Mayor Mary challenging marijuana

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Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins-Butler filed an emergency appeal before the state Supreme Court to have a marijuana initiative on Tuesday’s ballot deemed unconstitutional. 

Initiative 65, appearing on Tuesday’s general election ballot, would legalize medical marijuana. 

“The constitutional process for amending our constitution has not been followed and the public has been misled about the content of the initiative,” she said. 

“Initiative 65 gives marijuana providers greater rights than any other lawful business. Such a significant change must be lawfully adopted.”

Hawkins-Butler filed the case in her individual and official capacities as mayor. 

The mayor calls into question the constitutionality of the ballot initiative in general, arguing that the Mississippi Constitution hasn’t been amended to reflect the reduction in federal congressional district seats that occurred following the 2000 Census. 

In 1992, the Mississippi Legislature amended the Constitution to allow for indirect ballot initiatives, at a time when the state had five congressional delegates. The language in 1992 required that in order to successfully place a ballot initiative, no more than one-fifth of the total number of signatures can come from any congressional district. And since now there are only four congressional districts, the math is impossible. 

Since redistricting after the 2000 Census, state lawmakers have unsuccessfully proposed seven resolutions to fix the indirect initiative gap, with each dying in committees. In fact, a similar proposal died this past legislative term. 

“This action is not about the wisdom of legalizing medical marijuana,” Hawkins-Butler’s petition concludes. “It bears repeating that the City of Madison and Mayor Hawkins-Butler are not opposed to a well-regulated medical marijuana program for the truly suffering.” 

The Supreme Court immediately responded to the emergency petition, ordering Secretary of State Michael Watson to file a response to the petition by 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28.

Proponents of Initiative 65 released a statement Tuesday arguing that the ballot was properly qualified and that the Secretary of State’s Office followed a 2009 opinion from then-Attorney General Jim Hood that said using the “old” five congressional districts.

“The lawsuit from the City of Madison is meritless,” Mississippians for Compassionate Care Communications Director Jamie Grantham said. “This is simply a last-ditch effort by political and bureaucratic opponents to deny relief to patients with 22 specific debilitating medical conditions.”


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