Mississippi Supreme Court to Hear Anti-Medical Cannabis Challenge

The Mississippi Supreme Court is set to hear a legal challenge to the petition process used to qualify the state’s overwhelmingly successful ballot initiative for legalizing medical cannabis.

Full story after the jump.

The Mississippi Supreme Court is set to hear a lawsuit challenging the signature-gathering process for the state’s medical cannabis initiative, which was filed one day prior to the election, the Associated Press reports. The lawsuit, filed by the city of Madison and its Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler, argues that the signature-gathering process failed to meet state standards.

The plaintiffs argue that the initiative process is outdated because the state constitution requires that no more than one-fifth of the signatures come from any congressional district, which creates a mathematical impossibility with four districts, the report says.

The constitution does require that certified signatures for an initiative come equally from five congressional districts, but the requirement was written in the 1990s. In the 2000 Census, Mississippi lost a Congressional seat but the constitutional requirement was never updated.

In 2009, the state attorney general’s office issued a legal opinion indicating that initiative sponsors should gather signatures from the five districts used in the 1990s. Last year, the secretary of state said the medical cannabis initiative qualified for the ballot because petitioners had gathered enough signatures from each of the five old districts.

State Supreme Court Justice Josiah Coleman on Tuesday signed an order setting deadlines of December 7 for written arguments from the mayor’s attorneys, December 28 for written arguments from Secretary of State Michael Watson’s attorneys, and January 7 for the mayor’s response.

The state attorney general’s office told the AP that the lawsuit is “woefully untimely,” while the initiative’s sponsors said the mayor has misinterpreted the signature-gathering requirements for getting a proposal onto the ballot.

The measure was approved by nearly 74 percent of Mississippi voters.

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