We are excited to announce that Mississippi voters approved Initiative 65 on the general election ballot, which will create a medical marijuana program in Mississippi for qualified patients. This is a historic moment for the Hospitality State, and one that many probably thought wouldn’t occur for several years, if ever. Now, Mississippians suffering from the symptoms of medical conditions and diagnoses like cancer, ALS, and epilepsy can have an alternative treatment option besides opioids.
I have served as an advisor to the Medical Marijuana 2020 campaign for the past two years and really enjoyed working towards bringing this medicine to Mississippi. Part of my work was to interact with the Department of Health (DOH), which is the primary regulator for medical marijuana and the agency that will be administering the program. In highly regulated industries like medical marijuana, a good relationship with policymakers is integral for a business’s success.
Throughout this campaign, our firm has advised clients who are considering entering the medical marijuana market as business participants, including cultivation, processing, testing, and retail. These business participants will help bring this medicine to Mississippi patients. This fits naturally with the other work we do at McLaughlin, PC, where we advise startup companies in highly regulated industries like alcohol and food manufacturing, among others.
Now that Initiative 65 has passed, many people want to know what the timeline is for this industry actually launching and patients receiving product. Initiative 65 requires that the DOH adopt regulations by July 1, 2021 and begin issuing patient identification cards and licenses for dispensaries by August 15, 2021.
Though licenses won’t be issued until mid-2021, industry-member hopefuls can begin forming a corporate entity, evaluating and securing real estate, creating a brand, and writing a business plan. These are all functions that we would recommend to any of our startup clients, and medical marijuana is no different. We’ve created a flat fee schedule for medical marijuana businesses, which our clients in other industries have enjoyed as it brings predictability during the startup phase.
Though many of the licensing requirements are yet to be established through regulations, Initiative 65 does provide some basic licensing outlines for any medical marijuana business.
- Mississippi will not have a cap on the number of licenses available, though applicants must meet threshold requirements and obtain a license to operate.
- Mississippi will not require businesses to be vertically integrated, meaning that businesses can operate in one or more sectors of the industry without conducting all functions like cultivation, processing, testing, and dispensing.
- Medical marijuana businesses will not collect sales tax on the final sale of product, though the DOH can assess a fee up to the state’s sales tax rate on the sale. These businesses will also be subject to county and city ad valorem property taxes, as well as all local, state, and federal taxes just like any other business.
- No medical marijuana business can be located within five hundred (500) feet of an existing school, church, or childcare center.
- A city or county zoning ordinance applicable to medical marijuana dispensaries cannot be any more restrictive for a licensed retail pharmacy, and zoning restrictions applicable to other medical marijuana businesses cannot be more restrictive than other lawful commercial or industrial businesses.
Many of the details surrounding this industry will be hashed out over the next six months and will likely see multiple revisions over the coming years as this industry takes off. Our attorneys will continue to be on the front lines of Mississippi’s medical marijuana program and will advise clients on navigating the law and regulations affecting medical marijuana businesses. If you have questions about Mississippi’s medical marijuana program or are thinking of applying for a medical marijuana business license, please contact me directly.