Mississippi’s medical marijuana license process involves great lengths

Published 11:35 am Monday, June 6, 2022

The medical marijuana ordinance passed May 25 by the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen opened the door for some business people and entrepreneurs to start considering whether they should invest in operating or owning a medical marijuana dispensary in the city.

But before anyone decides whether to jump headlong into the medical cannabis business, they had better stop and take a detailed look at what they have to do before they can put an “open” sign on the door and begin selling their products.

Individuals apply for a medical cannabis dispensary license through the Mississippi State Department of Health. The license is issued by the Mississippi Department of Revenue and according to a checklist from the Department of Revenue, there are 18 steps a person has to take to apply for a license to sell medical marijuana.

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There is also a $40,000 first-year license fee paid to the state Department of Revenue that includes a $15,000 non-refundable application fee, which means an applicant will not get that money back if they don’t get a license. The subsequent license fee is $25,000 per year.

The state will levy a 12-percent tax on medical marijuana sales — the 7-percent state sales tax and a 5-percent excise tax. The city will get 18.5 percent of the sales tax collected by the state. The 5 percent excise tax revenue goes to the state.

According to the checklist, applicants for a medical marijuana license must take the following steps:

Before applying, a potential applicant must register for a Mississippi Sales Tax account and receive a sales tax permit via TAP and register with the Mississippi Secretary of State, for any applicable entity.

The following information must accompany an application for review. If all of this information is attached, the application will be considered completed and processed within 30 days.

• Legal name of the business and physical address (no post office box allowed).

• Proof of Mississippi Secretary of State registration, if applicable.

• Mississippi sales tax permit number.

• Management service agreements, if applicable.

•Deed of trust, lease agreement or contingent agreement, if applicable.

• Land survey by a Mississippi-licensed surveyor proving that the main entrance of the dispensary is not within 1,000 feet of a school, church, or childcare facility’s nearest property boundary line. The city also requires a survey.

• Waiver of minimum distance requirements (childcare, school, church), if applicable.

• Local business permit or license registration, if required by city or county (if under construction, projected date of issuance of city/county license).

• List of all parties with a 10 percent or greater economic interest.

•Acknowledgement of waiver and authorization to release information for each member.

• List of professional licenses held by each member and verification of good standing.

• Licensee certification/oath.

• Diagram of licensed premises.

• Operation plan.

• Security plan.

• First year license fees of $40,000 ($15,000 non-refundable application fee and $25,000 annual license fee)

Once the prospective dispensary owner completes the state application, they must go to the city to get their privilege license from the city, which is part of the overall application process. The city’s ordinance requires a survey of the proposed dispensary site and the documents provided to the state.

“You want to look through this checklist to make sure you do qualify to even get a license (before making future plans),” City Attorney Kim Nailor said.

Because the city’s medical marijuana ordinance requires dispensaries to be in C-4 commercial zones, she said the next step for a prospective owner would be to the city’s community development office to find the location of the C-4 zones to determine a possible site for a dispensary. Location, Nailor said, is going to be key.

“The fee for the license is $40,000, so before you make a decision to put a dispensary, you should do due diligence and find out where you can put one,” Nailor said.

“I’ve had at least four people interested in wanting to put a dispensary here in the city of Vicksburg. They were waiting for the board to pass the ordinance and where the zones (for dispensaries) might be,” she added. “Now, they are scouting possible locations once they find where they can out a dispensary they’re going to file their application with the Department of Revenue and get their license.”

According to an opinion from the Department of Revenue, a pharmacy cannot serve as a dispensary.

“A dispensary must be a separate premises from any other storefront that sells or provides services to the general public,” according to the opinion. However, “If someone plans to have the dispensary in the same location as the pharmacy, the two can be under the same roof, but cannot share a licensed floor plan, must be separated by walls and must have separate means of ingress and egress.”

The city’s ordinance, Nailor said, follows the state law and the regulations; there’s no deviation from the statute and much of what is required on the checklist are steps any business would have to do. One difference, she said, is a requirement for a property survey, service agreements and operation plans.

“There are more requirements but you operate a business and these are the requirements you have to adhere to,” she said. “There is a lot that’s required and that’s why we want to make sure that the people know what is required.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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