Primer: Pot Goes Public

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Medical Marijuana has come to Mississippi. But what now? What does this new controversial legislation mean for the sale and production of medical cannabis in the Magnolia State? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Medical Marijuana legislation and how does its implementation seem to be progressing?

Next week, the Overby Center will explore these topics in its second panel of the spring semester, featuring state health officer Dr. Dan Edney who will discuss the controversial legislation with other interested parties. The event starts at 5:30 p.m. in the Overby auditorium and is open to the public. A generous reception and open bar will follow. 

In the meantime, let’s take a deeper dive into medical marijuana in the Magnolia State:

On Feb. 2, 2022, Governor Tate Reeves signed into law Senate Bill 2095, also known as the “Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act (MMCA)” legalizing medical cannabis. The 455-page bill, passed by the Mississippi Senate and House entails a comprehensive regulatory scheme for the use of cannabis as a treatment for “debilitating medical conditions.”

The Regulatory Program

The Mississippi State Department of Health(MSDH) regulates the whole life cycle of medical cannabis to ensure that the medical cannabis industry is organized and monitored. The State’s Department of Health is responsible for giving licenses to cannabis cultivators, processors, testing facilities, transporters, and waste entities. Regular licenses are renewed annually, and licensees must demonstrate compliance with regulations. The MSDH’s regulations are detailed and address the physical structures of medical cannabis establishments, the location, and the construction of cannabis facilities. There are also regulations for cannabis cultivation and processing facilities that discuss lighting, landscaping design, signage, and even video surveillance security systems. 

Facility Licensees and Dispensaries

In Mississippi, a license is required for each stage in the developmental cycle for medical cannabis. The state also has a three-year residency requirement for an individual to apply for a facility license. For entities seeking a license, it’s required to have at least 35% of the entity’s equity ownership held by a three-year Mississippi resident. As a result, all of the state’s currently licensed facilities are partially or fully owned by Mississippians. Following the legalization of medical cannabis in 2022, Mississippi has issued licenses to 162 dispensaries, most of which will open this coming year. Dispensaries are primarily responsible for two things – the sale of medical marijuana to qualified patients and the collecting of taxes on the product. The Mississippi Department of Revenue must license medical cannabis dispensaries for them to operate.

Qualifying for Medical Cannabis

For those suffering from ailments on the treatable list for medical cannabis, there are a few steps to take to qualify for a card. If patients believe they are struggling with an illness listed as treatable by medical cannabis, they must schedule a visit with an approved practitioner. Once they are certified by the practitioner, they can begin their application process. Within 60 days of this certification, the patient must register and complete an application through the MSDH. Within 30 days of applying, the patient will be notified of the status of their application. If approved, a virtual card will be issued through the MSDH website portal and is valid for one year.

With Mississippi being such an agriculturally driven state, more growers are looking to plant their roots in the Magnolia state. This could be a catalyst for both economic growth and the expansion of the cannabis industry.