Two legendary “stoners” are helping bring medicinal cannabis to the people of Mississippi. Imagine a couple of lovable stoners traveling to the Deep South to promote medicinal cannabis across the conservative countryside. Madcap adventures ensue. It sounds like the plot of a Cheech and Chong movie. However, the real-life comedic duo is behind the push to give Mississippi patients access to safe and effective medicinal marijuana products. For Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong, promoting health and wellness through cannabis is no laughing matter.
Cheech and Chong Head to Mississippi
Famed comedic duo Cheech and Chong are announcing their partnership with Mississippi medical cannabis company Southern Sky Brands. The pair say they want to partner with the company because there is a rising demand in the state for high-quality medicinal cannabis products. Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong are co-founders of Cheech and Chong’s Cannabis Co., the perfect blend of fantasy meets reality for two actors who made names for themselves as goofy, lovable stoners in a series of popular Cheech & Chong movies like “Up in Smoke” and “Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie.”
Tommy Chong says the partnership gives medical marijuana patients in Mississippi safe and compassionate medical cannabis options, improving the lives of needy patients and making a difference in the community. The two companies say that in their partnership, they will work closely with local healthcare professionals, regulatory authorities, and communities to ensure patients get the quality care they deserve.
The hope is Cheech and Chong’s Cannabis Co. will provide vast knowledge and industry expertise to the medicinal marijuana landscape in Mississippi. Unfortunately, especially for communities in the South, there is still a stigma associated with cannabis use, even medicinal cannabis use. Two big Hollywood icons may be just what the doctor ordered to help shift attitudes and further reform cannabis policy in the state.
Changes to Mississippi’s Medicinal Cannabis Laws
Recently, the Mississippi legislature made changes to the state’s cannabis laws that limit the information available to the public about business citation records. The move is an attempt to crack down on inconsistencies from agencies in charge of running the state’s emerging medical marijuana program.
Only within the past few months has Mississippi allowed patients to seek medical marijuana. Currently, the new medicinal marijuana law allows qualified patients to purchase up to 3.5 grams of cannabis flower or up to one gram of cannabis concentrate from state-licensed dispensaries daily. Qualifying conditions include Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, chronic pain, Crohn’s disease, HIV/AIDS, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease, seizures, and spinal cord disease.
Originally, the Mississippi Department of Revenue was tasked with licensing, regulating, and enforcing rules governing medicinal cannabis dispensaries. Within the agency, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Enforcement Division is the point division for licensing and regulating dispensaries, while the Mississippi Department of Health serves as the primary agency handling licensing and regulations enforcement of patient cards, cannabis testing and waste disposal facilities, and cannabis transportation entities. Sound confusing? You’re not alone.
A Mississippi Today investigation uncovered evidence that the Department of Health was not consistent with its approval of cultivation plans when coping with the backlog of applications. The eight-person team seemed to struggle with the workload of bringing medicinal marijuana plans to fruition. There were allegations that agents seldom visit cultivation sites, and lags in communication with licensees stretched on for weeks at a time. Those interested in entering Mississippi’s new medical marijuana market felt frustrated with the process and constantly feared that their investment was on the verge of crashing and burning.
Many claim employees were thrown to the wolves and that the state should have invested in professionals or third-party consultants to help smoothly roll out the state’s budding medical marijuana industry. In response to the backlash, legislators went back to work, drafting a new addition stating that “no state agency, political subdivision or board shall implement any rule, regulation, policy, or requirement that is contrary to the provisions of the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act.”
The measure also needed to turn a mistake by the Health Department into part of the new law, approving a large cannabis operator’s secondary location under one license. Now, that state’s largest cannabis growers can have up to two locations if total canopy size is not over 150,000 square feet.
The law also makes investigation records and citations handed out by the Health Department exempt from public records until an investigation concludes and appeals are exhausted. Critics of the new measure say concealing records only makes the problem worse. Instead, more transparency is needed to foster trust and communication, especially when the appeals process can last years. In the meantime, those citations and records remain under lock and key, something critics are against.
The reason for keeping citation records under wraps? One legislator says the change is needed because of “falsehoods” being spread online by medical marijuana competitors and growers. Again, critics argue that hiding records does nothing to prevent people from spreading misinformation online.
Confusion Goes Up in Smoke
Although there is no official word on whether potential changes to Mississippi’s medicinal marijuana law were the deciding factor for Cheech and Chong to enter the crowded field of medical marijuana providers, there is no doubt the stability of a household name could do wonders for confused medical marijuana patients in the state. Cheech and Chong’s Cannabis Co. has years of industry experience to draw upon and share with Southern Sky Brands. Cheech and Chong’s Cannabis Co. is also renowned for pioneering contributions and advocacy for responsible marijuana use. The stability they may bring to the emerging medical cannabis market in Mississippi may go a long way toward helping other businesses and community members embrace the benefits of cannabis and ease some of the bad blood.
While Cheech and Chong’s Cannabis Co. and Southern Sky Brands are excited about their looming partnership, there is still no word about when the companies will start rolling out their unique medicinal marijuana products to Mississippi patients.