Cannabis dispensaries in Mississippi get city approval. Here's what owners have to say.

·3 min read

Hattiesburg City Council approved two conditional-use zoning variances for cannabis dispensaries in the city, paving the way for a new avenue for medical treatment in Mississippi.

The votes were unanimous.

Ryan Bennett, owner of REV stores in Hattiesburg, Ocean Springs, Meridian and Tupelo, said it will be a welcome addition to patient care.

"This is a big opportunity for us to help people in crisis," he said. "This is something personal for me. I am a veteran of the U.S. Army so I know a lot of people who have dealt with a lot of issues that we thought this could help. It's really a passion, not just for me, but for most of our team."

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Mississippi's medical marijuana bill was signed into law Feb. 2. Since then cities and counties around the state that did not opt out of the program have been preparing to grow, process and distribute prescribed cannabis products.

A medical professional can prescribe medical marijuana only within the scope of his or her practice if the patient has one of 22 conditions outlined in the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Program, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, sickle cell disease and Alzheimer's disease.

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Bennett said he and his staff have been preparing more than two years to be able to dispense medical marijuana. REV stores were built out to meet the requirements of a dispensary, staff was trained, licenses obtained and more.

Medical marijuana is legal in areas of Mississippi where local governments allow it.
Medical marijuana is legal in areas of Mississippi where local governments allow it.

"We originally started off as a vaping company to help people quit smoking, then CBD came online and the Farm Bill passed in 2018, it's just another opportunity to help people," Bennett said.

Statewide, a little over 100 licenses have been issued as of Aug. 5.

Cory Ferraez, owner of Ferrcann Dispensary, is taking a holistic approach to operating a medical marijuana dispensary. He is taking the product from seed to store to offer the best quality possible.

"It's kind of like the craft beer of medical marijuana," he said.

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Ferraez also owns the Your CBD Store on U.S. 98.

"With CBD, it was a completely new industry," Ferraez said. "And now we're doing the same thing with the cannabis stuff."

Medical marijuana is something that a lot of his customers have been looking forward to for years, he said.

"To say that excitement is building, that would be an understatement," Ferraez said. "We think the market is going to be pretty good."

The Hattiesburg Planning Commission voted to recommend City Council approve both dispensaries. Only one letter of dissent was filed, in which a property manager of a nearby apartment complex expressed concerns over potential odor from cannabis processing.

With approval from the city under their belts, Ferraez and Bennett are taking the dispensaries into the home stretch.

The Mississippi State Department of Health said products should be available later this year, giving producers time to cultivate the cannabis and for safety tests to be conducted.

"Our goal opening day is Dec. 1, if product is available," Bennett said.

The Hattiesburg REV store is at 6335 U.S. 49. Ferrcann Dispensary will be at 2772 Oak Grove Road.

"We're grateful for the city adopting some reasonable ordinances," Ferraez said. "We're really excited to be in Hattiesburg and get this type of industry started."

Despite some cities and counties embracing medical marijuana, about a quarter have said an emphatic "No." Local governments that did not want any sort of medical marijuana facility were able to opt out before the May deadline.

Roughly 85 of the state's 423 cities and 19 of its 82 counties have opted out of the program.

Do you have a story to share? Contact Lici Beveridge at lbeveridge@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @licibev or Facebook at facebook.com/licibeveridge.

This article originally appeared on Hattiesburg American: Mississippi cannabis dispensaries get Hattiesburg approval