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Cannabis shops considering Panola County locations

Economic development head Joe Azar reports interest from retailers

Like it or not, Panola County is going to pot.

Voters here mirrored the statewide ballots cast in the November General Election approving a measure that mandates the State of Mississippi implement a medical marijuana sales system by August of this year.

Panola County supervisors briefly discussed what the sale of medical marijuana will look like locally in their December meeting, agreeing that some measures should be considered to limit the number of cannabis distribution businesses that are sure to appear soon, including passing ordinances that will restrict the retail shops to certain areas of the county, specifically to industrial zones only.

Board president Cole Flint said in December he doesn’t want pot shops to be located in highly visible areas of the county, noting that placement inside the corporate limits of the county’s five cities and towns will be up to those governing boards, respectively.

In this week’s meeting held Monday at the Sardis Courthouse, Panola Partnership Joe Azar brought up the matter just before the board adjourned.

“I need some guidance on this issue and need to know what the wishes of the board are on these medical marijuana businesses that will potentially try to locate in Panola County,” Azar said.

The county’s lead economic developer said his office has been contacted by three different entrepreneurs, all wanting to establish medical marijuana stores and growing facilities in the county.

“They are very excited about Panola County,” Azar said. “I just need to know how to proceed from an economic development standpoint. I can tell you they are serious about making an investment here.”

Azar did not discuss the specifics of the inquiries his office has received, and did not speculate on how many jobs each of the three parties, so far, are planning from opening businesses in Panola.

Supervisors Flint, James Birge, Earl Burdette, and John Thomas reluctantly agreed that whatever their personal feelings are about the use of medical marijuana, the cannabis operations will be legal businesses that will, to some degree, boost the county’s tax collection revenue.

Only Supervisor Chad Weaver said he is against asking the Panola Partnership to pursue pot shops.

“I know it’s four to one, but I just can’t go along with this marijuana thing as far as the county treating it like other businesses that want to come in,” Weaver said. “I just can’t say we should be doing that.”

Weaver has previously said he will not stand in the way of any legal business that wants to locate in the county, provided all regulations and standards are met, but maintains there is a difference in allowing and recruiting some types of businesses.

There was no formal vote, rather the supervisors (except Weaver) gave Azar their blessings in his future dealings with potential marijuana outlets in Panola County. The matter will surely be revisited in coming meetings as Azar learns more about specific investors’ plans and reports those to the board.