Mississippi A.G. Weighs in on Cities' Ability to Regulate Cannabis Businesses if they Don't Opt Out
In yet another sign that it’s time to get a Mississippi Marijuana Card, state Attorney General Lynn Fitch has issued the first official statement regarding her office’s interpretation of parts SB 2095, the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act.
In other words, medical marijuana is now the law, and the only questions that remain are about what that law means, not whether it should be the law or not. As business and legal news site JD Supra put it, this statement “promises to be the first of a litany of legal interpretations” of SB 2095.
Attorney General’s Statement a Response to Legal Questions from a Mayor
Fitch’s statement was a response to questions about SB 2095 from Darren Musselwhite, the mayor of Southaven. The mayor wanted to know the extent of the city’s ability to regulate medical marijuana businesses in his town should they decline to opt out of the new program. In a statement that should ease concerns of cannabis reform activists, Fitch said in essence that those businesses would still be subject to the laws and rulings of such cities, so long as those laws and rulings weren’t intended to make it unreasonably hard for cannabis services to do business.
Cities That Didn’t Opt-Out of the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act Are Required to Allow Marijuana Businesses
We told you in March about the opt-out provision in SB 2095 that allowed individual cities and counties to choose not to participate in Mississippi’s medical marijuana program. Such communities cannot prosecute Mississippi Marijuana Cardholders for possession and use of medicine purchased legally under the law, but there would be no marijuana businesses permitted to operate within opt-out communities.
Southaven Mayor Asks Attorney General a Series of Questions About Medical Marijuana Regulations
Mayor Musselwhite asked Fitch a series of questions about the options his city would have to regulate marijuana businesses if they didn’t opt-out of SB 2095. According to Fitch’s statement, the mayor had asked:
1. Does the City have the authority to prohibit a “dispensary, cannabis research facility or cannabis testing facility” from locating in a commercial zone within the City?
2. If commercial use is not prohibited or already exists in a certain zone within the City, could the City prohibit a “dispensary, cannabis research facility or cannabis testing facility” from being located within that zone?
3. Could the City legally limit or restrict where those establishments are located within its various zoning districts or the manner in which they operate?
4. May the City allow for medical cannabis dispensaries to operate in some commercial zones but restrict them from operating in other commercial zones? For example, may the City create a “medical commercial zone” which allows for the sale of medical cannabis but prohibit it from being sold in other commercial zones located within the City?
5. Assuming any regulation and/or ordinance approved by the City would not make a dispensary’s operation impracticable, does the City’s authority under the “time, place, and manner” restrictions allow the City to regulate medical cannabis dispensary locations to be at a greater distance than the “one-thousand-five-hundred-feet radius from the main point of entry of the dispensary to the main point of entry of another medical cannabis dispensary” as set forth in SB 2095?
Attorney General’s Response to Mayor Indicates SB 2095 Largely Protects Cannabis Businesses from Government Overreach
Fitch’s response to the mayor’s questions indicate that in the eyes of the state, SB 2095 does much to protect medical marijuana businesses from being overly regulated by local governments. To the mayor’s five questions, Attorney General Fitch responded:
1. The City may designate specific types of commercial zones in which dispensaries, cannabis research facilities, or cannabis testing facilities may operate through lawfully enacted ordinances or regulations adopted in accordance with a comprehensive zoning plan. However, these ordinances or regulations cannot have the purpose or effect of prohibiting or making impracticable the operation of such establishments within the City.
2. The City may designate specific types of zones for which commercial use is otherwise authorized or not prohibited in which dispensaries, cannabis research facilities, or cannabis testing facilities may operate through lawfully enacted ordinances or regulations adopted in accordance with a comprehensive zoning plan. However, these ordinances or regulations
cannot have the purpose or effect of prohibiting or making impracticable the operation of such establishments within the City.
3. Yes. The City may restrict or limit the location of medical cannabis establishments and the manner in which they operate through ordinances or regulations governing the time, place, and manner of medical cannabis establishments adopted in accordance with a comprehensive zoning plan.
4. Yes. The City may enact local zoning ordinances that accord with its comprehensive zoning plan designating specific types of commercial zones, such as a medical commercial zone, in which medical cannabis dispensaries may operate.
5. Yes. Section 19(5) of SB 2095 does not preempt the City’s authority to adopt an ordinance or regulation with a minimum distance greater than one-thousand-five-hundred-feet between cannabis dispensaries so long as the ordinance or regulation does not prohibit or make impracticable the operation of dispensaries within the City.
In short, cities that didn’t opt-out of SB 2095 may regulate cannabis businesses to the extent that they may regulate any businesses, but no farther, and not to the extent that those businesses and the patients who shop there are overly burdened in conducting their transaction.
To make it even shorter, medical marijuana is coming to Mississippi, and there isn’t anything anyone can do to stop it.
Southaven Opts-Out of SB 2095, Plans to Opt-In After Settling on Zoning Rules
Five days after Fitch released her statement, Southaven chose to opt-out of SB 2095. However, Mayor Musselwhite told WMC, the NBC affiliate for Memphis, Tennessee, that he himself supports SB 2095 and medical marijuana, and that his city’s decision to opt-out was a temporary one.
“I’ve never said that I was against medical marijuana in fact it’s just the opposite, I’m a strong advocate for medical marijuana, I want it here, I want it here as quick as we can get it here,” said Musselwhite. He told WMC that Southaven will opt-in once the city has determined how to adjust its current zoning laws to accommodate cannabis businesses.
Ready or Not, Medical Marijuana is Coming to Mississippi
Medical marijuana’s arrival in Mississippi is now a sure thing. The only question now is whether or not you’ll be ready for it when it gets here.
Reserve an evaluation online today, so you’ll be ready just as soon as medical marijuana is ready for you. We’ll schedule an appointment for you with one of our highly trained, compassionate cannabis doctors just as soon as Mississippi’s medical marijuana market is up and running!
You’ll meet with your new doctor virtually, using your smartphone or computer for a telemedicine appointment. You and your doctor will discuss your conditions so that they can determine whether you qualify for a Mississippi Marijuana Card. And you’ll do it all without even leaving your home! Not only that, but by making your reservation today, you can save $25 off the cost of the evaluation!
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Helping everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to medical marijuana. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce the stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.
If you have any questions, call us at (833) 781-6635, or simply book a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!