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Medical Marijuana FAQ: Who can use it? Who can sell it? How to get it?

Here are the answers to many of the questions you may have now that medical marijuana is legal in Mississippi.
Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association Executive Director Ken Newburger joins us with his insight on Mississippi's law change.
Published: Feb. 2, 2022 at 5:20 PM CST
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(WLOX) - Now that medical marijuana has officially been approved in Mississippi, several people have questions about who can use it, how they can get it, when it will be available and other questions.

Senate Bill 2095 - known as the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act - became a law on Feb. 2. Now, the process begins of getting licenses for practitioners and dispensaries, as well as for patients, meaning it will be months before medical marijuana is available.

Several people have reached out with questions about the program, including who can be prescribed medical cannabis, how the licensure and certifications work, a timeline of the process, and restrictions.

Below is a list of policies, procedures and other regulations for Mississippi’s medical marijuana program.

Who can qualify for medical marijuana?

Patients who have debilitating medical conditions can be prescribed medical marijuana to help treat their illness. The debilitating medical conditions covered under the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act includes the following: Cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, muscular dystrophy, glaucoma, spastic quadriplegia, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), hepatitis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, sickle-cell anemia, Alzheimer’s disease, agitation of dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), autism, pain refractory to appropriate opioid management, diabetic/peripheral neuropathy, spinal cord disease or severe injury, or the treatment of these conditions; (ii) A chronic, terminal or debilitating disease or medical condition, or its treatment, that produces one or more of the following: cachexia or wasting syndrome, chronic pain, severe or intractable nausea, seizures, or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including, but not limited to, those characteristic of multiple sclerosis; or (iii) Any other serious medical condition or its treatment added by the Mississippi Department of Health, as provided for in Section 9 of this act.

Timeline to getting medical marijuana

After 120 days from the date of the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act, the health department will begin the licensing and registration process for practitioners, cannabis cultivation facilities, cannabis processing facilities, cannabis testing facilities, cannabis research facilities, cannabis disposal entities and cannabis transportation entities.

After 150 days, licenses for medical cannabis dispensaries will begin to be issued.

What do you need to do to get medical marijuana?

Medical cannabis required a written certification from a qualifying practitioner. The certification is good for a year unless the practitioner indicates a shorter period of time. Patients between ages 18-23 generally must have written certifications from two different practitioners from separate medical practices to qualify. (There is an exception for those who registered before they were 18 and the homebound.)

Once the patient has the certification, they must then obtain a registry identification card from the Mississippi Department of Health.

The state health department has the ultimate oversight authority over the medical cannabis program.

Certifying Practitioners

Mississippi-licensed physicians, certified nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and optometrists may sign written certifications for conditions within their scope of practice for medical cannabis if they:

  • believe the patient “would likely receive medical or palliative benefit” from medical cannabis to treat their qualifying condition;
  • have performed an in-person assessment of the patient;
  • perform a follow-up within six months to evaluate the effectiveness; and
  • have completed eight hours of continuing medical education courses on medical cannabis, plus five hours every year thereafter.

The practitioner writing the certification must also diagnose the patient with the qualifying condition. Those written certifications must be issued on forms approved by the Mississippi Department of Health.

Only doctors of medicine (M.D.) or doctors osteopathic medicine (D.O.) may sign written certifications for minors.

Possession and Purchase Limits

Possession and purchase limits are calculated based on “Medical Cannabis Equivalency Units” (MCEUs) of 3.5 grams of flower, up to 100 mg of THC in infused products, and up to one gram of concentrate. Patients may not purchase more than six MCEUs in a week (21 grams, which is less than 3/4 ounce). Patients may not purchase more than 24 MCEUs in a month (84 grams, which is less than 3 ounces). Patients may not possess more than 28 MCEUs at one time (98 grams, which is less than 3.5 ounces).

Flower cannot exceed 30% THC. Tinctures, oils, and concentrates may not exceed 60%.

Medical cannabis establishments

The following types of medical cannabis businesses will be licensed: dispensaries, cultivation facilities, processing facilities, cannabis transportation entities, disposal entities, testing facilities, and research facilities. There will be two tiers of micro-cultivator and additional tiers of cultivator, depending on size.

A medical cannabis establishment can only purchase, grow, cultivate and use cannabis that is grown and cultivated in Mississippi. No establishment can sell cannabis flower or trim that has a potency of greater than 30% total THC.

