Coast cities, counties approaching deadline to opt-out of medical marijuana

While medical marijuana will still be legal in George County, the county will not allow businesses that grow or sell the plant to operate.
Published: Apr. 18, 2022 at 12:50 PM CDT
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LUCEDALE, Miss. (WLOX) - George County is joining other cities and counties in Mississippi who have voted against allowing medical marijuana businesses in their communities.

The George County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Monday against medical marijuana. That vote was held after a 40-minute public hearing allowing people from the community to discuss their opinions on the issue.

According to the board’s communications director Ken Flanagan, the decision was made because “the county can only opt out once but can opt in at any time in the future.”

While medical marijuana will still be legal in George County, the county will not allow businesses that grow or sell the plant to operate.

As part of the new law, Mississippi cities and counties have until May 3 to decide whether they will opt out. In addition to George County, several other cities have decided to say no to the program, including Ridgeland, Pass Christian, Brandon, Gluckstadt, Flora, Pontotoc, Madison, Clinton and Horn Lake. According to state law, cities and counties can later opt in.

According to the new law, localities may opt out by a vote of the governing body within 90 days of the bill’s passage, which is May 3. However, 20% or 1,500 voters (whichever is fewer) may then petition to put the question on the ballot, and an election must be held within 60 days.

If local government takes no action to opt out by May 2, then they will be opted in, allowing business owners to apply for a license through the state to sell medical marijuana.

Hancock County has not made a decision yet.

“We are aware of the deadline approaching and will make a final decision at our May 2 board meeting,” supervisor Scotty Adam said.

Here’s what actions localities have taken so far:

  • George County - opted out
  • Lucedale - opted out temporarily until hard rules are established
  • Pass Christian - opted out
  • Bay St. Louis - The city council voted 4-3 not to opt out on April 19.
  • Pascagoula - on the agenda a couple of weeks ago, the city did not opt out
  • Biloxi - opting out is not on any upcoming agendas
  • Gautier - opting out is not on any upcoming agendas
  • Moss Point - “We decided some time ago that we would not opt out,”, said Mayor Billy Knight.
  • Long Beach - a decision to opt in or opt out is on Tuesday’s agenda
  • Ocean Springs - no formal discussion yet
  • Jackson County - not opting out
  • Waveland - not opting out

This summer, the Mississippi Department of Health will begin accepting applications, registering practitioners and issuing registry ID cards for the program. They will also start licensing medical cannabis businesses other than dispensaries. One month after that process begins, the state will start licensing dispensaries.

To read more about the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act, click here.

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