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MSDH announces “aggressive” timeline for Initiative 65’s implementation

When Initiative Measure No. 65 passed on Tuesday, it allowed for the sale of medical marijuana in Mississippi, but that obviously won’t happen immediately.

It’s not going to be fast and it won’t be easy.  If you take a look at the following initiative language, which is broken down by revenue and expense estimates, you’ll see the planning which must occur before the first sale can take place.

Legislative Budget Office Fiscal Analysis for Initiative 65:

  • The overall cost to Mississippi for the first year is estimated to be $11,068,150.
  • The anticipated expenses for the first year to implement a medical marijuana program is $24,068,150 (Plants – seeds to Sale: $5,000,000; Licensing, Monitoring, Inspection: $16,220,150; and Cost to Collect Revenue: $2,848,000).
  • The anticipated revenue is $13,000,000 (User ID Cards: $2,500,000; Commercial Licenses: $500,000 and sales fee at 7 percent: $10,000,000).
  • The anticipated expenses for years following the first for a medical marijuana program is $15,338,000 (Plants – seeds to Sale: $5,000,000; Licensing, Monitoring, Inspection: $8,756,000; and Cost to Collect Revenue: $1,582,000).
  • The anticipated revenue is $26,000,000 (User ID Cards: $5,000,000; Commercial Licenses: $1,000,000 and sales fee at 7 percent: $20,000,000).
  • The overall annual revenue is anticipated to be $10,662,000, all of which must be used to support the state marijuana program.

74 percent of Mississippi voters approved the measure.

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Also, when Initiative 65 passed, a multi-page Proposed Amendment was also approved. While it was not included on the ballot, the Amendment provides more details on the establishment and funding of the program.  Section 6 of the Amendment specifically states:

“In addition to the fees applied to issuing identification cards and licensing medical marijuana treatment centers, the department may assess up to the equivalent of the state’s sales tax rate to the final sale of medical marijuana.  Revenue generated under this section or through the issuance of identification cards or the licensing of medical marijuana treatment centers shall pay for the costs incurred by the department in implementing and enforcing the provisions of this article and shall be deposited into a special fund in the state treasury to be expended by the department without prior appropriation or authorization.  The department shall administer the fund and make expenditures from the fund for costs or other services or programs associated with this article.  Fund balances shall not revert to the General Fund.  The department shall have the authority to utilize these special funds to escalate personnel positions in the department where needed, as non-state-service, to administer and enforce the provisions of this article.  Upon request of the department, the State Treasurer shall provide a line of credit from the Working Cash Stabilization Fund or any other available special source funds maintained in the state treasury in an amount not to exceed Two Million Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($2,200,000), for deposit to this special fund to provide sufficient working cash to implement the provisions of this article.  Any such loans shall be repaid from the available funds received by the department under this article.”

With the passage of Initiative 65, the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) is now charged with implementing the program.  It’s a big task and they know it.  The agency released the following statement on Thursday:

“MSDH is now in the planning stages of the many elements needed to implement a successful medical marijuana program for the state. We have been researching this project over the last several months, and intend to meet the aggressive timeframe of August 15, 2021. Regulations for all aspects of the program, including production and licensing for sale, must be in place by July 1, 2021. As we make progress we will keep the public fully informed. We understand the broad public interest in this program, and ask for your patience as we develop the necessary plans to go forward late next summer.”

As Initiative 65 proceeds, News Mississippi will break down different aspects of the measure in the coming weeks.

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