Mississippi marijuana program hinges on initiative arguments

Family Law

The Mississippi Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit that’s trying to block a voter-approved medical marijuana program by arguing that the the issue should not have been on the ballot.

Arguments were not about marijuana. Instead, they were about Mississippi’s initiative process.

Voters in November approved Initiative 65, which requires the state Health Department to establish a medical marijuana program by the middle of this year. The department is working to create a program, even as the legal fight continues.

To get Initiative 65 on the statewide ballot, organizers gathered signatures from the five congressional districts that Mississippi used during the 1990s. They did that based on legal advice issued years ago by the state attorney general’s office.

Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler filed a lawsuit days before the election, contending that the state’s initiative process is outdated.

The Mississippi Constitution says petitioners must gather an equal number of signatures from five congressional districts. The state dropped from five congressional districts to four after the 2000 Census, but the constitution’s language about initiatives was not updated. Butler’s lawsuit argues that this creates a mathematical impossibility with four districts because the constitution still specifies that no more than one-fifth of the signatures may come from any single district.

In papers filed Dec. 28 and in the Supreme Court on Wednesday, state attorneys argued that Mississippi has two sets of congressional districts ? one set used for congressional elections and one set used for other purposes.

Attorneys for Butler argued that the only purpose of a congressional district is to have geographical boundaries for electing U.S. House members.

Butler opposed Initiative 65 because it limits a city’s ability to regulate the location of medical marijuana businesses.

The Health Department, the Mississippi Municipal League and some others filed briefs supporting Butler’s lawsuit. The Health Department argued that Initiative 65 seeks to transform the department “into something it is not,” even as the department is stretched because of the coronavirus pandemic.

During the legislative session that recently ended, the Senate tried to create rules for a state medical marijuana program, but the House defeated the effort. Republican Sen. Kevin Blackwell of DeSoto County said the proposal was a backstop to have a program in place in case the Supreme Court agrees with Butler and invalidates Initiative 65. But supporters of Initiative 65 balked at the Senate’s proposal, saying they saw it as an attempt to usurp the will of the voters.

Related listings

  • South Africa’s ex-president should be jailed, argues lawyer

    South Africa’s ex-president should be jailed, argues lawyer

    Family Law 03/25/2021

    Lawyers for a commission investigating corruption in South Africa have asked the country’s highest court to jail former president Jacob Zuma for two years for failing to cooperate with its probe. The commission of inquiry into high-level graft,...

  • Courts wrestle with whether manslaughter is always violent

    Courts wrestle with whether manslaughter is always violent

    Family Law 03/06/2021

    Once annually, sometimes less, the full federal appeals court in New York meets to confront a perplexing legal question. Most recently, it was to decide whether shooting somebody point-blank in the face and stabbing somebody to death are violent acts...

  • Court halts another Texas execution over disability claims

    Court halts another Texas execution over disability claims

    Family Law 02/04/2021

    A Texas appeals court has delayed a second execution this year to review claims that an inmate is intellectually disabled and thus ineligible for the death penalty.The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday granted a request by attorneys for Ed...

Thai National Sentenced, Faces Deportation for Operating Immigration Fraud Scheme

Nimon Naphaeng, 36, a native and citizen of Thailand, who resided in Wakefield, R.I., was sentenced Monday to 27 months in federal prison for running an immigration fraud scheme that defrauded more than 320 individuals, most of them immigrants, of at least $400,000, and perhaps more than $518,000. The scheme included the unauthorized filing of false asylum applications on behalf of individuals who did not request, nor authorize, the applications.

“U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services does not tolerate immigration fraud of any kind,” said Susan Raufer, director of the USCIS Newark Asylum Office. “We are proud of our role in uncovering this fraud scheme and bringing the perpetrator to justice.”

At sentencing, U.S. District Court Chief Judge William E. Smith ordered a provisional amount of restitution of $400,000. The final amount of restitution will be determined subject to additional victims being identified and additional court filings over the next 90 days. According to court documents already filed by the government, restitution in this matter may exceed $518,300. During the investigation, the government seized $285,789.31 from Naphaeng. The forfeited funds will be applied toward restitution for victims of Naphaeng’s crimes.

Business News