Arkansas medical cannabis cultivator wants in Mississippi. He just doesn’t want competition.

By Aaron Rice
March 3, 2020

The owner of large medical cannabis cultivator in Arkansas is funding a legislative push to challenge the medical marijuana ballot initiative that will be in front of voters in the fall. 

Mississippi law allows legislative alternatives to appear alongside ballot initiatives, and multiple alternatives have been introduced. If an alternative was adopted, the legislature would be tasked with creating a medical marijuana program in 2021, something they haven’t exactly shown an interest in over the past two decades. 

They haven’t even approved the cultivation of hemp, though highly regulated bills are pending in both chambers.

The difference between the initiative and what some legislators want is obvious. The initiative is a Constitutional amendment that writes a very clean, market based program into law. Legislators wouldn’t be able to make changes or tightly regulate the program as they have done with the CBD oil program. But the alternative puts the ball back in the their court, allowing the legislature to create a small program, with limited options, that may or may not be operating any time in the foreseeable future. 

There are four such concurrent resolutions in the legislature, with three in the House and one in the Senate, though House Concurrent Resolution 39, by state Rep. Trey Lamar (R-Senatobia), appears to be the resolution that is moving. It is highly restrictive and limited, allowing for a "limited number of state-licensed manufacturers," while permitting the Board of Health and similar opponents of medical marijuana to design what they would like.

Since they are resolutions and not bills, they only require approval of the legislature and don’t need the signature of Gov. Tate Reeves to appear on the ballot. 

Where does Steven LaFrance, the owner of Natural State Medicinals in Arkansas, fit in this? His attorney, Alex Gray, recently told Marijuana Moment that LaFrance would like to see licensing caps and a “merit-based” licensing scheme. Sounds a lot like HCR 39.

The ballot initiative would allow those who fit within the regulations to open a business in Mississippi in a free market system without caps or state preference. Essentially, if you follow the law, you can open a business and be in business if you can make money. But the restricted access would likely play very well for LaFrance, who wants to enter the Mississippi market. 

At this point, Mississippi will likely have medical marijuana after the November elections. It’s just a matter of what that program looks like. For LaFrance, he seems to understand very well how business is often conducted in Mississippi - by currying favor with legislators and limiting competition.


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