Madison, Mississippi Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler challenges Initiative 65 in court.
In court documents filed late last month, Mississippi prosecutors alleged that Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler’s original lawsuit, filed in October, “uses unfounded arguments to overthrow a Mississippi voter-approved medical marijuana initiative.” Butler turned down Initiative 65 because it said it “limits the ability of cities to regulate the location of medical marijuana companies”.
Butler’s lawyers wrote, “It is simply not the job of the Secretary of State or the Attorney General to amend the Constitution if the legislature does not act.”
The attorney general’s office filed arguments on behalf of Secretary of State Michael Watson and challenged the lawsuit alleging the initiative process in the Mississippi Constitution was out of date, requiring petitioners to collect the same number of signatures from a handful of congressional districts. At the same time, Mississippi dropped from five Congressional districts to four in the 2000 census, making this a “mathematical improbability”.
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Prosecutors responded in court files: “Legislators never updated state laws to reflect four congressional districts instead of five.” Instead, party political disagreements within the legislation of the time ended with lines drawn by federal judges.
“As a result, Mississippi has four congressional districts under a federal decree for congressional elections, but five congressional districts exist under state law and can be used for anything but congressional elections,” the lawyers wrote. They also claim Butler waited too long to oppose the initiative.
Butler’s attorneys insist their complaint was filed in a timely manner, citing the code of law requiring timely appeal to “protect voter ID and significant domain” in the event the Supreme Court annuls the initiative. They said, “Voter ID has invested significant funds in implementing its requirements and countless elections have taken place since it came into effect. For Eminent Domain, the state has structured its income over the past nine years in such a way that it meets the requirements. The existence of these two other amendments to the voters’ initiative does not prevent the Court’s review of this challenge to the adequacy of petition 65 of the initiative. “
In September 2019, former Foreign Minister Delbert Hosemann stated that the medical marijuana initiative qualified for the vote because the petition sponsors had enough signatures in the five districts. In a file filed with the Mississippi Supreme Court on December 8, Butler’s lawyers approved the ruling. They cited, “Legislators have known the problem in the initiative process for years but have killed several proposals to fix the problem,” adding, “The secretary of state should not have relied on the opinion of an attorney general on the signatures of the five obsolete districts.” In essence, including the measure meant that one executive would listen to another when decisions were to be made by the legislature.
The Department of Health, Mississippi Municipal League, and others have filed documents supporting Butler’s lawsuit. The health department argued that Initiative 65 “seeks to turn the ministry into what it is not”. The department’s lawyers said, “Rather than allowing the agency to focus its resources solely on public health, MSDH needs to be active in the areas of resources, agriculture, packaging and transportation, advertising, marketing and punitive measures – to name a few. ”
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