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Mississippi Medical Weed Grower Ordered To Destroy $1 Million Worth of Plants

Mississippi’s medical marijuana regulators have announced that Mockingbird Cannabis LLC, the state’s largest licensed cannabis grower, was ordered to kill thousands of plants valued at approximately $1,000,000 for not following regulations. According to the Mississippi State Department of Health, Mockingbird Cannabis LLC was ordered to stop operations and to make improvements at one of its cultivation locations. 

Mississippi’s voters legalized medicinal marijuana with Initiative Measure 65 in 2020. But, state officials have not yet provided any updates.

Mississippi Today published photographs and an article about Mockingbird’s facility that cultivated cannabis in violation of state regulations. Mockingbird was said to have been cultivating cannabis in hoop houses 12 miles away from the main plant. The company had failed to enter the plants at the site into the state’s seed-to-sale tracking system and did not maintain the required security standards. According to Mockingbird officials, the facility had approximately 20,000 plants.

The health department responded by sending a notice to Mockingbird indicating the corrective actions that it needed to take, but declining to answer any questions. Mockingbird’s legal permission to cultivate medical marijuana was in violation of regulations. This gave the company an advantage when the market is ready to go live. Competitors had been informed that grow operations could only be done on one site. They also couldn’t take place in greenhouses.

Mississippi The Regulators issue Sanctions

Kris Jones Adcock was announced on Thursday as the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Program Director that additional action has been taken by the state regulators against Mockingbird.

“There is an order in place where they have some halt on operations and some impact on their operations and some capital improvements they have to do to satisfy that corrective action,” Adcock said at a press conference on Thursday. “They also had to destroy a number of plants in their inventory … I don’t know the exact number, there was upwards of $1 million of inventory destroyed — right at about 5,000 plants.”

Mockingbird co-founder Marcy Croft declined to answer questions about the department’s actions on Thursday, but sent a written statement to Mississippi Today pledging to “continue to fully cooperate with the Mississippi Department of Health, our fellow growers, dispensaries owners and healthcare providers to ensure a robust and effective market in our state.”

Mississippi already has 47 licensed growers of medicinal cannabis. However, the health department reports that the medical marijuana program remains in its provisional stage. There are only three employees and no investigators, while the staff is limited to just three. Despite the apparent lack of oversight, State Health Officer Dr. Dan Edney said on Thursday that he is reasonably sure significant amounts of marijuana are not being diverted to the illicit market and that preventing diversion is the department’s top priority. According to officials, nine additional staff members will be hired before November ends and they plan to work with private firms to ensure compliance.

“We are doing that to the best of our ability,” Edney said. “We are not going to be able to get that to zero, but we are doing as best we can under the regulatory authority given to us … and as we are bringing on more staff next month it will be easier.”

Dispensaries to Get Cannabis by the Next Year

State regulators gave an update on the progress of rolling out Mississippi’s medical marijuana program, which was approved by voters nearly two years ago with the passage of Initiated Measure 65. Officials indicated that, while there is progress in rolling out the program’s implementation, sales of marijuana to patients will not start until the early part of 2023.

“It will be the end of the year or sometime early next year before product is tested and available,” Adcock said, according to a report from the Clarion-Ledger.

On October 27, the state regulators approved medical marijuana licenses to 406 patients, 117 doctors, 138 dispensaries and 47 growers. There were also three disposal companies, two testing laboratories, four processing plants, 491 work permits, as well. Each of the authorized businesses were issued temporary licenses that are valid for 120-days and permit state regulators monitor them before issuing long term licenses.

“I think we have enough practitioners now to take care of the patients that are currently certified, but we will be recruiting more,” Edney said. “We’re seeing increases every day in the number of practitioners that are interested in the program, and we’re seeing increases every day in the number of patients interested in the program.”

Edney added that the health department has done “yeoman’s work” in creating a new program in a short amount of time, noting that the “key tenets” of the program will be ensuring public safety and reducing “any opportunity of diversion that we possibly can.”

“Make no mistake the agency has been regulating this industry from day one and will continue to do so as we go forward,” Edney said.