As we predicted back in April, disputes between medical cannabis businesses and counties or municipalities over local zoning ordinances and permits are starting to arise. Participants in Mississippi’s medical cannabis program are moving swiftly to obtain licenses and set up operations, while some participating cities and counties are grappling with how to balance the directives of the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act with the interests of their constituents. Given the stigma associated with cannabis and the infancy of the medical cannabis industry in Mississippi, conflict seems inevitable and such a dispute recently made it to the public arena.

On August 18, 2022, a medical cannabis dispensary sued the City of Canton, Canton’s planning and zoning commission, and the commission’s executive director alleging that the city arbitrarily and capriciously denied the dispensary a local privilege license. The dispensary, which has been licensed by the State of Mississippi, alleges that the city improperly rejected its local privilege license application because the city had reached an informal and undisclosed limit on the number of dispensaries that the governing authorities were going to allow in Canton. The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief in the form of a writ of mandamus and a declaratory judgment, ultimately requiring the city to issue a local privilege license to the dispensary.

The act gives participating local governments some discretion to regulate, via permits or ordinances, how medical cannabis businesses operate in their jurisdiction. But various components of Mississippi law, including the act itself, limit that discretion by, among other things, prohibiting the adoption of ordinances that would prohibit medical cannabis operations and providing aggrieved businesses potential relief if the local government over-reaches. We previously wrote on that topic here and here.  

As more medical cannabis businesses seek local approval to operate and as more and more counties and municipalities adopt local rules regulating these businesses, additional disputes like the one filed last week against Canton are sure to arise. And the outcome of those disputes will play a major role in shaping Mississippi’s new medical cannabis program. 

Bradley attorneys have a wealth of knowledge and a variety of experience helping clients across all industries navigate local laws, ordinances and processes statewide in connection with their businesses. Experience and know-how makes Bradley’s Cannabis Industry team uniquely suited to guide clients through the many minefields that lay before them in the local government sphere and in all aspects of the medical cannabis field in Mississippi and elsewhere.

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Photo of Slates C. Veazey Slates C. Veazey

Slates is a member of Bradley’s Cannabis Industry team, advising clients on a variety of cannabis issues and in a wide range of sectors. From individuals and entities interested in participating in the new Mississippi medical cannabis program to non-plant-touching companies impacted by…

Slates is a member of Bradley’s Cannabis Industry team, advising clients on a variety of cannabis issues and in a wide range of sectors. From individuals and entities interested in participating in the new Mississippi medical cannabis program to non-plant-touching companies impacted by that emerging market, Slates and his partners provide the full suite of services that Bradley offers to its many other clients — but with a specific understanding of the ever-changing cannabis industry. His work has been featured in The National Law Journal, JD Supra, and the Cannabis Business Executive. Slates also has been quoted by the Mississippi Business Journal and Mississippi Today regarding Mississippi’s medical cannabis program.

Photo of Jason Fortenberry Jason Fortenberry

Jason Fortenberry regularly represents and advises businesses in a variety of matters ranging from consumer finance litigation and products liability actions to personal and commercial real estate litigation, tax sale disputes, receiverships, foreclosures and other debt collection matters, as well as limited employment…

Jason Fortenberry regularly represents and advises businesses in a variety of matters ranging from consumer finance litigation and products liability actions to personal and commercial real estate litigation, tax sale disputes, receiverships, foreclosures and other debt collection matters, as well as limited employment concerns.

Jason practices extensively in both state and federal court, as well as various arbitration forums, and has obtained favorable results for a broad range of clients in a variety of litigation and limited transactional matters.