Following the Lamar County Board of Supervisors’ decision to not opt out of the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act, board members have adopted an ordinance outlining the county’s permitting process for that measure, as well identifying which zones within the county in which medical cannabis facilities would be allowed to locate.
The ordinance, which was passed at the June 23 board meeting, sets forth standards and regulations regarding the following facilities and their operations: cannabis cultivation facilities, cannabis processing facilities, cannabis testing facilities, cannabis dispensaries, cannabis transportation entities, cannabis disposal entities and cannabis research facilities in the unincorporated areas of Lamar County.
“The purpose of the ordinance is to outline the county’s permitting process for (medical marijuana, as well as identify what zones within the county that medical cannabis facilities could be located,” county administrator Jody Waits said. “It furthers the regulations from the state; we merged those together, and that’s what that ordinance does.”
The ordinance requires an owner or operator of a medical cannabis establishment must apply for and be issued a county permit for the operations of any facility of that nature. Applications must be submitted through the Lamar County Planning Department, which has the authority to approve or deny the permit.
A medical cannabis establishment will not be allowed to locate within 1,000 feet of a school, church, childcare facility or any county building, including but not limited to voting precincts/community centers, recreational facilities and fire departments. However, a waiver may be obtained to circumvent that by receiving from the respective facility and applying a waiver from the state.
In that same vein, no medical cannabis dispensary will be allowed to locate within a 1,500-foot radius from the main point of entry of that facility to the main point of entry to other dispensary. Hours of operation will be limited to no earlier than 9 a.m. and no later than 7 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays, and no earlier than 1 p.m. and no later than 6 p.m. on Sundays.
All workers in dispensaries are required to have identification, and individuals under the age of 21 are not allowed to work in such a facility. Licenses and permits are required to be posted in an easy-to-see place within the facility.
Medical cannabis dispensaries will not be allowed to allow patrons under the age of 21 onto the premises, unless that person is accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
A medical cannabis cultivation or processing facility shall be permitted us in the C-3/Highway Commercial and the I-2/Heavy Industrial districts. They shall be a conditional use in the C-4/Major Thoroughfares Commercial District.
A medical cannabis research or testing facility shall be permitted use in the C-3/Highway Commercial and I-2/Heavy Industrial District. They shall be a conditional use in the C-4/Major Thoroughfares District.
Any individual violating the provisions of the ordinance will incur a misdemeanor. If convicted, he or she will be ordered to pay a fine of not less than $200 or more than $1,000, or imprisonment for not more than 30 days, or both.
The medical marijuana act permits the use of medical marijuana in the state to treat debilitating conditions such as cancer, chronic pain and seizures, among other maladies. Cities and counties have the option to opt out completely – which means no selling or growing at all would be allowed – or to opt out of a portion of the act and allow only certain measures.
Mississippi voters overwhelmingly approved the use of medical marijuana during the November 2020 general election, but that effort was soon nullified by the Mississippi Supreme Court. However, the cannabis act was recently approved by both chambers of the Mississippi Legislature – the House and the Senate – and was signed into law shortly thereafter by Gov. Tate Reeves.
Entities are given the chance to vote to opt out the act; if no decision is made, the act automatically goes into law in that area.
Officials from the Town of Sumrall recently opted out of the act, while Lumberton Mayor Quincy Rogers has said he fully supports the measure. The Petal Board of Aldermen is expected to have a work session regarding the matter in the near future.
David Hogan, president of the Forrest County Board of Supervisors, said he is reluctant to speak for the board as a whole, but he expects the county to follow the governor’s decree. The City of Hattiesburg has not opted out of the act.
The Lamar County Board of Supervisors decided not to opt out of the act at the March 24 board meeting.
“My opinion technically doesn’t count; my job is not to opine on that, but to make sure that the state and local laws are carried out properly, based on the desires of the policy makers,” Waits said. “So the board of supervisors took no action against – or didn’t opt out – of the act, so the next step would be to put in place an ordinance that outlined where they could be allowed and in what zones.
“My part is to also make sure that they have the proper state license to do that. The procedures and polices (need to be) in place to follow as the board so wishes.”