Get Up, Stand Up: Mississippi Medical Cannabis Dispensary Sues State Challenging Advertising and Marketing Restrictions on First Amendment Grounds

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This morning, an Olive Branch medical cannabis dispensary, TruSource Medical Cannabis, and its owner, Clarence Cocroft, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi against, in their official capacities, the Mississippi Department of Revenue’s Commissioner Chris Graham, Mississippi ABC’s Chief of Enforcement Pat Daily, and the State Health Officer for the Mississippi Department of Health (MDOH) Dr. Daniel Edney challenging the state’s laws and regulations, which restrict medical cannabis businesses from marketing and advertising. The lawsuit comes as no surprise to us, as we wrote on the topic on, of all dates, April 20, 2023.

This lawsuit challenges Mississippi’s advertising and marketing restrictions exclusively under the U.S. Constitution, arguing that the MDOH’s “complete ban on advertising and marketing in any media violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution by prohibiting business owners like Clarence from engaging in truthful commercial speech to promulgate their legal businesses.” TruSource contends the ban has precluded it from “reach[ing] its desired clientele” and “promot[ing] its products or its locations.” The complaint further details the types of marketing and advertising practices in which the plaintiffs would engage but do not because they “would face fines and potential felony charges.” The complaint seeks (a) a declaratory judgment declaring the advertising and marketing bans are unconstitutional under the U.S. Constitution; (b) a permanent injunction prohibiting the state from enforcing the ban; and (c) attorneys’ fees. Barring an extension, the defendants will be filing responsive pleadings 21 days after service of the complaint and summons.

We, and I suppose the rest of the medical cannabis industry in Mississippi, will be watching this one closely. While the patient count has just recently reached a milestone of sorts (over 30,000 patients), a favorable finding for the plaintiffs in this case would undoubtedly provide a boost to a medical cannabis program that will soon be commemorating a year in the books of being open for business.