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On November 3, a bill to legalize medical marijuana in Mississippi handily passed with 58 percent of the vote. Initiative 65, the approved legislation, would amend the Mississippi constitution by establishing regulations to get the program running by June 2021.

Now all that may be rendered moot by one mayor’s lawsuit.

Going into the election, Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler of Madison, Mississippi vehemently opposed Initiative 65. She specifically protested that the legislation limits individual cities’ rights to dictate where medical marijuana businesses could open and operate.

Seemingly unable to accept that she couldn’t stop the bill with that tantrum, Hawkins instead filed a lawsuit against the state claiming that Initiative 65 did not garner the proper number of signatures to qualify for the November ballot in the first place.

Unfortunately, Butler’s suit made it to the Mississippi Supreme Court, which then instructed the attorneys from each side to submit written arguments.

Butler’s lawyers submitted their file on December 8. Their argument regarding the signatures stems from a technicality involving Section 273 of the Mississippi Constitution. Section 273 states that initiative sponsors have one year to gather signatures from registered voters, and that no more than one-fifth, or 20 percent, of the signatures may come from a single congressional district.

When Section 273 went into effect in the early ‘90s, Mississippi had five congressional districts. After the 2000 census, Mississippi dropped to four congressional districts, but the language remained the way it was — breaking things into five.

Butler contends that the Mississippi constitution therefore creates a mathematical impossibility: With four districts, more than one-fifth of the signatures must come from each individual district.

In 2009, the Mississippi attorney general told initiative sponsors to continue working with the original five districts. Ten years later, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said Initiative 65 had garnered enough signatures from each of the five old districts to qualify for the November 2020 election.

Butler’s legal team maintains the okaying of Initiative 65 violated the separation of executive and legislative state powers. “It simply is not the role of the Secretary of State or the Attorney General to amend the Constitution when the Legislature fails to act,” Butler’s lawyers wrote.

Butler is a Republican. Of course. So it’s not a tough leap to see how GOP politicians in Mississippi are taking a cue from the Crybaby in Chief and attempting to override democracy through legal gymnastics and straight up illegal trickery. Observers are unsure how this Mississippi lawsuit might pan out for legalization — i.e., the will of the very people that Butler and company pretend to represent. 

State attorneys in charge of defending the voter approved Initiative 65 have not yet submitted their argument. They have until December 28 to do so. Let’s get on it, please.

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