On Wednesday, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported that the Mississippi Supreme Court might be poised to strike down a medical marijuana ballot initiative passed by voters in 2020.
The reason? The initiative did not gather enough signatures from voters in Mississippi's 5th Congressional District — a district that doesn't exist.
"The city of Madison and its mayor filed the lawsuit against Secretary of State Michael Watson challenging Initiative 65 just days before the Nov. 3 general election in which 74% of voters backed the proposed constitutional amendment," reported Luke Ramseth. "Butler is worried that under Initiative 65, the city won't be able to regulate where marijuana businesses are located, which could hurt property values and impact the health and safety of citizens."
The lawsuit, heard by the state high court on Wednesday, centered on outdated language in the state constitution that would technically make every ballot initiative since 2003 invalid.
"The Mississippi Constitution, as amended in 1992, said petitioners must collect an even number of signatures from the state's congressional districts if they want their question on the ballot," said the report. "'The signatures of the qualified electors from any congressional district shall not exceed one-fifth of the total number of signatures required to qualify an initiative petition for placement upon the ballot,' the constitution states. At the time of the amendment, Mississippi had five congressional districts, thus the one-fifth language. But the state switched to four districts after the 2000 Census, and the constitutional language was never updated."
As the report noted, the Mississippi Attorney General's office opined in 2009 that ballot initiatives qualify if they collect signatures from the former five districts, rather than the current four — something that Initiative 65 backers took care to do. Initiative 65 passed overwhelmingly, with 74 percent support from voters.