AMORY – Petitions are going out from an organization called Citizens for the Economic Development of Amory, MS, seeking to gather enough signatures for a referendum where voters can weigh in on whether or not to legalize alcohol sales in Amory.
“Signing the petition isn’t saying you want to legalize alcohol sales in Amory. It’s saying that, as a citizen, you want the right to vote on it for yourself,” said group member Mary Jane Westerlund.
According to the group’s website, letsgrowamory.org, the mission is to legalize alcohol sales so as to enhance the city’s existing assets to promote tourism, create a thriving downtown area and attract industry.
In order to get the issue on a ballot, the group must first get signatures from at least 20 percent of the 4,897 registered voters who will receive a petition. That comes to roughly 980 signatures.
“If the petitions come in signed by 20 percent of the registered voters, the city is required to hold a referendum. We don’t have a choice. It must pass by majority and, if it fails, we’re prohibited from holding another one for five years,” said Mayor Brad Blalock.
The petition drive is running ahead of schedule, according to group member Doug Cuthbert.
“I have several discussions a day about this issue and a large majority of the people I talk to are for it,” said Cuthbert, who added the organization hopes to have the needed number of signatures by early April.
Once the petitions are turned in and verified by the city clerk, the city must call a special election within 30 days, according to Mississippi Statute 67-3-9.
According to the organization, other benefits of legalizing the sale of alcohol include an increase in tax revenues and a decrease in alcohol-related car accidents.
Corinth Mayor Tommy Irwin, whose town recently legalized liquor sales, said those benefits are there.
“I’m still trying to find the impact of liquor sales. Is my sales tax going up? Yes. I just don’t know how much yet. I have seen some data showing DUIs being lower than the previous year. I’d like to attribute that to people not having to drive out of town to purchase liquor,” Irwin said.
Neighboring areas that have gone wet in the last few years include New Albany, Ripley, Tishomingo County and Sulligent, Ala.