LUCEDALE, Miss. (WKRG) — Medical marijuana will soon be allowed to be grown and sold in the city of Lucedale, with limitations.

The board of aldermen previously voted, as did George County supervisors, to opt out of the state law signed in February allowing medical marijuana businesses to start forming in the state.

As of June, the MSU Stennis Institute of Government counted 19 counties and 28 cities that had opted out. In the Gulf Coast and Pine Belt regions, D’Iberville, Pass Christian and Picayune were the only cities to opt out with Lucedale along with Jones and Pearl River counties.

After rules and local ordinances were drafted in other cities, Lucedale began revisiting the issue in June. Dozens of people filled the meeting room when opting back in was expected on the aldermen’s agenda earlier this month. No discussion was had without a final ordinance ready for the board to take up.

Only a handful were present for Monday’s meeting, including Michael West.

“I know that the tax revenue that the cultivation is going to bring to the city is going to be beneficial and I would rather do it here versus anywhere else. I want to make sure the money comes into Lucedale,” said West.

The Lucedale native hopes to purchase a building within the next 60 days to begin cultivating marijuana. He previously told aldermen his investors were anxious to go somewhere else as the board remained indecisive.

Mayor Doug Lee agreed West and the other interested parties deserved an answer and prompted the board to vote on July 19 that it intended to opt in, pending the ordinance’s final language. Alderman Al Jones was the only hold-out.

The vote remained 4-1 to finally adopt the ordinance Monday night with little discussion. It came against the recommendation of the city’s zoning and planning commission. Members voted 3-2 against the ordinance earlier in the evening.

“We’re supposed to be representing the people and I don’t think the people know. I think if it was publicized well and everybody knew, I think the conservative people would say ‘we don’t want that element. It’s not good,” said commission member Wayne Pierce. “Just because everybody else is doing it, that’s not a justification for Lucedale.”

The commission’s public hearing drew a single Lucedale citizen to the meeting. When medical marijuana legalization was on the ballot in 2020, 58.8% of people voting on the issue in George County were in favor of legalization, including 60.5% of precincts that include voters living in the city limits.

“To me, that’s saying my county is on board. There is a definite need for medical marijuana for people I know personally. They shouldn’t have to drive out of town when it’s perfectly legal to bring it back here anyway,” said alderwoman Carrie Moulds.

The view among the zoning commission was the growth and sale of medical marijuana could be a slippery slope to recreational use and increased crime in the city, the likelihood of which the National Institutes of Health says is exaggerated.

“It could be good for people with a medical problem but it could turn into something bad and as far as it being controlled in certain areas and grown with big fences around it and barbed wire, it doesn’t mean somebody’s not going to break-in and steal it. We’ve already got a drug problem here anyway,” said Pierce.

The ordinance doesn’t allow dispensaries within 1,000 feet and growth facilities within 1,500 feet of residential areas and any church, school or childcare facility. A business may set up between 500 and 1,000 feet of those buildings with written consent. Dispensaries cannot be within 1,500 feet of each other. 

Selling hours are limited to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday. No drive-thru sales are allowed and the cannabis products cannot be consumed on-site, inside or outside.

All medical marijuana establishments must be licensed by the state. 93 dispensaries and seven cultivation facilities across the state have been licensed as of Aug. 5.

“I feel like a lot of people just really don’t understand it’s not like a free-for-all on every street corner. You aren’t able to roll up cigarettes and smoke it wherever you want. It’s going to be very controlled,” said Moulds. “I would never vote for recreational marijuana.”

The ordinance goes into effect Sept. 15.

Voters in George County will be asked in November whether they support medical marijuana cultivation, dispensary and transportation entities in three different ballot questions. The opinion poll won’t have an immediate impact. The board of supervisors will consider the results when deciding whether to opt back in after the election.