MS mayor sues to throw out medical marijuana measure before election

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A mayor in Mississippi is making a last-ditch effort to remove a business-friendly medical cannabis initiative from the ballot.

Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler filed the legal challenge with the state Supreme Court on Tuesday, only a week before the general election and more than a month after absentee voting started, according to the Associated Press.

Butler contends the secretary of state didn’t take into account a 2009 legal opinion that a ballot initiative requires an equal number of signatures from what were then five congressional districts. Mississippi now has four.

Supporters of the initiative maintain the suit is groundless.

“The Secretary of State properly qualified Initiative 65 under the same constitutional procedures used for every other successful voter initiative,” Jamie Grantham, spokeswoman for Mississippians for Compassionate Care, said in a statement posted on social media.

“The lawsuit from the City of Madison is meritless.”

The statement noted that Mississippians for Compassionate Care collected 228,000 signatures and that the secretary of state validated more than 105,000 by January 2020, officially placing the initiative on the ballot.

State Supreme Court Presiding Justice Leslie King ordered the current secretary of state, Michael Watson, to respond to Butler’s lawsuit, according to Associated Press.

Proponents of the initiative, which calls for MMJ licensing without caps, have run into other issues in this conservative state in the Deep South.

Lawmakers placed a restrictive, competing referendum on the ballot, which Mississippians for Compassionate Care – also known as Medical Marijuana 2020 – say is designed to confuse voters and defeat their initiative.

Mississippi has a complicated formula for passage when two competing measures are on the ballot, and polling shows the vote to pass the more liberal MMJ initiative could be close.