Just Say No? Some Cities Opt Out of Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act, and Others May Follow or Adopt Restrictions

Cannabis Industry News Alert

Client Alert

Author(s) ,

Municipalities in Mississippi are electing to opt out of allowing medical cannabis establishments to operate under the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act or, at a minimum, are holding public hearings to explore that option or possibly adopt restrictive zoning, permitting, or licensing regulations and ordinances. So far, Ridgeland, Pass Christian, Brandon, and Gluckstadt have elected to opt out. Opting out jurisdictions, however, must comply with certain provisions of the act prior to opting out, and local residents can take action post-opt out to try to override the opt out. 

  • The opt-out decision must occur before May 3, 2022, through a vote by the county board of supervisors or governing authorities of the municipality.
  • Notice of the intention on holding an opt-out vote in accordance with the Open Meetings Act must be provided.
  • The opt out vote must be entered in the local government’s minutes.
  • A county or municipality that opts out can later decide to opt in.
  • If an opt-out decision is made, a petition containing at least 20% or 1,500 signatures (whichever number is less) of qualified electors of an opting-out county or municipality can trigger a special election within the county to override the opt out.
  • The election must be held within 60 days from the date the petition is filed, but no sooner than 15 days from the publication date of the first of three required newspaper notices of the petition filing and upcoming special election.
  • The opt-out decision can be overcome by a majority vote of the qualified electors.
  • Once an election is held, no matter the outcome, no subsequent election can occur sooner than two years from the date of the first election.
  • The act allows medical cannabis establishments that are originally licensed to operate in a city or county to continue to operate, even if, for example, a municipality that opts out annexes the geographic area in which that medical establishment operates.
  • Parties aggrieved by a governmental body’s or agency’s decision or order can seek judicial review within 20 days following the issuance of the final decision or order.

Opting out is not a local government’s only option to try to curtail medical cannabis establishment operations. The act allows municipalities and counties to do the following:

  • Pass specific zoning restrictions applicable to medical cannabis establishments;
  • Require local registrations, permits, or licenses to operate a medical cannabis establishment;
  • Enact local ordinances or regulations governing the time, place, and manner of medical cannabis establishment operations and penalties for violating such ordinances or regulations.
    • No ordinance or regulation can prohibit dispensaries in a manner that makes their operation impracticable in that locale.

These potential restrictions, along with the zoning and location restrictions also outlined in the act, make it even more important that a prospective medical cannabis establishment ensure compliance with all state-wide and local requirements before embarking on such a business venture and also understand its rights in the event of an opt out or other action limiting business operations. 

In addition to Bradley’s particular experience representing all types of clients within or impacted by the cannabis industry, Bradley’s Jackson office has a team of lawyers with experience representing businesses and individuals in zoning, permitting, and other real estate disputes with counties and municipalities. Our lawyers have successfully represented clients before local government boards and on appeal.