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  • D.H. Reilly

How Will Marijuana Help Grow Mississippi’s Economy?

How Marijuana Will Help The Economy?

Of course those who were hoping to finally find relief with a Mississippi Marijuana Card were the ones hurt the most by the state Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Mississippi’s medical marijuana law, but it might surprise you to learn that the state’s economy was dealt the second biggest blow.

Thirty-six states now have medical marijuana markets, and both the health of their residents and of their economies have benefitted.

So Mississippi missed the boat, but how much did we miss out on? And how likely are we to get another shot at both the medical and financial benefits of medical marijuana?

Medical Marijuana and Tax Revenue

Of course the most obvious way in which the state stood to gain financially from medical marijuana is through taxes. Taxes on the medicine sold, as well as on the profits made by dispensaries and growers, would represent new revenue streams for the state. Without a medical marijuana market, all of that newfound money became newly lost instead.

But how much money are we talking about here?

The big tax winner in the legal marijuana race is California, which collected more than a billion dollars in marijuana tax revenue in 2020 according to Newsweek.

Of course comparing California to Mississippi is an apples-to-oranges comparison. The Golden State has a much larger population than the Magnolia State, and it has legalized both medical and recreational marijuana, leading to more revenue than we could hope to raise from our impending market, which will almost certainly be medical only.

Mississippi to Oklahoma: A Closer Comparison

Jessica Rice, the executive director of the Mississippi Cannabis Trade Association (MCTA), recently spoke to The Other Side, the political podcast of Mississippi Today, about Mississippi, marijuana, and taxes.

She said she considers Oklahoma a fairly close comparison point for our state, saying “I think that it is a good comparison or a good state to look at [as] far as projections, because they’re similarly situated as Mississippi population-wise, you know, cities and rural areas.”

And Oklahoma, Rice added, has “had a lot of success” financially with its marijuana market. “They’ve generated $127 million in state and local taxes in 2020. So, and that was even [...] with the pandemic going on, you know, the cannabis industry still was thriving.”

A More Conservative Estimate of Mississippi’s Potential Revenue from Marijuana

The Tax Foundation, a Washington, D.C., based think tank that generally opposes new and higher taxes, projected that after three years of operation, a legalized marijuana market would generate more than $47 million annually for Mississippi.

That’s a much lower estimate than the one put forth by Rice, so let’s consider a few things as we ponder these numbers. First, as the representative of a marijuana trade group, Rice perhaps has incentive, consciously or not, to be overly optimistic in her projections. Second, as an anti-taxation group, the Tax Foundation perhaps has incentive, consciously or not, to be overly pessimistic in theirs.

Third, whether we look at Rice’s high end projection of $127 million or the Tax Foundation's lower end estimate of $47 million, we’re still looking at a lot of money. And without a legalized marijuana market, all of that money is left lying on the table.

Legalizing Cannabis: “A Wise Investment”

In their report on marijuana and tax revenue, Newsweek spoke with Jared Moffat of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), a pro-legalization advocacy group.

Moffat, who, like Rice, perhaps has reason to be overly optimistic, told Newsweek that "Legalizing cannabis for adults has proven to be a wise investment. Not only are states seeing the benefits of a regulated market and far fewer cannabis-related arrests—they're benefitting in a direct, economic way, too."

Overly optimistic or not, Moffat correctly points out that a lack of a legal marijuana market means a loss of state revenue.

"Before legalization, money from cannabis sales flowed through an underground market that endangered public safety and disrupted communities," Moffat told Newsweek. "But now, we see all across the country that revenue from the legal cannabis industry is supporting schools, health care, and a range of other beneficial public programs."

It’s Not Just Taxes: Medical Marijuana, Mississippi, and Brain Drain

But a legal marijuana market wouldn’t only mean increased tax revenue for Mississippi. It could also help reverse one of the state’s biggest challenges: brain drain.

Mississippi was one of only three states that lost population in the 2020 Census, making it a standout (in a bad way) in the South, which overall led the U.S. with a more than 10% gain in population.

And while there may be many reasons for Mississippi’s population woes, most experts and laypeople seem to agree that much of the blame lies with the so-called Brain Drain, the exodus of skilled young people who take their college degrees and move to states that offer more high-paying tech jobs and more desirable (to young people, anyway) population centers.

But Rice said that the MCMA sees evidence that the creation of a medical marijuana market here could contribute to reversing that trend.

According to Rice, the MCMA has “a large subset of [members] who are from Mississippi who may live in other states or other parts of the country and want to come back and to get into the business. And I think that’s been great, you know that’s something that Mississippi really needs, you know, with our brain drain issues and just losing population, anything that’s going to attract people to the state or even back to the state, I think is awesome.”

And of course those returning entrepreneurs would then mean more economic activity in the state and more tax revenue in the coffers.

But in the End, Medical Marijuana is “a Great Thing for Mississippi Patients”

And while increased tax revenues and an influx of returning Mississippians are both good reasons to get behind medical marijuana, they’re just supporting players. The real star of the show is the immense relief that would finally be legally, safely available to the state’s residents.

And, fortunately, that’s finally on the way to Mississippi. Rice notes that the arrival of medical marijuana here seems to be such a fait accompli that the MCMA continues to see investor interest from would be players in the marijuana market.

“So we’ve noticed that a lot of our members have slowed down operations, but not to a stop. People are still confident that we’re going to have a program that we’re going to move forward. So, you know, maybe instead of going at warp speed [...] they’re being a little bit more methodical about their business plans and just taking this extra space to make sure that they are a hundred percent ready to go when they get that green light.”

Rice added that a medical marijuana market would be “a really great thing for economic development in this state,” but also noted, “You know, this is going to be a great thing for Mississippi patients.”

Our Medical Marijuana Market Isn’t Here Yet, But You Can Get Ready For it Now

If you suffer from one of the qualifying conditions likely to be approved by Mississippi’s imminent medical marijuana program, you can begin the process of finding relief right now.

Reserve an evaluation with one of our compassionate doctors today, and we’ll book an appointment for you just as soon as Mississippi’s medical marijuana market is up and running. Not only will you not have to wait any longer than is absolutely necessary to start finding relief, but you’ll save $25 off the cost of your evaluation!

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