After years of legislative and legal delays, Mississippi’s medical marijuana industry is slowly taking shape.
Since June 1, a small number of medical providers, patients and businesses have been approved as the Mississippi State Department of Health continues to process applications.
For entrepreneurs like Jared Kobs, the co-founder of Kudzu Cannabis, who received his cultivation license in early July, this allows the company to work to have products available by the end of the year.
It is also the culmination of years of work. His team started working at their cultivation, processing and distribution site in Guangzhou in 2021.
The company also applied for treatment and transport licenses and three dispensary licenses in July.
“We were told they would need more time for these licenses, and we should have a response on the dispensary licenses within 30 days. They are doing things,” Kobs said.
Mockingbird Cannabis is also among the companies that have been approved for cultivation and processing licenses. The Company’s facility is located in Hinds County. Clint Patterson, CEO of Mockingbird, said they expect their first harvest to be in October and a limited number of products will be available this fall.
The company has also applied for a research license, which is currently pending. Ultimately, the company wants to be at the forefront of research and development to better understand the health benefits of cannabis, he said.
“Because they’ve been illegal for so long, research has been limited. I think the state could lead the way in this area. Through a coalition of universities, the Department of Health, and businesses, we could give this data some legitimacy and improve our understanding of the health benefits,” he said.
The The State Department of Health oversees licensing for most medical marijuana related businesses. Since June 1, the DOH has issued 16 business licenses. These include specific licenses for growers and processors. Additionally, they issued 36 requests for medical providers and 25 for patients. These are the latest figures available as of July 28.
Applications for dispensary licenses have been much more competitive so far, Ken Newburger said, with the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association. There are specific zoning requirements for these businesses. They must be at least 1,500 feet apart. They must also be 1,000 feet from churches and schools.
The revenue department received more than 100 dispensary requests within an hour of opening its portal in early July, although numbers have slowed since then, Newburger said.
He expects the number of businesses approved to increase over the next few months and said the Department of Health is “actively working with people to get licenses”.
He also expects the number of patients approved for medical marijuana cards to increase as the products become available early next year.
“Patients don’t feel the urgency because there’s no product,” Newburger said. “I believe the (medical marijuana) cards will not be active until the product hits shelves. I expect that we will continue to watch the number of commercial licenses increase, followed by the number of patients leading to the sale of medical cannabis.”
Angie Calhoun, the founder of Mississippi Cannabis Patient Alliance, encourages members to wait until October to apply for their medical marijuana card. They must be recertified within 12 months by a doctor.
“As soon as they open the dispensaries, patients will be notified that their cards are active and can start using them,” she said. “There’s no real reason to be in a big rush right now.”
Tia Beasley was hired as a medical assistant at Pain & Well-Being Break, a new clinic that focuses on medical marijuana to treat chronic pain. She said she had worked in various fields of medicine, including primary care and midwifery – and worried about patients when they ran out of treatment options.
“It presented a new pathway of care for patients. My goal is to help make an impact on the opioid crisis,” Beasley said.
The clinic was founded by Dr. Kirk Kinard, a specialist in chronic pain management. His pain management clinic is in Oxford. He believed early on that many chronic pain patients would be interested in medical marijuana as an alternative to prescription drugs. After talking with colleagues about pain management, he decided to open a second practice focused on medical marijuana to treat chronic pain. His goal is to open Pause Pain Wellness clinics in Oxford, Jackson and Meridian.
“The plan is to have the first three clinics up and running in August and secure our electronic health record and process. Many patients are interested in starting the process, and we want to be able to handle the increased demand,” said said Kinard.
Maria Clark is a generalist reporter for The American South. Ideas for articles, advice, questions? Email her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @MariaPClark1. Register for The American South Newsletter. follow us on instagram, Facebook and Twitter.