Mississippi is a state that has historically been lagging on legal cannabis access, but now, more medical dispensaries are coming to town. Despite zoning issues and folks being resistant to change, there is finally going to be more medical access in Mississippi. 

Five more dispensaries are currently approved to open in the Gulfport area of Mississippi, which is located in the southern part of the state. This comes as more municipalities and counties are finally letting up and offering business permits to medical cannabis providers. 

However, despite this positive change for the industry, zoning regulations are still providing some setbacks. That isn’t stopping the determined medical industry from moving forward, though.

“We’re not taking this on a case-by-case basis,” says Gulfport mayor Billy Hewes. “We set the zoning in place and said, ‘These are the criteria, these are the areas. Go get it.’”

Despite the challenges faced so far, Hewes is optimistic that medical cannabis can be a major supporter for Gulfport. 

These particular dispensary zoning regulations have been in place for some time. They were established in November 2022 and are strategic in nature when it comes to where they are placed. They are located around the Highway 49 corridor for easy access for customers. However, there are still folks who are critical of these regulations and want to be able to open shops outside this zone.

One group in particular is pushing to be able to open outside of the currently approved zoning area. They are currently lobbying for public support with postcards to citizens explaining why they want this change. However, Hewes is in support of medical cannabis, but pushes back that there should be room for plenty of dispensaries in the approved areas. 

“By our calculations, on the zones, you can have up to 30 [dispensaries] in the city,” Hewes says in response to the criticism. “They’re saying that it’s hard to get a license, it’s hard to do business. We already have five [dispensaries] that are approved here.”

One of the dispensaries that has already joined the legal ranks is Green Wise Cannabis Company, which received approval and plans to open in the area soon. 

“For us, the city of Gulfport was easy to deal with,” says the dispensary’s operations manager Michael Gray about the process of getting approval and opening, despite the current debate around zoning issues. 

However, he also admitted that the process did have some legal hiccups, something not unusual in the cannabis industry. 

“Our location was within 500 feet of a hotel—and hotels were considered residential and the city of Gulfport was not going to be able to give us a permit,” he says. “So, we just started working with the city. We attended the meetings. We represented our side, and they reviewed that law. And when the city changed the law, we were able to receive our license because the only conflict was that hotel. We’re just excited to be a part of Gulfport. We should be opening in early May.”

As the zoning debate continues, and despite the frustration of some dispensaries, Mayor Hewes remains hopeful about medical cannabis in the city. This also opens up a future for recreational cannabis if the state passes it, or if it becomes legal on a national level. 

“We’re going to continue moving forward and continue encouraging folks to do business here. But, let’s try to leave the zoning that is in place and see how that work comes out,” he adds regarding the future of the legal industry.

As medical cannabis moves forward in the state, time will tell whether the zoning regulations need to be changed or are working as-is. 

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