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Mississippi joined four other states during the 2020 election cycle and passed Initiative 65, legalizing medical marijuana and making it one of the first southern U.S. states to do so.

Alongside Mississippi, South Dakota, Arizona, Montana, and New Jersey also voted to establish a cannabis program, either medical or recreational. 

Per Initiative 65, the state offers a long list of qualifying medical conditions for Mississippi residents. The patient language is pretty open, especially compared to other states, which means more people will have access to the medicine that helps them most. Initiative 65 amends the constitution and allows Mississippi residents to access up to 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana over an allotted time period.

If you’re interested in opening a medical cannabis dispensary in Mississippi, here’s what you need to know about the process.

Application

Patient criteria was decided before the proposal hit the ballot. We knew the qualifying conditions and allotments allowed by the state’s government. But what about cannabis business licensing in Mississippi? How will that work so dispensaries can open and patients can access their medicine? The Mississippi Department of Health is pushing for retail sales regulations to be established by July 1st, 2021. This language will determine the ins and outs of cannabis retail sales, as well as each phase of the supply chain.

This means the language for Mississippi dispensary licensing has not yet been established; however, the processes are fairly similar in each state, so we can offer some assumptions based on other programs. 

There are some things we do already know. The legislation states that licenses will open up no later than August 15th, 2021. They could even open earlier, so your best bet is to be ready when applications do open.

Local jurisdictions are also not permitted to ban the sale of medical marijuana, according to the law. If you’re interested in opening a medical marijuana dispensary in Mississippi, it’s in your best interest to begin preparing to apply as soon as possible.  

Since we don’t know enough information about licensing just yet, we highly recommend you find a consulting group that can help you navigate the application process. Cannabis business applications can be tedious and might involve subject matter that’s out of your wheelhouse. You don’t want to wait until you realize you need help with the application to find guidance.

Because Mississippi has no cap on licenses, it may offer open applications, which means you can apply at any time to become a dispensary owner. However, don’t let that thought lead to procrastination. The cannabis industry is fast-moving, and while there will probably always be another shot, being one of the first-to-market is a differentiator, especially in cannabis. Your customers will trust you if you’ve been around from the beginning.

Securing Capital

If you need capital for your Mississippi dispensary, don’t go to a traditional bank. Cannabis is still considered a controlled substance on the federal level, despite over half the country employing a medical marijuana program. This means traditional banks are disqualified from lending to cannabis businesses. So, you’re left with just a few options: bootstrap it or find private investors. Considering some dispensaries cost millions of dollars to run, especially vertically integrated operations, most people don’t bootstrap.

There are plenty of private investors willing to invest in cannabis. You just need to convince them you’re the one who will give them the best return on investment.

Consider this: your average dispensary costs between $150,000 and $2 million. You might not be spending $2 million a year on your dispensary, but even the low end of $150,000 is still a significant investment. Don’t forget the startup costs associated with simply applying for licensure, too.

Staffing Cannabis

Cannabis is a fun and exciting industry, especially to those who have been waiting for decades to see it legalized! While you may get many qualified job applicants interested in working in your dispensary, they will still require training for budtending, health and safety, security, and more.

One way dispensaries can ensure their staff is well-prepared is by developing a comprehensive training program. Your budtenders need to be comfortable answering questions from customers and recommending products based on their medical needs.

You also need to be willing to invest in your staff. Don’t pay minimum wage just because you can. Think about employee retention and how that impacts your bottom line, and pay a decent wage if you’re able. Mississippi has a minimum wage of $7.25. This isn’t much, and considering you’re trusting your staff with customers’ needs, you need to pay them enough to ensure they stay committed to doing a great job.

Sourcing Product

The most important thing about sourcing products is trusting your supplier and knowing they will give you a high-quality product every single time. This is especially important for medical cannabis dispensaries: Your customers need medical-grade products. 

Establishing a great relationship with your supplier is important, too. It ensures an open line of communication and might even position you to receive better deals down the line.

Compliance Considerations

Mississippi has forbidden jurisdictions from banning the sale of cannabis, so you should be able to set up shop in your area. However, there are certain rules (which Mississippi will release in the future) that forbid dispensaries from being within a certain distance from places like schools and daycares. So before you get your heart set on a location, wait for the state to release their regulations and ensure you’re able to operate there.

Also keep in mind: many states require dispensaries to have security cameras at all angles of the store, so you might consider reaching out to cannabis security companies and learning more about your options.

Other compliance considerations you’ll need to consider include health and safety, quality control, cash controls, and inventory management.

Marketing Your Cannabis Dispensary

Since Mississippi’s business market will no doubt be more competitive than some other states due to open applications, it’s imperative you invest in marketing to differentiate your brand. How will anyone know you offer high-quality cannabis products if you don’t tell them? 

Unfortunately, cannabis businesses’ marketing strategies are limited due to strict regulations. Throwing a picture of some gorgeous bud on your Instagram? Nope. You’ll get your account banned. Setting up a paid ad of customers smoking a joint? Don’t get too far in making that ad: they’ll just take it down. Marketing channels, aside from some exceptions, do not permit content surrounding controlled substances, which cannabis is still considered to be today. However, you can still use online marketing; you just have to keep some restrictions in mind and focus on organic growth over paid ads.

At Mary Jane Marketer, we can help you market your dispensary while staying compliant.  We know how to navigate the constantly changing cannabis rules and regulations.  

Nobody knows your business better than you, and nobody knows cannabis marketing better than us, so book your consultation today and let’s create something amazing!

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