A few Mississippi dispensaries were ready to open to customers on Jan. 25. Mississippi Trade Association Executive Director Melvin C. Robinson stood outside one of the state’s licensed dispensaries, The Cannabis Company, to welcome customers. “It’s a very exciting day today. History has been made in Brookhaven,” Robinson said.
The first customer at Brookhaven-based The Cannabis Company was Debbie McDermott. “I do suffer from chronic pain and I have some other issues,” she said about why she became a medical cannabis cardholder. The dispensary experienced a setback due to issues with the METRC point-of-sale system, which caused a two-and-a-half-hour delay before McDermott could purchase her medicine.
The Cannabis Company co-owner Le Anne Penn told The Daily Leader that she changed her career to enter the cannabis industry. “It has been a fun journey. I have enjoyed it. The business will be different from what I was doing before,” Penn said. “I was a body technician for 40 years. I decided to pursue this because I saw the potential in the industry and the need in people. Hopefully this will help people who need it or can’t take opioids or other medicines.”
Other news outlets reported dispensaries selling on Jan. 25 as well, with more expecting to receive their shipments over the weekend.
According to Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association Executive Director Ken Newburger, the launch of this program has been a long time coming. “We have been working since 2018 to get medical marijuana in the hands of patients in Mississippi, and it’s surreal to see it finally come to fruition,” said Newburger. “This is only the beginning. More and more businesses will be harvesting, testing, and getting their products on the shelves in the coming months; therefore, more patients will have access to this medicine at certified businesses all across the state.”
Medical cannabis cardholders may purchase up to 3.5 grams per day, six days a week, or a total of 3 ounces every month. Currently, the state allows patients to use medical cannabis if they suffer from one of the approved qualifying conditions. This includes a total of 20 conditions, such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, glaucoma, Crohn’s disease, autism, and muscular dystrophy. In addition to that, six more conditions and symptoms qualify as well, including wasting syndrome, severe or intractable nausea, seizures, and severe and persistent muscle spasms, such as those experienced with multiple sclerosis.
Voters originally approved medical cannabis during the election in November 2020 with Initiative 65. In April 2021, the Mississippi Supreme Court allowed opponents of medical cannabis legalization to challenge the vote results, which led to the court striking down Initiative 65 in May, stating that it was constitutionally flawed. Legislators continued to discuss medical cannabis throughout the year, and by September they made a move to re-implement a plan to legalize medical cannabis.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves stalled the progress of a new medical cannabis bill in November 2021, but he finally agreed to the details of a new law in January 2022, and signed it in February. “There is no doubt that there are individuals in our state who could do significantly better if they had access to medically prescribed doses of cannabis,” Reeves said in a press statement. “There are also those who really want a recreational marijuana program that could lead to more people smoking and less people working, with all of the societal and family ills that that brings.”
In October 2022, the state has issued provisional licenses to 491 work permits, 138 dispensaries, 47 cultivators, eight processors, four transportation businesses, three “disposal companies,” and two testing facilities.
As of December 2022, more than 2,311 applications were submitted, with 1,321 approved, and 990 still being processed. As of Jan. 23, more than 1,700 patients have been approved.