Mississippi legalizes medical marijuana: What’s next and what can be learned from Arkansas

MISSISSIPPI — 74 percent of Mississippi voters said yes to Initiative 65 to legalize medical marijuana. So what happens next?

“It’s fantastic news," said Jamie Grantham with Medical Marijuana 2020, the citizen-based Initiative that passed on the ballot. "This is truly monumental for patients and families across Mississippi that this just passed yesterday. This is going to change so many lives. It’s just incredible.”

Grantham says if everything goes as planned, the rules and regulations will be in place by July of 2021. A month later clinics can start applying for medicinal marijuana licenses and growing the pot. Within 4 to 6 months it could be ready for patients.

“The patient could then turn in the physician certificate to the department of health and receive their medical marijuana ID card and at that point, they would be registered with the real-time statewide data center that’s registered with the department of health and kind of manages the whole program,” Grantham said.

Unlike Arkansas, Mississippians have what’s called a free-market approach. Grantham says that means patients won’t have to wait like patients in Arkansas did to get medical marijuana.

RELATED CONTENT:

Mississippi voters approve medical marijuana Initiative 65

Medical Marijuana: Which proposal will Miss. voters choose?

Marijuana ballot issue causing confusion in Mississippi

Don’t get confused by Mississippi’s two-sided ballot

In Arkansas, only a certain number of businesses can be a part of the medical marijuana industry. The number currently stands at five. In Mississippi. that’s not the case. It’s based on supply and demand.

“About 2 to 3 percent of the population generally become patients and the way we’ve done this which works well in other states with the free market approach the market will inform that.  We looked at what Arkansas was doing and it wasn’t ideal for Mississippians. We also looked at what all the other states were doing that worked well and created our plan from that,” said Grantham.

Former Mississippi Governor Ronnie Musgrove weighed in on the legalization of marijuana in the Magnolia state saying it’s a step in the right direction and shows that his state is finally being what he calls “progressive.”

Mississippi is now the 34th state to legalize medical marijuana but there is still a lot of work to be done before sales start.  Mississippi could learn a lot from neighboring Arkansas and the years it took to before pot sales started.

Medical marijuana was legalized in the natural state in 2016, but it wasn’t until 2019 dispensaries started to open up. Now there are 31 dispensaries in Arkansas, 3 in West Memphis.  There is also a program to monitor them all called Seed to Sale.

“To say this is a competitive process would be an understatement. These are very competitive licenses to say the least. they’re obviously doing very well. the dispensaries are selling again on average about $20,000 a day per dispensary,” said Scott Hardin with the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission.

Along with the 31 dispensaries, there are eight licensed pot growers. but it was a slow process to get to that point, taking about 3 years.  Now that things are up and running patients who need medical marijuana are getting it.

“Everything from cancer to chronic pain, so within that, you do have to have a physician sign off on it and say your name on one of the qualifying conditions, and once you receive you are eligible to purchase 2.5 ounces every 14 days,” said Hardin.

In the beginning, it was guesstimated there would be about 40 to 50,000 Arkansans who were issued medical marijuana cards. It’s actually been much higher than that. It’s now at 90,000, and it’s expected to hit 100,000 by the end of this year.

68 percent is voters in Mississippi’s election approved legalizing medical marijuana, 74 percent picked Initiative 65, the citizen-initiated plan on how to regulate the drug.