Medical marijuana could be available in October


Podcast: Medical marijuana could hit the shelves in October

Melvin Robinson, the executive director of the Mississippi Trade Association, joins Mississippi Today’s Adam Ganucheau and Geoff Pender to discuss updates on the state’s rollout of its program.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Health Department: Mississippi medical marijuana months away

205 views – WXXV Staff – 2022-06-07 14:30:00

Waveland Mayor Looking To Open Medical Marijuana Facility In The City

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — It could be the end of the year before is available in Mississippi because businesses need time to receive licenses and to grow, test and prepare to sell the products, state Health Department officials said Monday.

The department opened the licensing application process last week for patients and caregivers interested in using medical as allowed under a new state law; for…

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Medical marijuana application signups at over 1,800


Mississippi’s medical marijuana application portal already has more than 1,800 users 

Mississippi’s license portal is shy of a week old but more than 1,800 people have already registered for online accounts to apply for licenses, the state Department of Health announced Monday. 

“If you can shop on Amazon you can probably work through the portal,” said Kris Jones, the director of Mississippi’s new medical marijuana program.

The program is still in its early stages and leaders don’t expect medical marijuana to be available to purchase for another six months. 

“I know everyone would love for it to be up in running,” said Jim Craig, the director of the Office of Health Protection. “It looks like it will be the end of the year that we see products.” 

About 85% of those who have made accounts on the new portal are patients seeking treatment. But 15 businesses and nine medical practitioners have completed their applications, Jones said during a Monday press conference. A dozen people have also submitted applications for work permits, which are required for marijuana-related jobs. 

The new portal is the first step for patients to eventually receive a medical marijuana card; for doctors, optometrists and nurse practitioners to become certified providers; for facilities to receive licensing to grow, process and test marijuana; and for businesses and their workers to become certified to transport cannabis and dispose of its waste. 

The portal does not handle applications for those hoping to open dispensaries. Those applications will be processed by the Mississippi Department of Revenue. The department is scheduled to begin accepting those applications on July 1. 

READ MORE: Inside a $30 million bet on Mississippi’s medical marijuana industry

Jones said all applications that have come through the portal are still under review and the number of applications is growing daily. 

While hopeful medical marijuana patients can make accounts and begin the application process through the new portal, none of them can receive their license to buy medical cannabis until they’ve met with a certified doctor or practitioner. 

No one is certified yet to offer that care but doctors’ applications will be processed within 30 days, according to the program’s rules. Jones said approved providers and dispensaries will eventually be listed on the health department website to assist patients. 

Craig touted the regulation requirements deployed to manage the state’s processing labs, which are among the businesses that can now apply to be licensed. These labs will test THC levels – the chemical in marijuana that produces the feeling of being high – as well as for possible contaminants in products. 

Craig called this one of the key pieces to product safety in the state. Another safety measure is limiting advertising and marketing options so medical marijuana “isn’t something very attractive to kids,” Craig said. 

Medical marjinaua businesses cannot be on social media, for example. Businesses are limited to creating just a website and logo.

More than two dozen Mississippi cities opted out of the medical marijuana program. Although that limits where medical marijuana businesses can open and operate, it does not prevent licensed patients in those areas from using and buying medical marijuana. 

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Podcast: When can Mississippians get medical marijuana?


Podcast: When can Mississippians get medical marijuana?

Ken Newburger, executive director and founder of the Mississippi Association, gives an update on Mississippi’s fledgling medical program, which was passed into law by the state Legislature in February. Newburger said it will probably be late this year or early next year before patients can receive medical marijuana.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Mockingbird Cannabis gears up to open medical marijuana operation


Inside a $30 million bet on Mississippi’s medical marijuana industry

In an unincorporated area outside Raymond stands what its chief executive claims will be the largest growing and manufacturing operation in Mississippi, if not the southeastern United States. 

The 163,000-square-foot behemoth once housed the state’s Department of Revenue but is now the home of Mockingbird , a $30 million bet on the state’s medical marijuana industry.

