Mississippi voters recently approved Initiative 65 – a constitutional amendment that legalizes medical marijuana statewide. The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) will oversee the medical marijuana program to establish and manage production, regulation, and licensing structures. Initiative 65 requires that regulations for all aspects of the program, including production and licensing for sale, must be in place by July 1, 2021, and officials will have until August 15 to begin issuing business licenses and medical marijuana patient identification cards. The MSDH is now in the planning stages of the many elements needed to implement a successful medical marijuana program for the state. Keep a close eye on the MSDH website for program details and updates as they become available.
Unlike many other medical marijuana programs, Mississippi will not limit the number of treatment centers (dispensaries) that will be allowed. Local municipalities may enact and enforce zoning ordinances and regulations on medical cannabis businesses. However, these ordinances can be “no more restrictive than those for a licensed retail pharmacy” or for “other comparably sized and staffed lawful commercial or industrial usinesses.” With a clear timetable in place and no limit on licensees, Mississippi has poised itself to be one of the country’s most liberal medical marijuana programs.
Currently, the state has not established a licensing system and is not accepting applications at this time. However, it is never too early to begin developing your business plan and scouting potential locations and conducting feasibility studies to ensure long-term success. The cannabis industry moves very fast, and with aggressive deadlines already established, we expect a rapid startup and a highly competitive market. Initiative 65 permits physicians to recommend medical marijuana to patients with the following medical conditions:
· Epilepsy or other seizures
· Parkinson’s disease
· Huntington’s disease
· Muscular dystrophy
· Multiple sclerosis
· Post-traumatic stress disorder
· Positive status for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
· Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
· Chronic or debilitating pain
· Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
· Agitation of dementias
· Crohn’s disease
· Ulcerative colitis
· Sickle-cell anemia
· Autism with aggressive or self-injurious behaviors
· Pain refractory to appropriate opioid management
· Spinal cord disease or severe injury
· Intractable nausea
· Severe muscle spasticity
To obtain a medical marijuana identification card, Mississippi residents suffering from one of the approved medical conditions must meet with their physician and get a “physician certification”. This certification will be a form that has been approved by the department of health and must be signed and dated by the patient’s physician. This form certifies that the patient suffers from a debilitating medical condition for which medical marijuana may mitigate the symptoms and/or effects. Physician certifications shall remain active for twelve months unless the physician specifies a shorter duration. Physician certifications are only issued after an in-person examination of the patient in Mississippi. Minors who qualify as a patient shall only be given a certification if the minor’s parent or guardian is present and provides signed consent. Once the state has approved the patient’s physician certification, they would be allowed to purchase up to 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana from a state-licensed medical marijuana treatment center. If
lawsuits do not create any unexpected hurdles, qualifying patients in Mississippi could have safe access to medical marijuana as soon as Fall of 2021.
If you are interested in exploring new cannabis business opportunities in Mississippi, now is the time to start planning! With no license limits in place, being first to market will provide a substantial competitive advantage. Working with local authorities as they develop regulations is imperative. Developing a detailed business plan, financial proforma, and cannabis facility design will help guide your project from conceptual to operational.
Contact us today if you are interested in learning more about obtaining a medical cannabis license under Mississippi’s new Medical Marijuana Program.
Andy is an Operations Advisor at Catalyst BC.