Citing concerns over zoning and a lack of guidance from the state, officials from Horn Lake and Madison announced April 5 that their cities will opt out of participating in Mississippi’s medical cannabis program.
In Horn Lake, the state’s 10th largest city of roughly 27,500 people who reside just across the border from Memphis, Tenn., the board of aldermen voted, 7-0, to opt out but agreed to form a committee to work with state lawmakers on the possibility of opting in at a later date, The DeSoto Times-Tribune reported.
And in Madison, the state’s 14th largest city of roughly 25,500 people in the Jackson metropolitan area, council members unanimously opted out over what Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler called limitations on zoning authority, NBC-affiliate WLBT reported.
Hawkins Butler challenged the legality of citizen-led Initiative 65 leading up to the November 2020 election.
Under the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act, legislation Gov. Tate Reeves signed into law on Feb. 2, municipalities have 90 days, or until May 3, to decide whether to opt out of allowing medical cannabis businesses in their jurisdictions.
Making Mississippi the 37th state to legalize medical cannabis without low-THC restrictions, Reeves’ ink came 456 days after voters approved Initiative 65 in the 2020 election. That ballot initiative was later struck down by the Mississippi Supreme court, motivating state lawmakers to act on the issue.
While much attention is on Jackson, Gulfport and Southaven—Mississippi’s three most populous cities—Horn Lake is the largest city to opt out so far. Brandon and Ridgeland, the state’s 15th and 16th largest cities, also opted out in early March.
Horn Lake officials stated a lack of clarity from the state Legislature as the reasoning behind their vote, the Times-Tribune reported.
“People need this. I get it,” Ward 4 Alderman Dave Young said. “The issue is, I don’t want us to be on the fall-down side of this and make a mistake that later on we are going to regret as a city. It’s coming. We know that. But we don’t need to be the mule stuck in the mud on this.”
In Madison, Hawkins Butler posted a statement on social media Tuesday to announce the city’s decision to opt out, WLBT reported.
“Our community is our priority,” the mayor said. “The limitations over our zoning authority, the waiver to allow dispensaries and grow facilities closer to our churches, schools and daycares without notice to the public, and the increased danger to our first responders are only some of the factors that guided our decision.”
Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite expressed similar concerns over zoning in the weeks following Reeves’ signing of the legislation, saying he wanted to consult with attorneys to determine if the law allows for the city to zone where dispensaries can operate before making a decision, FOX 13 Memphis reported.
The Mississippi Department of Revenue, which is responsible for licensing medical cannabis dispensaries in the state, has zoning guidelines available on its website under the “General Cannabis Dispensary License Information” section.
Some requirements for dispensaries include:
- Proof that main entrance of proposed location is not within 1,000 feet of the property boundary line of any school, church or daycare (Distance Waiver form required if within 1,000 feet)
- No medical cannabis dispensary may be located within a 1,500-foot radius from the main point of entry of the dispensary to the main point of entry of another medical cannabis dispensary
- Proof that location meets county or city zoning/sworn statement certifying proposed location is compliant with said restrictions
Meanwhile, in Tupelo, Mississippi’s seventh largest city of roughly 38,500 people residing in the northeastern part of the state, elected officials unanimously approved zoning parameters for growing and selling medical cannabis during a city council meeting April 5, the Daily Journal reported.
The approved ordinance was drafted using existing laws governing liquor sales and pharmacies as a blueprint to prohibit cannabis facilities from being located within 1,000 feet of churches, schools and childcare centers, the news outlet reported. The ordinance also includes a 1,500-foot buffer zone between dispensaries, per the Revenue Department guidelines.
While some city councils have already voted to opt out of allowing cannabis businesses to operate in their jurisdictions, 20% or 1,500 registered voters (whichever is fewer) may petition to put the question on their local ballots, according to Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).
Under the new state law, Mississippi officials have 150 days (the first week of July) to begin licensing dispensaries, according to MPP.
According to the Revenue Department, first-year licensees must pay a one-time $15,000 application fee and a $25,000 annual license fee.
In addition, the Mississippi State Department of Health announced plans to begin accepting online license applications in June for patients and medical practitioners, as well as cannabis cultivation, processing, testing and transportation facilities.