City temporarily opts out of medical marijuana program


Medical Marijuana passed in Mississippi.

Alyssa Holland, Online Newspaper Editor

    With Alabama becoming the 36th state to legalize the use of medical marijuana, Mississippi has officially joined as the 37th state to permit the use of medical marijuana.   

   The state legislature has passed the Mississippi Medical Medical Cannabis Act, that legalizes the use of medical marijuana for certain people with chronic illnesses. 

   Since the legislature passed the Mississippi medical marijuana law, it has been decided that each individual established county and city will be available to make its own choice about the verdict. 

   As of April 12, the city of Lucedale has decided to temporarily opt out of all of the available categories for medical marijuana. The categories include cultivation, processing, testing, transportation and retail dispensaries. The city has until May 3 to make a final decision on the matter but has been advised to make an absolute decision on May 1. The county made the unanimous decision on April 18, to opt out of the sale and growth. On account of the city temporarily opting out of medical marijuana, it is taking more time to deliberate and make a definite decision.

  One of the main reasons for the temporary opt-out is due to the lack of ordinances. There are currently no ordinances put into place to regulate the when, where and how for the use of medical marijuana in Lucedale. Currently, people are having to travel out of the city limits to get any of their medical marijuana needs. Any ordinance being passed in the city of Lucedale must go through a 30-day advertisement period before it can be put into effect. 

   The temporary opting out will give equal opportunity to anyone interested in purchasing a permit. For example, if the city were to opt-in right now anyone who purchases a permit will have to be grandfathered in once ordinances are put in place. This means that they would not have to abide by the rules set by the city. Permits will be available through the state starting June 1.

   With the city currently undetermined if they will opt-in or out permanently, the people of the city still have a say. If the city were to permanently opt-out it still is not officially permanent. The people of Lucedale can petition to change the law, and if 20 percent of registered voters within the city opt to change the decision the board must comply with the people. 

   If the law is passed in Lucedale, dispensaries would have certain regulations and rules they must comply with under state law.  Dispensaries must have proof that their main entrance is not within 1,000 feet of the boundary line of any school, church or daycare. Another location rule is that dispensaries cannot be located within 1,500 feet of each other. They must also meet commercial zoning requirements within the city and any city ordinances put in place. Fees for the license include a first year fee of $40,000, alongside an application fee of $15,000 and annual renewal fee of $25,000.

   All workers in the dispensaries must also hold a professional license. These work permits also have rules, such as employees must be 21 years of age, cannot have a disqualifying felony, must complete eight hours of training and thereafter have five hours of annual training to maintain a work permit.

   The agricultural community of Lucedale would also be impacted by the cultivation and testing of medical grade marijuana. The Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act requires that all medical marijuana be grown indoors in secure facilities on Mississippi soil. After all of the marijuana is grown, it also must be tested to verify it is legal medical quality. 

   Taxation of medical marijuana will also be permitted. Any licensed cultivators will charge a 5 percent excise tax to licensed dispensaries. Dispensaries will be required to charge the standard 7 percent sales tax to patients at the point of sale.

   This historical decision will impact the city of Lucedale and its citizens, while also shaping the future of the city.