The facility includes 16 growing rooms, each capable of producing 250 to 300 pounds of marijuana every eight weeks.  It will be operated by more than 200 employees, with the lowest paid workers making $17 per hour.

Clint Patterson, chief executive officer of Mockingbird Cannabis, said he expects that they’ll see the demand for that volume of product since 74% of voters approved the medical marijuana program. 

“I think that if we were really being transparent and honest, there’s probably a billion dollar industry in cannabis right now in Mississippi,” Patterson said. “It’s just not legal.”

Patterson, a former prosecutor and the son of a nondenominational pastor, is an unlikely marijuana kingpin. 

Even though cannabis was illegal in Oklahoma, Patterson’s home state, he claims he never thought of the drug as bad or dangerous.

“I was definitely for regulating and legalizing,” Patterson said. “So when that happened, I jumped in.” 

Patterson’s marijuana business in Oklahoma started small, with just a 1,200-square-foot lab that manufactured vape cartridges. That then grew into six different growing and manufacturing locations.

“Oklahoma is the hardest place to compete in the country, and we do what we do pretty well here,” Patterson said. “That gave us the confidence to go to other states that had better situations, business-wise, than Oklahoma.”

A look inside the 163,000 square-foot Mockingbird Cannabis facility, currently under construction in Raymond, Tuesday, May 10, 2022.

Slates Veazey, a Jackson attorney who advises cannabis businesses, said that it’s impossible to predict how big medical marijuana is going to be in Mississippi, but that it will undoubtedly be a large economic engine in the state.

“There’s a lot of interest in this new industry … in every state that has legalized medical marijuana you’ve seen big businesses and smaller mom-and-pop types pop up, compete and be successful,” Veazey said.

Patterson said that Mockingbird is the culmination of everything they learned from operating in Oklahoma. Putting all parts of the operation under one roof will reduce overhead costs. 

The science around marijuana production is also constantly changing, Patterson said. Everything from how the plants are lit and fed has evolved since they started building Mockingbird. For the former, they’ve switched from incandescent light bulbs to more energy-efficient LEDs that can be raised and lowered. They also partnered with Upchurch Plumbing to develop a computerized fertigation system, which combines the agricultural fertilization and irrigation processes to deliver nutritional cocktails tailored for the plant’s stage of development.

“What we thought we were on the cutting edge of two years ago, nobody even does anymore,” Patterson said “ … This really is the most evolved, state-of-the-art facility that we could even design.”

Patterson said that when medical marijuana was legalized in Oklahoma, large out-of-state companies came in and took most of the market share. As a result, the profits left the state. 

Knowing that Mississippi, like Oklahoma, is one of the poorest states in the nation, Patterson said he and his team decided they would work to prevent that if they were going to become one of the major players in Mississippi’s medical marijuana industry. 

“We took a lot of time, met a lot of people here and raised most of our money from Mississippians … We’re going to make a lot of money here, and we wanted it to make sure it’d have the desired effect,” Patterson said. 

Mockingbird’s in-state investors didn’t back out after the overturned the medical marijuana program voters approved in 2020 on a constitutional technicality. 

“We got everybody together and said:  ‘Hey, 74% of the state voted for this. There’s going to be a program, it just might not happen right now,’” Patterson said. 

One of those investors is Leah Vincent of Pickens. Vincent pooled money with her husband in late 2019 to invest in Mockingbird.

After the state Supreme Court overturned Initiative 65, Vincent saw the move as just delaying the inevitable. 

“It’s f—ing Mississippi,” Vincent said. “They just have to drag things out. And it’s all about saving political face. I’ve lived here in Mississippi my whole life, so it was expected but still frustrating.”

Vincent and her husband see their investment as a retirement plan and are confident that recreational marijuana will be legalized in Mississippi eventually.

“We knew that Mississippi is going to be different (than other legal states),”  Vincent said. “But down the road it’s going to be bigger everywhere. I mean, it’s coming.”

