After Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill to legalize medical cannabis in the state in February, agencies like the Department of Health and the Department of Revenue began writing regulations for the marketplace that will materialize later this year. Not every rule is set in stone just yet, but already prospective business owners have a sense of what’s needed to get in on the action. 

License applications may be submitted to the DOH in early June (for cultivation, processing, testing, research, disposal and transportation operations) and to the DOR in early July (for dispensary operations). 

Those dates are coming soon: But industry observers caution against haste. There will be time aplenty to submit paperwork. The important thing is what’s contained within that paperwork. Clare Millette, partner at Cosmich Simmons & Brown PLLC, says that it’s vital to think through the full business plan—long-term. 

“[Applicants] need to know there’s so much information, and there are so many different ways that you can participate in this industry,” she says. “You need to have a clear vision for where you see yourself entering this industry.”

Mississippi is the 37th state to legalize a commercial medical cannabis market without low-THC restrictions, and this timing confers some regulatory advantages (even as the perceived delay has disadvantaged the state’s patients in need). Where other states have walked relatively blindly into the regulation of a new market like medical cannabis, Mississippi agency representatives have had a chance to learn from past successes and mistakes elsewhere in the U.S. 

For instance, the state will offer two tiers of “micro” cannabis cultivation licenses (2,000 square feet of canopy or less), and the state will not cap the number of business licenses it will issue.

See below for the full legislative overview of cannabis business license types and fees in Mississippi.

To convey the depth of information in the law to the people who need it most, the Mississippi Cannabis Trade Association will host a license application workshop later this month in Jackson. Representatives from Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP and Cosmich Simmons & Brown PLLC (including Millette) will be on hand to explain what’s needed in this first critical stage of cannabis business development. 

READ MORE: Jackson Native Launches Mississippi’s First Woman-Owned Medical Cannabis Company 

Millette points to five key subject areas with which prospective business owners will want to familiarize themselves:

Know your stateKnow your areaKnow your agencyKnow what’s requiredKnow what’s prohibited

With regard to the state, it’s important for prospective applicants to know the overarching set of rules that will govern this new industry. Some of those more specific rules from the DOH and the DOR are not yet published (although they’re expected soon), but already the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act provides guidance.

Then, locally, there are considerations. Mississippi counties and municipalities had an opportunity to opt out of hosting cannabis businesses. All told, 10 counties and 17 municipalities did so. (Millette notes that local citizens may submit petitions to overturn that decision.) Beyond the opt-outs, even those cities that may allow medical cannabis businesses could end up amending zoning laws to further restrict where cannabis businesses are permitted. Right now, according to the state law (again, know your state), dispensaries may not be located 1,500 feet from one another. Cannabis businesses of any kind may not be located within 1,000 of churches, schools or daycare centers.

As far as agency oversight: It’s vital to know who’s governing whom. The DOH will regulate cultivators, processors, testing labs, researchers, disposal companies and transportation companies; the DOR will regulate dispensaries.

Until further regulations are published by those agencies, the questions of “what’s required” and “what’s prohibited” aren’t yet finalized. But, either way, Millette suggests companies prepare themselves for the level of transparency needed in the medical cannabis business licensing process.

Business owners will want to provide not only the simple facts of the matter like their names and addresses (which means real estate must be locked down well ahead of time), but also more in-depth material, like standard operating procedures, floor plans, funding models and investor profiles. Who’s funding this business? How will this business function? What’s the plan here? This is part state-mandated background check, part strategic narrative (and note that literal background checks are a part of this process, too, for anyone holding an ownership stake in the business).

The important thing is for business owners to clearly tell their story to the state. The application is, on some level, an in-depth first impression.

“This may be something [applicants] will learn, but anticipating the costs [is important],” Millette says. “This will be part of the education of the licensing workshop, but the costs are a lot more than just your application fee and your licensing fee. You may have the capital for those, but you have to present in your operating procedures how this is really going to work. Getting that license is one thing, but the law requires compliance with a lot of things to keep that application renewed and to keep that license viable.”

The state will have 30 days to approve or reject a medical cannabis business license application, so expect the market to begin taking shape later this summer.

Section 18 – LICENSING – Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act by sandydocs on Scribd