Tupelo City Council approves changes to development code for medical marijuana businesses

The amendments regulate medical cannabis businesses

TUPELO, MISS. (WCBI) – Tupelo City Council members have voted to amend the city’s development code to show where medical cannabis businesses can and can’t locate.

Elliot Johnston opened “Hempsters” almost one year ago.  The west Tupelo business is a hemp dispensary, but Johnston plans on cultivating and selling medical marijuana, once the city finalizes its guidelines.

“We would most likely do a separate business.  Because of where we’re at, not sure we would be able to open a dispensary, and that is some of the challenges with the ordinances, but I think the city has put in a lot of work with the ordinances, commend them on the work they’ve done so far,” Johnston said.

City Planner Jenny Savely says the administration has been working on the issue for about ten months now.  The Planning Committee approved the changes to the code, and it is now up to the city council to approve the changes.  Savely says it’s important to balance the interests of the business owners and the desires of residents.

“With any city development, you’re trying to create an environment where our long-term residents and new growth will leave together peacefully.  I think it’s important to remember this is a medical product that’s being permitted with the legislation,” Savely said.

The proposed ordinance would allow medical marijuana dispensaries, and research and testing facilities in commercial, or mixed-use zones.  Processing and cultivation facilities will be in agricultural zones.

The ordinance would bar medical marijuana facilities from locating within one thousand feet of protected places, which include schools, churches, or daycare businesses.

Medical marijuana businesses would also be off-limits in the Fairpark area.  Savely says the entire process is heavily regulated by the state.

“The security limitations and the seed to sale process the state has set up is very thorough and it protects our communities at a regulatory level at the state level,” Savely said.

Johnston doesn’t foresee any major issues with the city’s ordinance, and he believes medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities will have many positive impacts on the city.

“There’s the revenue streams, both for small businesses and the city, also we have North Mississippi Medical Center, one of the largest rural hospitals in the area, and this is a medical program, so a lot of those people going there for things such as cancer they will be able to benefit from some of these products,” Johnston said.

There is one change to the proposed ordinance, funeral homes and correctional facilities have been removed from the list of protected places.  The City Council has the final say on the issue.  Council members could still decide to opt-out of the state’s medical-marijuana program, meaning there would not be any medical marijuana businesses in the city.  If that happens, residents can petition for an election to overrule that decision.

The Pontotoc County Board of Supervisors has voted to opt-out of the medical marijuana program.

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