Local boards have medical marijuana opt out deadline

Published 1:30 am Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Chad Weaver

State law provides a mechanism for county and city governments to opt out of the newly-approved medical marijuana activities, and elected officials have about two months to decide whether to seek that route or focus on setting parameters for those related businesses.

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Batesville’s Mayor and Board of Aldermen have not discussed in public meetings any intentions to regulate medical marijuana facilities and seem content to rely on the considerable controls already in place under the state law to decide where those types of businesses will locate in the city limits.

In the county, one of the largest cultivation facilities currently planned in the state, is already under construction in the Airport Industrial Park. The supervisors have talked very little about any restrictions, although District 4 Supervisor Chad Weaver said he thinks local citizens should have a say in the final medical marijuana decisions.

“The citizens of Panola County deserve to be made aware of the opt out option because they are the voters, the land, business, and homeowners of this area and their opinion matters. The revenue generated from the medical marijuana industry could be beneficial to our entire community, but money is not everything and it’s not worth the overall outcome if not handled correctly,” Weaver said.

“We are all aware of families that have been torn apart from other pain management drugs. I have personally lost both parents to cancer and a brother to drug addiction, which started with pain management, “ he said. “We all have our own thoughts and opinions on this matter. I guess the question is, if you support it, is this, ‘Are you ready for it in your own neighborhood?’”

Whether a motion will be made in future meetings to opt out is unclear, and supervisors just last week received an update from their state association explaining some of the options.

Part of the material reviewed by the supervisors said, “The Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act (MMCA) grants county boards of supervisors and governing municipalities the authority to opt out of allowing the cultivation, processing, sale, or distribution of medical marijuana, cannabis, and cannabis products within 90 days of the enactment, effectively May 31.

This act legalizes medical cannabis in every county and municipality unless they opt out through a vote by the boards of supervisors or aldermen.

Counties and municipalities are required to provide a notice in accordance with the Open Meetings Act of its intent of holding a vote regarding opting out.

However, this may be overturned by a local referendum, 20 percent or 1,500 voters (whichever is fewer). Qualified electors in the county may petition to put the question on the ballot. The election must be held within 60 days from the filing of the petition and notice of the election must be advertised three consecutive weeks in the local newspaper.”

A municipality or county may make changes to existing zoning ordinance or adopt a change in the zoning ordinance that allows for those entities to be located in commercial specific areas. Local authorities may regulate the time, place, and manner of medical cannabis businesses, but they may not ban them or make their operation impractical.