Marijuana legalization progresses

On Oct. 20, the fourth of nine steps was taken to create an official ballot initiative for the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana in Mississippi.

Community activist Kelly Jacobs and other members of Legalize Mississippi filed the certificate of review from the attorney general’s office in Jackson. From there, five more steps must be completed for the ballot initiative to become official.

Next, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann will give the initiative measure a serial number that will then be forwarded to the attorney general’s office.

Within seven days of receiving the serial number, Attorney General Jim Hood will create a ballot title and a ballot summary. According to Jacobs, a ballot title is “a concise statement of the initiative, posed as a question, not to exceed 20 words.” The ballot summary will briefly explain its purpose in 75 or less words.

The attorney general will then send the title and summary back to the secretary of state who will then notify the sponsor by certified mail of the exact language in the ballot title and ballot summary, Jacobs said.

Following that, the secretary of state must publish both the title and the summary in one or more newspapers in Mississippi. For the next five days, the sponsor and anyone who reads the publication has the power to file an appeal to the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County.

The court then chooses whether or not to hear the arguments, and within 10 days the court shall decide whether or not this ballot initiative will become official.

Once everything is finalized, the group will focus its attention on finding people to sign the petition.

There are many reasons that petition signatures become null and void. Something as simple as signing a petition with any colored ink instead of black can cause a signature to become completely invalid.

One of the biggest obstacles the group faces is many do not realize that in order for their signature on a petition to be valid, they must be a registered voter.

“A person can find out if they are eligible to vote by calling their circuit clerk of their county and asking,” Jacobs said. “They can look them up on the list and tell them yes or no.”

According to Jacobs, there are roughly 360,000 eligible, but not registered, voters in Mississippi. She encourages those who are in favor of the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana to get registered to vote and to encourage friends, families, neighbors and even strangers to register as well. If this ballot initiative receives 110,000 valid signatures, it will be voted on in the November 2016 election. If passed, the Mississippi Constitution will be amended.

The road to November 2016 is a long one. As of now, the group has roughly 265 volunteers and counting. They are still in need of volunteers to collect signatures, register voters, use social media, educate the public and issue information for press releases.

Jacobs as well as other leaders in the movement encourage those in favor of the ballot to especially thank the press for giving them outlets to explain and market legalization and decriminalization.

“We need the good press,” Jacobs said. “We need public support. It brings us more volunteers which will lead us to succeeding.”

For more information on the ballot initiative and how to get involved, visit the Legalize Mississippi Facebook page.