When you do what we do, you get a lot of calls and a lot of questions. Many calls and questions are not productive. Quite frankly, some calls are coming from people who are interested in cannabis and their experience, we think, on a purely personal and leisurely level. In the words of Heyman Roth, this is the work we chose.
But one legitimate question we get asked a lot is what we think the cannabis market would look like in Mississippi. More specifically, whether the new medical cannabis system in Mississippi will be similar to the system in Oklahoma.
It’s a loaded question, and we think many respondents don’t fully appreciate it. On the other hand, Oklahoma’s medical cannabis program has been compared to the Wild West. At last count, there were more cannabis dispensaries than liquor stores or supermarkets in the state. Many have concluded that this is bad and/or that the program is a failure. Others considered the program a victory for capitalism, and an experiment in the survival of the fittest, in which only the “best” would survive.
As is often the case, we think the answer is probably somewhere in the middle.
On the other hand, the obvious and primary similarity between the programs is the lack of a maximum number of licenses available. While most states limit the number of licenses available, neither Oklahoma nor Mississippi do. Many believe this advantage will lead Mississippi to follow Oklahoma’s lead in spreading dispensaries throughout Magnolia.
On the other hand, there are a number of differences between the two states and their laws that indicate to us that the Mississippi state system will differ in several important respects – we now see this happening. First, while the fee for a dispensary license in Oklahoma is $2,500, the fee in Mississippi is $25,000, 10 times the amount. This amount is due annually in addition to the initial application fee of $15,000. Practically speaking, for better or worse, this feature alone should significantly eliminate the number of dispensaries as it provides a significant barrier to entry into the industry.
Second, there may be far fewer locations available to open a dispensary in Mississippi than one might expect due to the law’s many geographically restricted features. Initially, localities had until May 3 to opt out of the medical cannabis system, and several cities have already done so I did it. Also, dispensaries cannot be located within 1,000 feet of any church, school, or daycare. For those unfamiliar with Mississippi, it can be difficult to find anywhere in the state within 1,000 feet of a church. Furthermore, one dispensary is prohibited by law within 1,500 feet of another, and dispensaries are only permitted in commercially designated areas.
Third, the cannabis industry studying the Mississippi market would benefit from experiencing the Oklahoma experience. This will likely diminish the “Goldrush” mentality seen in Oklahoma’s early days. Instead, look for bigger players to allow the dust to settle and look to acquire players who have proven successful exiting the initial engagement.
It seems possible, at least in the early years, that Mississippi’s medical cannabis system might resemble Oklahoma more than a state like Florida with strict limits on the number of licenses. But our expectation is that certain aspects of Mississippi law and culture will result in less than free-for-all initially, and hopefully lead to a more efficient and more orderly transition to a rational Mississippi cannabis market.
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