A plumber works on the watering system in a growing room at the Mockingbird Cannabis facility, currently under construction in Raymond, Tuesday, May 10, 2022.

Even though it took longer than they anticipated for the Legislature to pass a medical marijuana bill, Mockingbird never stopped building. Patterson said he thinks other up and coming marijuana businesses did the exact opposite. 

“They’re going to be a little slower to start,” Patterson said. “We took a risk and bet on the state doing what we felt was the right thing to do, and they did it. So we’re ready and primed, and we’ll take advantage.”

Patterson estimates that Mississippi will collect between $150 to 200 million in tax revenue and another $50 to 100 million in business fees over the first full year of the medical marijuana program.

He didn’t provide a source for those estimates when asked by Mississippi Today.

That eye-popping figure would make medical marijuana a larger source of tax revenue than the state’s casino industry, which put $153,724,705 into the state’s coffers during the 2021 fiscal year. That would also rival the state’s alcohol, beer and tobacco sales, which generated a combined $283,667,815 in tax revenue over the same period.

That would also be more tax revenue than has been generated by Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry, which is widely seen as a de facto recreational program due to the lax requirements for getting a medical marijuana card.

“Ten percent of our population currently has a medical marijuana card … and two to three people are using each one of those cards … I had no idea there were so many ill people in Oklahoma,” Oklahoma state Rep. Scott Fetgatter told Mississippi’s Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee during a June 2021 hearing.

Between Oklahoma’s legalization of medical marijuana in 2018 and May 2020, the state collected just $110 million from the state’s 7% marijuana tax and another $138 million from state and local sales taxes, according to the Oklahoman.

The Mississippi Department of Health plans to start accepting online license applications for medical marijuana patients and businesses next month. 

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

28 cities opted out of medical marijuana


At least 28 cities have opted out of medical marijuana, but the state is not keeping track

Editor’s note: A full list of cities and counties that opted out are included at the bottom of this story.

At least 28 cities and a dozen counties completely opted out of Mississippi’s program by the May 3 deadline, but the state’s health department isn’t keeping an official list of all the municipalities restricting businesses.  

It is also unclear if the Department of Revenue, the other state agency charged with running and overseeing the program, has any sort of official list of local governments who don’t want to participate. The agency didn’t respond to a request for comment by the time of publishing.

Both agencies will soon be accepting applications to administer licenses for the state’s long-awaited medical marijuana program. 

The does have an optional verification form for municipalities on its website, but in a statement MSDH said “there is no mandate for local governments to report to us that they are opting out.” The department also said it does not have a comprehensive list. 

As a result, the most complete list showing which areas have opted out of the program was put together by the Mississippi Cannabis Trade Association, a business and advocate group. Their list shows cities around Jackson and counties in the Delta choosing not to allow dispensaries, cultivation and production facilities to open in their areas. 

Ken Newburger, the director of the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association, said the law itself didn’t include a directive for municipalities to report. At the same time, the lack of an official list at this point shouldn’t embolden anyone to attempt to get around the system when it’s time to put in applications, he said. 

“If you try to open a dispensary in a city that has opted out, the local officials have every power to 1. Stop you and 2. Report you to the state,” Newburger said. 

There has been some confusion in the week after the opt-out deadline. Flowood, for example, voted to opt out of all three categories the law allows cities to have a say in: distribution, cultivation, and processing products. Yet, some thought the city must have opted in because it will have a testing facility.

But testing facilities aren’t one of the categories municipalities can control – so the city’s medical marijuana status won’t affect the testing facility slated to open there.  

READ MORE: As Mississippi cities opt out of medical marijuana, business hopefuls shut out

Each county’s decision to opt out only covers its unincorporated areas, meaning some cities within opt-out counties are still able to have businesses in the program. Patients who live in opt-out areas can still possess and take medical marijuana. 

The trade association is working with advocates and entrepreneurs in opt-out areas to sign petitions that would trigger a special election over the matter. Local governments that opted out also have the choice to opt back in at any time.

