A week before the November 3rd election Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler of Madison filed an emergency petition against Secretary of State Michael Watson to appeal the way in which medical marijuana Initiative 65 was certified for the ballot.
Madison and the Mayor claimed in the petition that it was a “mathematical certainty that the number of signatures submitted in support of Initiative Measure No. 65 from at least one of the four congressional districts exceeds 1/5 of the total number required.” The filing argues that the initiative process is dependent upon Mississippi’s old five congressional districts. The state now has four.
“The constitutional process for amending our constitution has not been followed and the public has been misled about the content of the initiative,” the Mayor said in a release. “Initiative 65 gives marijuana providers greater rights than any other lawful business. Such a significant change must be lawfully adopted.”
On November 6th, it was required by the Courts that Secretary of State Watson submit a response on the matter. Representing Watson is Attorney General Lynn Fitch, who submitted the statement on his behalf.
Overall, Watson was of the opinion that Initiative 65 was properly certified by former Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and subsequently placed on the ballot, as interpreting the state constitutional provisional in the way Madison and its Mayor desires would create “a currently insurmountable hurdle for the Initiative Measure 65 proponents (and a problem for past and future initiative petitioners).”
As to the constitutional provision regarding congressional districts, Watson’s responses opines:
“To reach their desired outcome, petitioners read “any congressional district” as “any current congressional district” and “single congressional district” as “single current congressional district.” There is no textual reason that “any” district or a “single” district cannot reasonably be interpreted to mean a past or present district. And there is no logical reason “any” district or “single” district cannot be interpreted as the former five congressional districts to harmonize the provisions with the “one-fifth” requirements in Section 273(3).”
Watson’s response noted that even if their interpretative argument is correct, Madison’s action is “woefully untimely,” writing, “They could have asserted their so-called ‘procedural’ challenge years ago, and certainly when former-Secretary of State Hosemann officially filed Initiative Measure 65 in September 2019.”
In conclusion the defendant asks the courts to dismiss the petition.
“This Court should dismiss petitioners’ claim for lack of merit, and/or on laches grounds. Further, regardless of any determination regarding the merits of petitioners’ claim, this Court should reject petitioners’ request for a writ of mandamus or other extraordinary writ preventing the Secretary of State from declaring the results of the vote on Initiative Measure 65 at the November 3, 2020 general election.”
The petition filed by Madison could be viewed to be a last ditch effort to block the initiative from being voted on in the General Election. Ultimately, however, the Supreme Court did not take it up prior to the election and Initiative 65 was passed by voters with over 75 percent approval.
You can read the full response below:
UPDATE 3:30 11/9:
Mayor Mary of Madison responded to Secretary Watson’s answer. She also requested a hearing in which their opposition could be heard alongside the Initiative’s supporters.