Legislature Adjourns Without Enacting Alternative Medical Marijuana Program, Department of Health Releases Draft Testing Laboratory Regulations

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What happened.

On March 30, 2021, the Mississippi State Department of Health published in draft form Regulations for Independent Medical Marijuana Testing Facilities.  Just a few days later, on April 4, the Mississippi Legislature adjourned sine die, bringing to a close efforts made during the 2021 Regular Session to adopt an alternate Medical Marijuana program.

What it means. 

Under the Mississippi Administrative Procedures Law (APL) state agencies must publish draft regulations for comment before they become final.  On March 30, 2021, the Mississippi State Department of Health published a 17-page draft of regulations the agency is proposing to govern the licensing and operation of testing facilities to support the state’s Medical Marijuana program. Under the APL, persons have the opportunity to submit in writing arguments, data, and views on these proposed rules for a period of at least 25 days following their publication. In addition, the Department has scheduled a public hearing, to take place virtually by Zoom, to consider public input on the new regulations on May 11, 2021 at 10:30 (CST).  Further details involving the hearing and the proposed rules can be found here: https://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/_static/30,0,425.html.

The new regulations provide that all Independent Medical Marijuana Testing Facilities must be physically located within the state and may not have any “direct or indirect familial or financial relationship with or interest in a Medical Marijuana Treatment Center/dispensary, related marijuana business entity, or management company….” (Rule 1.3.2.b.).  Certification may be granted by the Department if the facility is currently certified to meet International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards for ISO/IEC 17025:2017 (General Requirements for the Competence of Testing and Calibration Laboratories) by an accreditation body recognized by the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC), makes application, pays appropriate fees to the Department and meets all requirements of the Program, including an onsite inspection.  Initial licensure/certification will be valid for a period of one (1) year and annual recertification is required.  Further details are available at the MSDH site linked above.

The publication of the testing facility regulations follows unsuccessful efforts by some legislators to enact an alternate Medical Marijuana program during the 2021 Regular Session, to become effective should the Mississippi Supreme Court strike down Initiative 65. The Court is scheduled to entertain oral argument on April 14, 2021, on a direct challenge to the constitutional Medical Marijuana measure approved by Mississippi voters last November.

The Department of Health is expected to propose additional rules and regulations to govern the program no later than July 1, 2021, the current deadline for final regulations to be released under Initiative 65. We will publish additional alerts as regulations become available.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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