Those that didn’t opt out by the May 3 deadline, however, don’t have any flexibility.

Beginning in June, the health department says it plans to begin accepting online applications for licenses for patients, medical practitioners, cultivation facilities, processing facilities, testing facilities, waste disposal businesses and transportation businesses. 

The Department of Revenue is responsible for licensing dispensaries and will start accepting applications in July. The agency now has waiver forms available that allow potential businesses to get permission from schools or churches to operate if they’re less than 1,000 feet away but no closer than 500 feet. 

Without a waiver, dispensaries must be at least 1,000 feet away. The law also doesn’t allow dispensaries to be within 1,500 feet of each other. 

READ MORE: New medical marijuana law draws millions in Mississippi investment

Melvin Robinson III, the spokesman for the trade association, said so far the early stages of the program and its rules are rolling out as expected. 

“Everyone is excited as it gets closer to the date,” Robinson said.

Given the interest, Robinson said he won’t be surprised if the agencies handling licensing wind up hitting a backlog in applications. He expects their websites to be swamped once they start accepting online applications this summer.  

Newberger said the health department is using a portal for applications that has been used and tested in other states. He, too, expected an application rush.

“Not everyone who applies is going to get one,” he said. 

The Department of Health has said it plans on a 30-day approval period for its business and physician related licenses and a five-day period for patients. 

Cities that opted out of dispensaries and cultivation/processing

  • Amory
  • Belmont
  • Brandon
  • Booneville
  • Caledonia
  • Carrollton
  • Clinton
  • D’Iberville
  • Ecru
  • Flora
  • Gluckstad
  • Greenwood
  • Horn Lake
  • Kilmichael
  • Lucedale
  • Madison
  • New Albany
  • Noxapater 
  • Pontotoc
  • Ridgeland
  • Southaven 
  • Sumrall
  • Tishomingo 
  • Vaiden 

Cities that don’t allow dispensaries but do allow cultivation and processing

  • Winona 
  • North Carrollton

Counties that opted out of dispensaries and cultivation/processing (only applies to unincorporated areas)

  • Carroll County
  • Leflore County
  • Lincoln County
  • Newton County
  • Neshoba County
  • Pearl River County
  • Pontotoc County
  • Tippah County
  • Union County
  • Choctaw County
  • Lauderdale County

Counties that don’t allow dispensaries but do allow cultivation/processing (only applies to unincorporated areas) 

  • Jones County
  • Madison County

Clarification 5/11/22: This story has been updated to show Madison County has opted out of dispensaries but does allow cultivation.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

What to know about marijuana legalization laws in Southern states

286 views – The American South – 2022-05-03 06:01:19

Marijuana plants grown at the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi through the National Institute on Drug Abuse Drug Supply Program.

As a region, the South has been comparably slow to embrace marijuana reform until recently. In the last year, Mississippi and Alabama lawmakers legalized the use of marijuana for qualified medical conditions. Louisiana has taken several steps to expand its program, including authorizing the use of in its raw flower form. North Carolina may consider a medical…

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Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association teams up with COVA Software to hold dispensary seminar

Biloxi - Local News Feed Images 002 – Janae Jordan – 2022-03-22 17:52:46

The Mississippi Association, also known as 3MA, partnered with COVA software to host a seminar in for those interested in opening a medical marijuana dispensary in Mississippi.

Many people packed the Hilton Garden Inn Hotel in Gulfport, eager to get started in the dispensary business. To make sure those interested had the proper information, Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association and…

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Physician advocates for benefits of medical marijuana


This Mississippi doctor could use medical marijuana. So could many of her patients.

Talyr Hall, a 30-year-old Brookhaven native and resident physician at Wesley Medical Center in Hattiesburg, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2016 while she was in medical school.

Her life since then has been a painful cycle of intensive treatments and medications that have life-altering side effects. One of the most painful symptoms of multiple sclerosis is spasticity, or abnormal muscle tightness due to prolonged contraction. Spasticity was not fixed by a stem cell transplant she had in 2018, and the side effects were not completely alleviated through powerful prescription medicines.

