A revamped Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act heads to Gov. Tate Reeves’s desk after both chambers amended the law in several key respects, most notably to help improve patient count numbers that have created quite a bit of apprehension in the state’s new medical cannabis program.
Rep. Lee Yancey and Rep. De’Keither Stamps’s H.B. 1158 passed the House on February 1, 2023, and the Senate’s version, which included additional amendments led by Sen. Kevin Blackwell, passed on March 8, 2023. The House approved the Senate’s amended version on March 14, 2023, so the changed medical cannabis law heads to the governor’s office for final approval.
Time will tell how quickly these changes to the law help a medical cannabis program that is far from hitting its stride, but no one can deny that the legislature is trying. Did they simply listen to their constituents, or, possibly, did Mississippi-native-led band Blind Melon offer some inspiration:
“When life is hard, you have to change…When life is hard, you have to change, mmm.”
Change? I would like to think it is a combination of both, but whatever the impetus, the lawmakers are “[not] afraid of change.”
Here is a summary of the most notable amendments:
- No more government-mandated drug tests would be required to obtain patient certification from a practitioner.
- Practitioners could now assist patients during the visit, after certification, to submit an ID card application to the MSDH.
- Patients would no longer be required to visit the same practitioner who issued the original certification for a follow-up visit.
- To certify patients, practitioners are not subject to any additional qualifications or registries beyond those set forth in the MMCA.
- Registry ID certifications would now be valid up to six months before a patient applies to MSDH for an ID card (originally was valid for only 60 days).
- MSDH would be required to approve or deny a patient application within 10 days of submission (changed from 30 days). Then, the MSDH must issue the card if approved within five days after approval. This shortens the time from application to issuance from 35 days to 15 days.
- New provisions governing background check requirements for designated caregivers.
Changes Related to Business Licensees
- Tier 6 cultivators must have a canopy size of at least 100,000 sq. ft but no more than 150,000 sq. ft. These cultivators can also have more than one location, but the size limitations apply in the aggregate to all locations.
- Testing facility owners can have ownership interest in a transportation facility.
- Testing facilities can contract with transporters for the transportation of medical cannabis.
- The MSDH may contract with a private laboratory to conduct compliance testing oversight of medical cannabis testing facilities, but any such lab cannot perform commercial medical cannabis testing in Mississippi.
- If a dispensary licensee is still constructing the dispensary, it must complete construction and meet other requirements within 18 months of license issuance.
- There are new background check requirements for any person seeking to become a principal officer, board member, agent, volunteer, or employee of a medical cannabis establishment.
- Business licensees could now include a display of cannabis in company logos and other branding activities and display on dispensary websites pictures of the products the dispensary sells.
- No state agency or local governing body can issue rules or ordinances that are contrary to the MMCA.
- Ongoing investigations of applicants or licensees are to be confidential and not subject to the Mississippi Public Records Act.
- Addresses of business licensees, except for dispensaries, are to be confidential and not subject to the Mississippi Public Records Act.
- Judicial review in circuit court of an agency decision is limited to the record developed at the agency level, and the petitioner must pay to the agency the cost of preparing that record prior to initiating the court action.
- Product with less than .3% THC that is subject to the Farm Bill is not subject to MMCA regulations/law.
- Topical cannabis products not ingested by the liver that are produced by a licensed processor can be sold in dispensaries to cardholders or any person over the age of 21. These products must be placed in an area of the dispensary that does not require access with a registry identification card.
- “Artificially derived cannabinoid,” “means a chemical substance that is created by a chemical reaction that changes the molecular structure of any chemical substance derived from the plant Cannabis family Cannabaceae: and which does not include “(i) [a] naturally occurring chemical substance that is separated from the plant Cannabis family Cannabaceae by a chemical or mechanical extraction process; (ii) Cannabinoids that are produced by decarboxylation from a naturally occurring cannabinoid acid without the use of a chemical catalyst; or (iii) Any other chemical substance identified by MDOH.”
- “Cannabis waste” means plant debris of the plant of 1the genus cannabis, including dead plants and all unused plant parts” but does not include seeds, roots, stems, and stalks.
- “Cannabinoid” means “any of the chemical compounds that are the active constituents derived from THC.”
- Property in a county or municipality owned, leased or otherwise controlled by a waterway district or water management district will be subject to the county or municipality decision to opt out or not to opt out and will be governed by the county or municipality zoning amendments and ordinances.
We will continue to monitor this landscape as more legislative or regulatory changes are made to a program that promises to continue evolving. We will also dig in a little deeper on how some of the above-noted changes are implemented and (hopefully) help ignite an industry that has just begun and needs a spark.