Looking into Our (Slightly Hazy) Crystal Ball: What Will the Mississippi Cannabis Market Look Like?
When you do what we do, you get a lot of calls and a lot of questions. Many of the calls and questions are not fruitful. Quite honestly, some of the calls are from folks whose interest in and experience with cannabis is, we suspect, on a purely personal and leisurely level. In the words of Hyman Roth, this is the business we’ve chosen.
But one legitimate question we’re often asked is what we think the cannabis market will look like in Mississippi. And, more specifically, whether Mississippi’s new medical cannabis regime will be similar to the one in Oklahoma.
It’s a loaded question, and one we suspect many questioners don’t fully appreciate. On the one hand, Oklahoma’s medical cannabis program has been compared to the Wild West. At last count, there were more medical cannabis dispensaries than liquor stores or supermarkets in the state. Many have concluded that this is a bad thing and/or that the program is a failure. Others have deemed the program a triumph of capitalism, a survival-of-the-fittest trial where only the “best” will survive.
As is often the case, we think the answer is probably somewhere in the middle.
On the one hand, the obvious and primary similarity between the programs is the absence of an expressed cap on the number of licenses available. While most states limit the number of licenses available, neither Oklahoma nor Mississippi does so. Many believe this feature will lead to Mississippi following the lead of Oklahoma in terms of the proliferation of dispensaries throughout the Magnolia State.
On the other hand, there are a number of differences between the two states and their statutes that indicate to us that Mississippi’s regime will differ in several important ways – ways we are seeing play out now. First, while the license fee for a dispensary in Oklahoma is $2,500, the fee in Mississippi is $25,000, 10 times the amount. And that amount is owed annually and is in addition to the initial $15,000 application fee. As a practical matter, and for better or worse, this feature alone should significantly cull the number of dispensaries because it provides a substantial barrier to entry into the industry.
Second, there may be significantly fewer locations available to open a dispensary in Mississippi than one would expect due to several geographic-limiting features of the law. Initially, localities have until May 3 to opt out of the medical cannabis regime, and several cities have already done so. Also, dispensaries cannot be located within 1,000 feet of any church, school, or daycare facility. For those unfamiliar with Mississippi, it may be tough to find anywhere in the state that isn’t within 1,000 feet of a church. Even more, the law forbids one dispensary from being within 1,500 feet from another dispensary, and dispensaries are only permissible in commercially zoned areas.
Third, the cannabis industry examining the Mississippi market will have the benefit of having lived through the Oklahoma experience. This is likely to minimize the “goldrush” mentality seen in Oklahoma’s early days. Instead, look for larger players to let the dust settle and come in looking to acquire operators who proved successful breaking out of the initial melee.
It seems possible that, at least in the early years, the Mississippi medical cannabis regime may more closely resemble Oklahoma than a state like Florida with strict limitations on the number of licenses. But our prediction is that certain aspects of Mississippi law and culture will lead to less of a free-for-all at the outset, hopefully leading to a more efficient and more orderly transition to a rational cannabis market in Mississippi.