“A lot of patients have side effects (of medication) that most people don’t want to deal with,” Hall said. “Some of the side effects are worse than the treatment.”

While taking an immunosuppressant medication, Hall was sick every week for about three months. She said that she contracted every contagious illness that her patients had. 

“I didn’t have an immune system to fight off anything, so that was frustrating,” she said. Hall also had a slow heart rate as a side effect to the medication — her heart rate never went over 50, which made her physically weak.

But after Mississippi lawmakers legalized in February, Hall sees some promise both for herself and for many of her patients.

Hall says that she would be a medical marijuana patient if it weren’t for her job, which currently prohibits use of the drug. She sees the benefit of the plant and how it can help her patients. 

“As a physician, I have patients that would benefit from it,” Hall said. “I do have a condition where medical marijuana would help, but I’d rather be an advocate for other people.”

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, studies have generally shown that some medical marijuana products help with symptoms of pain and spasticity, but more research is needed.

Medical marijuana is often to other medications that are pushed by pharmaceutical companies. But Hall sees the need for both and rejects the stigmas of medical marijuana. 

“It’s a naturally occurring substance,” she said. “I do know of people, not personally, but I’ve heard and I’ve had patients tell me that they go and buy it from the street which is terrifying because you don’t know what’s in it. I think it’s just like any other medicine. We prescribe medicine that has side effects all the time, and people take those because it is marketed as a medicine, whereas (medical marijuana) is not chemically modified and it grows naturally.”

During her experience, she has seen several patients take multiple medications to combat the side effects of other medications. 

“There is still use for pharmaceuticals, but I think there are some things that we could use instead,” Hall said. “We deal with a lot of polypharmacy, especially in elderly patients who are on different medications. I think medical marijuana could help with this.”

When Gov. Tate Reeves signed the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act in February, the governor said that medical marijuana could potentially lead to increased recreational marijuana use and less people working. 

Hall’s perspective of the new law is different. 

“There will always be people who take advantage the system, but you have to do what benefits the people who would benefit from it,” Hall said. “You shouldn’t punish the ones who will benefit from it just because there are people who can’t play by the rules.”

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Medical marijuana entrepreneurs shut out by local leaders


As Mississippi cities opt out of medical marijuana, business hopefuls shut out

Mississippians hoping to start businesses are up against a new obstacle: city aldermen. 

Despite voters overwhelmingly passing Initiative 65 to create a medical marijuan program in November 2020, the state supreme court struck it down on constitutional technicality. After months of uncertainty, Gov. Tate Reeves signed the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act into law in February 2022. Now, some people hoping to get a foothold in the industry are being blocked by their elected officials.

One Mississippi pharmacist’s plans to open a dispensary in Brandon are paused indefinitely and cultivators with hopes of growing the plant in nearby cities are facing the same hurdles. 

Four city boards in Brandon, Ridgeland, Gluckstadt and have already voted to sit out of the state’s medical marijuana program and at least a few others from Winona to Sumrall are likely to take up their own opt-out vote ahead of the state’s May deadline. Patients in opt-out cities can still possess medical , but the municipalities won’t allow dispensaries or cultivators to open businesses within their limits – at least for now. 

“This was expected,” said Slates Veazey, a Jackson attorney and expert in cannabis law. “It’s something businesses and the industry have been watching closely. More cities are likely to do the same.” 

Advocates for medical marijuana call the choice to sit out the program short sighted. City leaders say they’re just being careful: They’d rather see how medical marijuana businesses play out in other cities before allowing them in their own communities. 

READ MORE: New medical marijuana law draws millions in Mississippi investment

If there is anything Mississippi’s cannabis businesses have grown used to, it’s hold ups. 

