Desoto County News

Hernando, Olive Branch are in, Southaven opts out of cannabis law

By not taking any action, the Olive Branch Board of Aldermen determined Tuesday night it would stay in with the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Program that became law in February. 

Hernando aldermen also chose to stay in the law during their meeting Tuesday. 

However, the Southaven Board of Aldermen voted to opt out of the program, but at the same time moved to start working on proposing areas of the city where dispensaries could locate. The move is being made to have those proposals in place so Southaven could quickly opt back into the law, which it can do at any time. 

Hernando aldermen were apparently not aware at their meeting, but Southaven and Olive Branch officials late last week became aware of Attorney General Lynn Fitch’s opinion issued Friday that says local governments do have more zoning control on the issue than they originally believed they had. 

It was that perceived lack of local zoning control that had kept some cities, such as Horn Lake earlier in April, from staying in on the new law, but instead chose to opt out of the law.

Southaven Mayor Darren Musselwhite said Tuesday night he and city attorney Nick Manley had written Fitch asking for her opinion with her reply coming just last Friday.  

“This opinion is helping many other cities in Mississippi bring medical marijuana to their cities faster,” Musselwhite said. “According to the opinion, the law gives zoning authority to cities in commercial zones.” 

The mayor went on to say the Attorney General’s opinion is not law, but it eases a lot of his concerns about where cannabis locations could be placed.  

Aldermen approved a motion to opt out but also then to begin the process of formulating a zoning plan. The lateness of the opinion did not give Southaven officials enough time to get a zoning plan in place, but indications are it will be done as quickly as possible.  

“Our goal is to bring medical marijuana to the people who need it, but we’re not going to throw zoning out the window,” said Musselwhite. 

Manley estimated it could be 90-120 days before required changes in the city’s comprehensive plan and other zoning changes are made before they may be ready to vote back into the medical cannabis law, which can be done at any time. 

Hernando officials set up a committee to further look at where cannabis locations could be set up, but also heard from attorney George Ready, representing a company with definite plans to set up a headquarters and medical research facility dealing with medical marijuana.  

Ready said the company, which he named as Southern Bi-Medical Industries, would need to set up a small grove to grow medical cannabis as part of its medical research operations.

“It is a Mississippi-based research and development company dedicated to creating life-changing plant-based medicine, based on medical research for treatments of neurological issues, psychological issues, pain issues, and pain management issues and symptoms,” Ready said. “Even some addiction issues. This is what the intent of the facility is.”  

Ready said the company has an option on some property along I-55 near the weigh station on the west side. About 80-85 people would be employed and Ready said it would have a $5 million economic impact to Hernando.  

Olive Branch aldermen heard from a number of residents about the medical marijuana issue before deciding not to act on a motion to opt out, effectively saying the city would opt in to the law.  

Amy Smoot pointed out that if Olive Branch would opt out of the law, people could go elsewhere to purchase medical cannabis and bring it back into the city to consume it, but the city would get no benefit by not having the substance sold in the city.  

Louis Walker also pointed to the economic benefits of medical cannabis being sold in the city and expressed confidence the city can place the dispensaries in the correct areas.

“All you have to do is zone it correctly and then pass an ordinance,” Walker said. 

Ronnie Pollard of Olive Branch speaks to the Board of Aldermen Tuesday evening, expressing support for the city to stay in the medical marijuana law passed by the state Legislature. (Bob Bakken/DeSoto County News)

Board members also heard from Ronnie Pollard, a former law enforcement officer who is a proponent of medical marijuana and who pushed for the passage of Initiative 65 in the 2020 elections. We featured Pollard at that time in a story on DeSoto County News.    

Pollard’s daughter has been suffering from leukemia for years and began to use CBD with THC in it, which is a form of medical marijuana, while under care at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.  

Nikki, Pollard’s daughter, saw her leukemia blasts, or abnormal white blood cells, reduced from eight to three, an outcome that had the M.D. Anderson’s doctors stumped and asked what the Pollards had done. 

With Tuesday’s decisions, Southaven and Horn Lake have opted out of the medical marijuana law, for now, as both cities get their zoning issues addressed. Olive Branch, armed with the Attorney General’s opinion, is not opting out, as is Hernando. 

DeSoto County supervisors still have not made a definite decision for the unincorporated areas of the county as far as medical cannabis is concerned. However, facing a May 2 deadline, supervisors earlier this week decided they would meet Monday morning, April 25, at 8 a.m. in Hernando with the medical marijuana issue the main topic of discussion.  

PRUIT COMMENDED AS EAGLE SCOUT: At the beginning of Tuesday’s Olive Branch Board of Aldermen meeting, Mayor Ken Adams commended Hunter Pruit for achieving Eagle Scout status. Adams presented Pruit with a commendation certificate on his achieving that level in Scouting.

Hunter Pruit with Mayor Ken Adams at Tuesday’s Board of Aldermen meeting. Pruit was commended by Adams for gaining Eagle Scout status.
(Bob Bakken/DeSoto County News)