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More temporary business licensees are coming online in Mississippi’s medical cannabis program.

State officials recently outlined licensing figures and other updates on the state’s medical cannabis industry during an Oct. 27 news conference.

Chris Jones Adcock, director of the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Program, said the state has issued temporary licenses to 47 growers, 138 dispensaries, eight processors, three waste disposal facilities, two testing labs and four transporters. As of Oct. 3, Mississippi announced 38 temporary cultivation approvals, according to the Memphis, Tenn.-based NBC affiliate Action News 5.

In addition, Adcock said Mississippi’s medical cannabis program now has 406 patients, 117 practitioners who can provide medical cannabis referrals, and 491 work permits for people to work in the cannabis industry. The state has approved 367 work permits, with 50 being processed as of Oct. 3, according to Action News 5.

Adcock and two other government officials—Dr. Dan Edney, Mississippi state health officer and physician, and Jim Craig, senior deputy and director of health protection for the Mississippi State Department of Health, said state officials are working diligently to prevent the product from being diverted to the illegal cannabis market .

“We’re not going to be able to get it down to zero,” Edney said of the diversion. “But we are reducing it as low as we can through our regulator based on the legal terms we’ve been given …. I have every confidence that we are doing a more than reasonable job of protecting against diversion and will continue to do our best.

In addition, Edney said the planned increase in state office hiring will allow for additional support from the state.

Craig pointed out that it may be possible to completely eliminate the diversion of products to the illicit market, saying that “it’s a very important role for us in the health department, in the regulatory space, to ensure patient safety and to minimize and/or eliminate the potential diversion.”

Edney said Mississippi’s planned timeline is for products to enter dispensaries in January 2023. Adcock said dispensaries could begin selling products as soon as late December 2022.

But before sales begin, Adcock said many cannabis businesses have requested technical assistance from the state to become fully compliant with the regulations, and the state may review the business’s standard operating procedures during the temporary license period.

Like Cannabis Business Times reported on Oct. 28, Mississippi regulators have disciplined grower Mockingbird Cannabis for allegedly using hoop structures that violate state statute. Mississippi officials said the business must destroy $1 million worth of plants and temporarily halt operations until it makes structural improvements at one of its sites, according to Mississippi today.

Adcock explained during the press conference that structures used for cultivation must have closed roof structures, permanent walls and strong foundations.

“Nothing has gone without a flaw,” Adcock said. “People do have questions. They do have compliance issues and we are working on those compliance issues and these site visits really give us an opportunity to do that.”

During the press conference, Adcock answered a question from a reporter who said the number of patients (406) seemed low and asked if it was due to the low number of practitioners (117).

Adcock said the law states that practitioners have 60 days to provide written certifications to patients after those patients apply. She also said that in order for a patient to receive a medical cannabis referral from a practitioner, they must have an established relationship. (The statute explains that the practitioner must have treated or consulted with the patient and personally assessed the patient’s medical history and current physical and mental health.)

Edney said he has become a certified medical practitioner who can prescribe cannabis and has trained other doctors in the medical program.

“As I go around the state talking to practitioners about the cannabis program, there are a lot of them who are still sitting on the fence and not sure what they want to do,” Edney says. “They want to make sure it doesn’t affect their overall practice.” And as I have a thoughtful conversation with them, most of them see the value of a thoughtful decision between a physician or provider and their patient about another tool in the toolbox to try to alleviate pain and suffering or other symptoms. And by talking to them, they’re more relaxed.”

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