On behalf of the Mississippi Secretary of State, the Mississippi Attorney General’s office presented arguments in court on Monday slamming a lawsuit that seeks to overturn I-65, Mississippi’s historic medical cannabis initiative that voters overwhelmingly approved on November 3, the Associated Press reports.
Madison, Missouri Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler first filed the lawsuit to stop I-65 in late October on the grounds that, if passed, it would limit a mayor’s ability to choose the locations of medical cannabis dispensaries.
After the initiative passed, the mayor’s lawsuit was updated. Now, the lawsuit seeks to overturn I-65 on the grounds that Mississippi’s Constitution is “outdated.” At the core of the case is the fact that Mississippi dropped from five Congressional Districts to four after the 2000 census. Due to divisive politics, however, the Mississippi legislature has been unable to officially make the change in the state Constitution. In their argument, state attorneys wrote,
“As a result, four congressional districts exist in Mississippi under a federal injunction for congressional elections, but five congressional districts exist under state law and may be used for anything but congressional elections.” — Statement by state attorneys, via the AP
In 2009, the AG’s office said initiatives should still use the five districts to collect signatures for initiatives, and in 2019 Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann approved I-65 for the 2020 ballot because signature gatherers had met the threshold in each of those five districts, the AP reports.
Mayor Butler’s attorney says the legislature has been aware of the issue for years and has turned down multiple proposals to fix the problem. Joining the effort to overturn I-65, the Mississippi Health Department and the Mississippi Municipal League have filed briefs supporting Butler’s lawsuit.
“Rather than allowing the agency to focus its resources entirely on public health, it requires MSDH to get in the business of appropriations, agriculture, packaging and transport, advertising, marketing and penalty schemes — just to name a few,” MS Health Department wrote in their arguments.