The deadline has passed and the City of Clarksdale and Coahoma County decided to do nothing, allowing the Mississippi Cannabis Act to take effect in their jurisdictions.
Cities and counties had the option to opt out and not allow medical marijuana businesses in their community, vote to allow it or do nothing and the Mississippi Cannabis Act would automatically be allowed in their communities.
The Coahoma County Board of Supervisors discussed the issue at their March 7 meeting.
Supervisors met with Board Attorney Tom Ross to discuss the nuts and bolts of the 445-page law passed by the Mississippi Legislature in February.
Coahoma County Supervisors offered their jokes about the new law and then got serious about how it will be implemented in Coahoma County.
The board discussed how they could prohibit it in the county, but Clarksdale or any of the county’s smaller towns could allow it.
“If we opt in and people grow it, it will be regulated by the state and it will be taxed,” said Board President and Dist. 4 Supervisor Johnny Newson. “I don’t see how we can prevent it and we might hurt ourselves.”
Ross stressed the law applies to medical marijuana only and production, possession or sale of marijuana for recreational purposes is still illegal.
“I think the state has gone over this enough,” said Dist. 3 Supervisor Darrell Washington. “We’ve already voted to allow it and I say leave it alone.”
While no vote was taken by the board, that was the general consensus of all five supervisors.
Mississippi voted by more than a 70-percent margin to legalize medical marijuana in November 2020. Mississippi is now the 37th state to legalize medical marijuana.
At a Clarksdale Board of Mayor and Commissioner meeting the in late March city was informed the Mississippi Medical CANNABIS Act allows local regulations and zoning and the local government option to deny the Act. As reported in the Clarksdale Press Register, the board was told of the three options and that the deadline for a decision was May 3.
Commissioners and the mayor urged people to call them with their concerns. They then turned over the construction of the city’s ordinance on medical marijuana to its planning commission.
The Planning Commission is made up of:
• Orrden Williams – At Large
• Kinchen “Bubba” O’Keefe – At Large
• VACANT – At Large
• Harley Kittle – Ward 1
• Laurie Webb Bullock – Ward 2, Chairman
• Rev LC Tyler, II – Ward 3
• S.L. Blackburn – Ward 4
The Planning Commission is advised by City Board Attorney Melvin Miller.
The Planning Commission meets the second Tuesday of the month at 3 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall. Meetings are open to the public.
The first licenses to be given to cannabis growing, cultivation and packaging facilities can now be granted. The Mississippi State Department of Health will oversee the program.
With the Mississippi Delta known for growing just about anything, the region is expected to be a prime location for this boutique cash crop.
The Mississippi State Department of Health will license and regulate production. MSDH will also regulate packaging, advertising and distribution of medical marijuana.
Medical marijuana will be distributed based on “Mississippi Medical Cannabis Equivalency Units” which will deliver approximately 100 milligrams of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). Doctors can only prescribe six MMCEUs a week and no more than 24 MMCEUS over 30 days. That allows patients to buy about 3-ounces per month from a licensed pharmacist.
Medical marijuana can only be prescribed by a doctor – as with any prescription medicine – and possession of marijuana without a prescription will still be a crime. The prescription also requires an office visit with a doctor.
People who receive medical marijuana will be issued a card saying they are prescribed this medication.
All purchases of the drug will see a 7-percent sales tax and a 5-percent cannabis tax tacked on the sale. The 12-percent tax would see a $100 sale send $12 to the state.
Mississippi’s law prohibits the state from giving economic development incentives to the cannabis industry.
Businesses dispensing medical marijuana cannot be located within 1,000 feet of a church or school.
Studies have shown medical marijuana can ease suffering for people with debilitating conditions such as cancer, AIDS and sickle cell disease. Marijuana has also been touted as beneficial in treating epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The law allows prescription for about 20 medical diagnoses.
The law does not address if an employer, health insurer, or workers’ compensation insurer is required to pay or reimburse for costs associated with medical marijuana use.
The law also does not require an employer to permit, accommodate, or allow the use of medical marijuana by employees or require an employer to modify any job or working conditions of employees who are medical marijuana cardholders.
The law does not prohibit employers from refusing to hire applicants who are medical marijuana cardholders, or taking adverse employment action against employees who are medical marijuana cardholders.
The law does specifically prohibit “smoking medical marijuana in a public place or in a motor vehicle.”
The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) has been working to craft guidelines for the program. In fact, much of the work began after Initiative 65 passed in November 2020.
MSDH recently released initial measures, including qualifying conditions, on how to obtain a registry and identification card, how to certify as a practitioner who can prescribe medical marijuana and much more.
MSDH outlines those patients who can be prescribed medical cannabis in Mississippi. The list includes patients who have:
Cancer, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, muscular dystrophy, glaucoma, spastic quadriplegia, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, sickle cell anemia, Alzheimer’s, agitation of dementia, PTSD, autism, pain refractory to opioid management, diabetic/peripheral neuropathy, spinal cord disease, or severe injury; chronic medical treatment that causes cachexia or wasting, severe nausea, seizures, severe and persistent muscle spasms, or chronic pain.
As outlined in the law, a person may only register and receive an identification card when they are prescribed the medicine by a doctor or record. There is a $25 fee for a 12-month identification card.
An in-person assessment will be required before patient certification and a follow-up visit is required every six months.
Those applications will be available on or sooner than June 2, 2022.
A non-resident can receive two 15-day passes in a 12-month period if they need an identification card for purchase and possession of marijuana.
Any physician, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, or optometrist is qualified to register to certify patients for medical cannabis. It will require eight hours of continuing education in medical cannabis for the first year, and five hours every year after.
The opt-out clause that went into effect yesterday also allowed cities and counties to opt back in at any time. So far nearly a dozen cities across the state have opted out of joining the program, including Pass Christian, Ridgeland, Brandon, Gluckstadt, Flora, Pontotoc, Madison and Clinton.
MSDH specifies that any cultivation and processing facilities will be located in agriculture and industrial zones as well and commercial zones with a variance. The facilities must not be within 1,000-feet of a school, church or daycare unless there has been a waiver granted.
Taxes will be collected in order to support the program. All cultivation facilities will pay a 5-percent excise tax on the sales price or fair market price. The Mississippi Department of Revenue will set that fair market price of flower and trim by November 1, 2022, and will recalculate on January 1 and July 1 of every year after.
All retail purchases will also be subject to sales tax of seven percent in addition to the excise tax.