Warren County Supervisors discuss Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act

Published 3:09 pm Friday, March 18, 2022

The Warren County Board of Supervisors is weighing the county’s options following the passage of Senate Bill 2095, also known as the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act.

Cities and counties in Mississippi have until May 3 to opt out of allowing the processing, sale and distribution of medical marijuana in their areas. Board of Supervisors President Kelle Barfield said no one has called requesting the county opt out of the program, but some people have requested the county formally opt in.

“For what it’s worth, I’ve had one or two people reach out hoping we will not opt out,” Barfield said. “One gentleman called me and explained that his wife has Alzheimer’s and that (medical marijuana) apparently gives her relief. I’ve had no one come and ask that we opt out.”

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Unless city or county governments formally opt-out of the program, they will be automatically opted in on May 3. According to the Mississippi State Department of Health, the state will begin accepting online license applications in June for patients, medical practitioners, cannabis cultivation facilities, cannabis processing facilities, cannabis testing facilities, cannabis waste disposal entities and cannabis transportation entities.

Once the application process begins in June, there will be a 30-day approval time for licensure applications and a five-day approval time for program patients.

The Mississippi Department of Revenue will be responsible for the licensing of medical cannabis dispensaries.

County Attorney Blake Teller stated during Monday’s work session that he’d spoken with state senator Briggs Hopson, who clarified that cities and counties are “mutually exclusive.” That means if a city opts out of allowing medical marijuana, a county could still opt in, or vice versa. Governing bodies are also permitted to reverse their decision to opt in or out at any time.

District 3 Supervisor Shawn Jackson explained the requirements for where a medical marijuana business could be located, comparing it to Alcoholic Beverage Control’s requirements for bars and liquor stores.

“I’ve read the full bill several times. It’s a 1,000-foot allowance from churches, daycares, schools — it’s similar to ABC-type stuff,” Jackson said. “If someone sets up near a church in Warren County, unincorporated Vicksburg, we don’t have any zoning. But the state ordinance would apply.”

Jackson added that the wording of the bill could present another potential issue for medical marijuana facilities.

“One thing that was interesting is that it’s 1,000 feet from church property versus church structure,” she said. “ABC says structure, but the way (the medical marijuana bill) is written now, it says property. That could be a big issue because churches own property everywhere.”

District 2 Supervisor William Banks inquired about revenue, to which Teller responded that the county would get tax benefits from the inventory of the businesses and/or property improvements.

Jackson further elaborated, saying medical cannabis facilities would not be eligible for tax breaks.

“We cannot, and they cannot, use tax breaks associated with any type of medical marijuana activity,” she said. “There are pages and pages of language making it very clear: you can’t do fee-in-lieu, you can’t do any type of tax exemption associated with anything. They are to get no additional benefit from government entities. So if there’s any port activity or anything like that, we just have to be careful making sure that they won’t get any tax benefits.”

Warren County Tax Assessor Ben Luckett concurred, stating the valuation method for medical marijuana facilities will be “just like any other business or industry.”

So far, a handful of municipalities, including Gluckstadt and Ridgeland, have opted out of allowing medical marijuana.

Click here to read the full text of the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act.