Mississippi’s medical cannabis law took effect Friday creating a new way for Mississippians suffering from chronic ailments to receive medical treatment.
The bill will create a medical marijuana program for people with serious medical conditions such as cancer, AIDS and sickle cell disease.
Patients with terminal or debilitating diseases or medical conditions that produce cachexia, chronic pain, seizures, severe or intractable nausea or severe and persistent muscle spasms can also qualify for the program.
Initiative 65 almost brought medical cannabis to Mississippi. A large majority of Mississippians supported Initiative 65 when it was placed on the November 2020 ballot but it was struck down by the State Supreme Court who ruled the ballot process outdated.
However, Initiative 65 proponents in local communities and legislative offices pushed for medical cannabis legislation in the 2022 Legislative Session, inevitably coming out victorious when Governor Tate Reeves signed the state’s Medical Cannabis bill into law on February 2.
For proponents of Initiative 65 like founder and president of Hemp Ville CBD Tony Barragan, this moment is a long time coming.
“We’ve made history in Mississippi,” said Barragan. “People thought that Mississippi was going to be the last state to ever see medical marijuana and we’re the 38th. I have to credit that, not just to the people who voted for initiative 65 but to our legislators who put this program together and passed it, and are giving these people and the patients what they voted for and what they deserve.”
Barragan calls this a win for those who suffer ailments and need treatment.
“They deserve to have this alternative form of medicine, to treat themselves for whatever ailment it may be,” he said. “So, to me, it’s very rewarding. There was all this hard work that was put into this medical marijuana project since we were collecting signatures. So it’s victorious. It’s a victorious feeling.”
Now Barragan is fast working to get his new medical cannabis company, Hybrid Relief, LLC., up and going.
“We’re doing it vertically,” he said. “We are growing, extracting, processing and dispensing. We’re doing it all— from the sea to the shelf— and we’re even making our own edibles and things like that.”
The Mississippi Department of Revenue will begin accepting and reviewing applications for medical cannabis business licenses at 8 a.m. on July 5. MDOR will then issue licenses within 30 days of receiving the completed application, including all required information and documents.
The day before the law went into effect, Barragan was busy filling out separate business license applications for each facility in preparation for July 5. Barragan will also have to pay separate licensing fees for each facility.
According to MDOR, first-year license fees cost $40,000 and yearly renewal costs $25,000.
The city of Oxford will also issue licenses for medical cannabis businesses. The City Clerk’s Office will begin the application process and issue medical cannabis business licenses on July 7, 30 days after the Oxford Board of Aldermen approved the creation of a new license.
Medical cannabis business owners must obtain a business privilege license from the City Clerk, receive necessary approvals for Medical Cannabis Use as required by the city’s Land Development Code and, lastly, obtain a medical cannabis business license from the City Clerk.
City officials capped licensing fees at a one-time payment of $1,500 and an annual renewal fee of $1,000.
A benefit of the medical cannabis industry is that it will boost Mississippi’s economy, however, Barragan is concerned about the labor shortage crisis in the U.S.
“It’s good for the economy but let’s not forget how hard it is to find employees right now,” he said. Those who wish to work in the medical cannabis industry must be 21 years or older and must have a background check and fingerprinting to apply.
“Just because it’s cannabis doesn’t mean that people are going to come off out of the woodworks and then get in line,” said Barragan.
Though he is concerned about having enough hands on deck to get his business running full steam ahead, Barragan is hopeful that things will begin on time.
“I think several of us will be ready to grow on time,” said Barragan. “We’ll have a harvest before the end of the year.”
According to officials, products will not be readily available until later once the cannabis is grown, processed and tested.
“I’m thinking it will be the very end of December or the first weeks of January before you see any products on the shelves,” Barragan said.
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