Next Steps for Medical Marijuana Businesses in Mississippi
Mississippians overwhelmingly passed Initiative 65 on November 3rd, which was a huge win for patients and their families seeking relief from the symptoms of debilitating medical conditions. Access to this life-changing medicine will only become a reality when licensed businesses begin supplying patients with high-quality, regulated medical marijuana products. Over the past three weeks, we have received numerous calls and emails from people interested in obtaining a license to participate on the business-side of the new medical marijuana program, from seasoned entrepreneurs to small-town locals passionate about helping others.
As I wrote about previously, the Mississippi Department of Health will administer the medical marijuana program and must adopt regulations by July 1, 2021, and begin issuing patient ID cards and business licenses by August 15, 2021. That aggressive timeline means that entrepreneurs and business owners who are thinking of entering this new industry should be making plans now, and many of our existing clients already took initial steps even before the general election vote.
Industry member licensure can take many forms, though best practices from other states suggest multiple licensure options covering, at a minimum, cultivation, manufacturing, testing, and dispensing. An industry member can choose to be fully vertically integrated, meaning covering all aspects of the supply chain from cultivation to retail, though this should not be a requirement. Some licensees may opt to specialize in one segment and provide services up or down the supply chain to adjacent businesses. Mississippi’s program will likely follow this model and give business owners the option to choose which license (or licenses) fits their business plan.
The Health Department’s application process is expected to track that of other regulated industries and require applicants to provide personal and background information, as well as corporate documentation about members/shareholders if the applicant is an entity. An applicant may also have to supply proof of control of a licensed premises, such as a deed or lease, as well as a diagram of a building or operational area. A delay in supplying any of this information could delay an application being approved or result in outright rejection. Though regulations on the qualifications of applicants and provisions specific to operating a medical marijuana business have not been released yet, applicants can take positive steps now to prepare for application submission next year.
Here are a few actions to take in advance of the August 2021 program launch:
- Write a business plan that addresses a concept, market potential, location, and funding needs.
- Hire a business lawyer with experience in forming legal entities in highly regulated industries to register your business and draft necessary corporate documents.
- Raise capital through debt or equity financing.
- Assess and secure available real estate with zoning restrictions in mind.
- Stay engaged in developments in law and regulation (state and federal) that impact the medical marijuana industry.
- Check in with (or get to know) local city councils, boards of aldermen, and zoning boards that can impact how and where your business operates.
- Network with other future-industry members to find potential partners, customers, and opportunities.
- Follow and subscribe to marijuana-focused news outlets, industry trade publications, and thought leader social media accounts such as Marijuana Moment, Marijuana Business Daily, and Cannabis Business Times.
While much of Mississippi’s medical marijuana program is to be determined through regulations that haven’t been adopted yet, a business that takes the right steps now will have an advantage over those that wait until August 2021 or later. If you have questions about participating in Mississippi’s medical marijuana program as a licensee, email me at email@example.com or call me directly at 601-487-4550.