The Caledonia Board of Aldermen voted 3-2 Monday to opt out of the state’s medical marijuana program, becoming the first area entity to join a handful of other local governments in the state to ban the manufacture or sale of medical marijuana within their jurisdictions.
A provision in the state’s medical marijuana law, passed in this year’s session of the legislature, allows local governments to vote to opt out of the program by denying marijuana cultivation facilities or dispensaries. The deadline for governments to opt out is May 3. Any county or city that does not vote opt out is automatically available for those facilities after that deadline.
Caledonia Mayor Betty Darnell said the board listened to a presentation from Mississippi Alcoholic Beverage Control before discussing the matter. After about a 90-minute discussion, Darnell said board members Matt Furnari, Robert Jacobs and Tammy McCool voted in favor of a motion to opt out while Jason Chrest and Amanda Boltwood voted no.
“I think the board was concerned because there are still so many things we don’t know,” Darnell said. “They are still writing the regulations as we approach the deadline. I think the board was uncomfortable with that. I don’t think the three who voted to opt out were opposed to someone who needs medical marijuana to have it. I didn’t get that impression at all. I think they just want to wait until they know the details.”
Board attorney Chris Hemphill said that while there is a deadline for local governments to opt out, they can opt back in at any time.
“Theoretically, the board could call a special session and vote to opt in tomorrow,” Hemphill said. “The feeling was, ‘Let’s get the state to work out more of the details and then we can take another look.’”
Citizens in favor of allowing grow facilities or dispensaries now have 60 days to bring the decision to a vote. The law stipulates that a petition with the signatures of 1,500 registered voters or 20 percent of the registered voters, whichever is smaller, is needed to trigger an election.
Caledonia now joins a group of other cities to opt out, including Madison, Ridgeland, Gluckstadt, Flora, Brandon, Pass Christian, Quitman and Horn Lake. Of the state’s 82 counties, Pontotoc is the only county to have voted to opt out.
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.