Initiative 77 delayed due to publishing error
JACKSON – The Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office recently received notice of a publishing error regarding Initiative 77, which focuses on the legalization of marijuana and cannabis in Mississippi. Pursuant to Miss. Code Ann. § 23-17-11, “The Secretary of State shall publish the title and summary for an initiative measure within ten (10) days after filing such title and summary in a newspaper or newspapers of general circulation throughout the State of Mississippi.”
Our office received the ballot title and ballot summary (formulated by the Attorney General’s Office) on April 7, 2021. As done in the past, our office quickly distributed the required legal notice, comprising of the ballot title and ballot summary, by using the services of the Mississippi Press Association (MPA), a Jackson-based agency, whose network includes more than 100 publications across the state. While the Initiative 77 legal notice was issued to the majority of the required newspapers, we later learned that MPA failed to properly transmit the ballot title and ballot summary to five newspapers on our required list.
“We deeply regret an error originating in our office that resulted in the omission of the Initiative 77 notice in five newspapers across the state,” said Layne Bruce, Executive Director of Mississippi Press Services, Inc. “We pride ourselves on the work we do on behalf of the Secretary of State’s Office and other clients, and we take very seriously the rare occasion when we don’t deliver the quality job that is expected. We will work diligently to avoid this kind of oversight in the future.”
To uphold the integrity of the initiative process, our office instructed MPA to publish the ballot title and ballot summary in the five newspapers their agency accidentally omitted during the initial request. Those newspapers are as follows: (1) Bay St. Louis Sea Coast Echo; (2) Biloxi Sun Herald; (3) Brandon Rankin County News; (4) Charleston Sun Sentinel; and (5) Clarksdale Press Register. The ballot title and ballot summary will be published in the aforementioned newspapers on or before May 13, 2021.
Until the ballot title and ballot summary have been published in all areas of Mississippi, no signatures on Initiative 77 should be gathered. Furthermore, the one-year expiration period will not begin until the ballot title and ballot summary have been finalized, so this will not adversely affect the gathering of signatures. Our office issued a letter to the author of Initiative 77, Dr. David Allen of Moss Point, detailing the publication error and the updated timeline regarding signature collection. We also provided a link to all Initiative 77 proof of publications for transparency.
According to a summary of Initiative 77 on the Secretary of State’s website,
“Initiative Measure 77 would decriminalize certain cannabis/hemp possession, use (by adults and minors), and cultivation; authorize studies and a 7% sales tax on cannabis/hemp; authorize cannabis/hemp smoking wherever tobacco smoking is permitted; preempt local regulation; restrict local zoning; require release of non-violent prisoners incarcerated for cannabis-associated offenses and expungement of such convictions; authorize reparations; and override Initiative 65. It would also require creation of certain entities to carry out the provisions of the measure.”