not preclude a court review of this opposition. “


Emily Wagster Pettus has been covering Mississippi’s government and politics since 1994. Follow her on Twitter:

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Analysis: Proceedings threaten Mississippi medical marijuana

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