On Wednesday, the Mississippi Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in favor of and against an impending medical cannabis program.
After passage by popular vote in November 2020, Initiative 65 is now being blocked by mayor of Madison, Mary Hawkins Butler, on the grounds that the state’s initiative process is outdated and that Initiative 65 should not have been on the ballot in the first place.
Disagreements over Mississippi’s Congressional Districts
The main argument being put forward by Mary Hawkins Butler is based on Mississippi’s congressional districts and how many signatures are required from a given congressional district.
According to Mississippi’s constitution, a ballot initiative must receive an equal number of signatures from each of the state’s five congressional districts; while the 2000 census merged two of the congressional districts, the language used in the constitution was not changed.
On December 28th of 2020, state attorneys filed papers detailing the state of Mississippi’s congressional districts, arguing that the definitions used for elections and used in the constitution were different.
Municipal Responsibility Regarding Cannabis Regulation
Along with constitutional definitions regarding congressional districts, the grounds on which Mary Butler as well as the state Health Department and the Mississippi Municipal League oppose Initiative 65 because the initiative is set to limit the state municipality’s ability to regulate where cannabis businesses are allowed to be located.
The Health Department has pledged their opposition to Initiative 65 due to impending changes in the initiative that will change the department “into something it is not”, and would further strain the department even more so than it currently has been through the Coronavirus pandemic.
Despite resistance from Mayor Butler and the Health Department, supporters of Initiative 65 have begun to prepare for the upcoming court hearing. Senator Kevin Blackwell (R) and supporters of Initiative 65 tried to push through rules for Mississippi’s medical marijuana program in case Initiative 65 is rejected by the state’s Supreme Court, but this was turned down by the state House of Representatives, and supporters of Initiative 65 saw this as an attempt to circumvent the will of the voters.
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