Medical marijuana dispensaries will be licensed through the Mississippi Department of Revenue. They are prohibited from being located within 1,000 feet of the nearest boundary line of any school, church or childcare facility unless the business gets a waiver.

Dispensaries must also be at least 1,500 feet from another dispensary’s entrance.

Dispensaries may be located in areas zoned commercial. Cultivation and processing facilities may be located in areas zoned industrial, commercial, or agricultural.

Dispensary staff must complete at least eight hours of continuing education on medical cannabis, plus five additional hours every year; must get a work permit, which costs $25; and must be at least 21 years old and cannot have certain felony convictions.

Other limitations:

Patients may not drive, operate a boat, train, or aircraft, or undertake any task that would be negligent or entail professional malpractice while under the influence.

Patients cannot smoke or vaporize cannabis in a motor vehicle or in public.

Patients under 21 cannot enter a dispensary without their parent or guardian.

The bill does not require insurance or state plans to cover medical cannabis.

The bill does not require any employer to allow patients to use medical cannabis or prevent them from requiring drug testing.

The bill appears to allow landlords to ban tenants from using medical cannabis at home.

Cardholders and medical cannabis establishment staffers who divert cannabis can have their ID cards revoked, in addition to facing felony penalties.

Local control and bans:

The governing authorities of a municipality or the board of supervisors of a county may choose to opt out of allowing the cultivation, processing, sale or distribution of medical cannabis and cannabis products.

Localities may regulate the time, place, and manner of medical cannabis businesses, but they may not ban them or “make their operation impracticable.”

Cannabis businesses must be in compliance with local zoning requirements.

Cannabis businesses may be required to get local permits or licenses and to pay a reasonable fee that is consistent with other non-cannabis businesses.

Localities may opt out by a vote of the governing body within 90 days of the bill’s passage. However, 20% or 1,500 voters (whichever is fewer) may then petition to put the question on the ballot. The election must be within 60 days.

Regulations:

The State Health Department will create regulations, including for seed-to-sale tracking, recordkeeping, oversight, security, health and safety, transportation, employee training, capital requirements, standards for safe processing, and to ensure safe and accurate labeling and packaging. MDOH will also restrict advertising, signage, and displays.

Any cannabis that is grown and cultivated in Mississippi cannot be transported out of the state for use elsewhere. Patients and caregivers are not allowed to grow their own cannabis. Cultivation, harvesting, processing, and packaging must occur in the registered enclosed, locked, and secure facility.

Cannabis products must have what the bill calls “a notice of harm” regarding the use of cannabis products. Edibles cannot be formed into images of cartoons, toys, or animals.

There is no numerical cap on business licenses. No individual or business may have more than 10% ownership interest in more than the following: one cultivation license, one processing license, and up to four dispensaries.

Delivery and curbside pickup is prohibited. (However, rulemaking says MDOH rules will include, “Protocol development for the safe delivery of medical cannabis from dispensaries to cardholders.”

The health department may fine, suspend, or revoke a license for violations of the law and regulations.

Legal protections:

Patients can designate a caregiver to assist them with the medical use of cannabis, such as by picking up their cannabis from a dispensary. Caregivers can assist no more than five patients, except that the limit does not apply when the caregiver works at a health facility or similar institution that provides care to patients.

Caregivers generally must be 21 (unless they are the parent or guardian of a patient) and cannot have certain prior felony convictions. If a patient needs more than one caregiver, they must submit information documenting that more caregivers are needed due to the patient’s age or medical condition.

The bill provides that medical cannabis-related contracts related to activities that are legal under the law are enforceable.

Registered patients are protected from discrimination in child custody disputes and in reference to gun rights.

Non-Mississippi residents — and individuals who have been Mississippi residents for less than 45 days — could register with MDOH to use medical cannabis if they: 1) are certified to use medical cannabis in their home state; 2) have a practitioner statement attesting they have a condition that qualifies in Mississippi; and 3) submit any documentation required by MDOH. They may only register for a total of two 15-day periods every year. Each registration costs $75.

Taxation and Fees

Nonrefundable application fees for licenses range from $1,500 for an up to 1,000 square foot canopy micro-cultivator to $60,000 for a tier 6 cultivator with a canopy of at least 100,000 square feet.

Annual license fees range from $2,000 for an up to 1,000 square foot canopy micro-cultivator to $100,000 for a tier 6 cultivator.

Cannabis will be taxed at wholesale at 5% of the price, in addition to standard sales taxes. In cases of common ownership, the excise tax will be based on fair market value.

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