Veazey said past May, businesses will still be up against zoning laws even in cities that haven’t opted out. The new program, for example, only allows grow operations to open in areas zoned for agricultural or industrial use. While counties may rezone areas to accommodate for the new businesses, some counties could also take the opposite approach.

“Some of the folks who have been planning this for awhile have had informal conversations with local officials to get some assurances,” said Veazey, who advises cannabis businesses as an attorney with the Bradley law firm. “Already, there are only so many pieces of property these businesses can be located.” 

During a public hearing earlier this month in Brandon, Buell Polk – who owns a chain of local pharmacies – told the board of aldermen his hopes of turning a long-vacant bank into a dispensary nearby one of his existing Polk’s Drugs shops.

“I’ve been dispensing medicinals in Brandon and Rankin County well over 50 years,” he told the board. “I think I’m qualified. I’ve been dispensing drugs all these years…I think we can do a good job.” 

He said his could-be business would be near several assisted living facilities and nursing homes, the city’s major hospital, and four pharmacies. It would be centrally located for people with severe or terminal illnesses who qualify for medical marijuana under the new state law.

“Give us the opportunity to help these people,” Polk said. 

Cities have the option to opt out of just dispensaries, just cultivation operations or both. Brandon’s economic development director, Todd Troxler, asked the board to consider allowing indoor marijuana growing facilities.

Businesses have already started building facilities in the state, taking over abandoned warehouses with the promises of upwards of 100 jobs. 

“If you opt out, we don’t even have a chance to get one,” Troxler told the board.

Ultimately Brandon’s board voted 5-2. The city’s mayor said he didn’t see the harm in waiting to see how the program worked elsewhere first. 

Cities can opt back into the program. But if they don’t opt out before May 3, they have no flexibility if they want out. 

In Ridgeland, the vote to opt out was unanimous. Pass Christian’s board voted the same way, making it the first Gulf Coast City to opt out. 

“We did the right thing,” said Pass Christian Mayor Jimmy Rafferty. “We can look at other towns, get key learnings from them and decide if it’s the right thing for Pass Christian.” 

Residents and leaders across these cities expressed concerns over increasing to needing time to sort out their city’s zoning codes. 

Mississippi’s newest city, Gluckstadt, voted 3-2 to opt out this month. Despite being home to a little over 3,000 residents, the city’s mayor said it still had numerous inquiries about potential businesses.

Gluckstadt’s mayor, Walter Morrison, said his city’s standing as a newly designated municipality puts it in a unique spot. There is still a lot their community is establishing without the addition of a new industry.

A grower interested in opening a cultivation facility in Gluckstadt told city leaders he could bring dozens of jobs with average salaries of $60,000, said alderman Jayce Powell. Dispensary sales taxes would likely up the city’s revenue.

“Financially it’s very beneficial,” Morrison said. “But everything brings with it some cost. What if crime does really increase in the next year and I don’t have a dept to combat that?”

Powell said he’s frustrated. The city’s citizens largely voted in favor of medical marijuana in 2020. It’s more than just about economic impacts – it’s access. 

Carroll County’s sheriff has urged the county to opt out. The police chief of Cliton also told the city’s aldermen to be cautious about allowing the program too quickly. 

Several studies have shown medical marijuana doesn’t correlate to higher crime rates, but it does generally make marijuana more accessible to those who are not prescribed it. 

“We definitely are disappointed that those four municipalities have decided to opt-out. Especially considering that over a combined 127,000 voters in the counties those municipalities are located in, voted for Medical Cannabis in 2020,” said Melvin Robinson, the spokesman for the Mississippi Cannabis Trade Association. 

Residents in each of the affected cities have started up petitions to opt back into the program, according to the association. The petitions require 1,500 signatures – or 20% of the electorate, whatever is less – to trigger a special election. 

The election to overthrow the opt-out would have to be held within 60 days of the petition’s file date. 

Those who support medical marijuana aren’t taking the opt-outs without recourse. The trade association is hosting a signature drive in Brandon on Saturday. 

It’s inside Buell Polk’s pharmacy. 

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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