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From Staff Reports
While several municipalities and counties are ‘opting out’ of the state’s new medical marijuana program, Greene County officials are showing little sign of doing so. In fact, the county board of supervisors on Monday gave their blessing to one local businessperson looking to cash in on the new legal crop.
County supervisors voted on Monday to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Growing Greene LLC, outlining the businesses plans to grow medical grade cannabis in the county. The MOU signed by Board of Supervisors President Danny Smith also puts in writing the supervisors pledge that they “do not object or intend to prohibit Growing Greene LLC from the legal growth and production” of medical marijuana in Greene County.
Leslie Wade Felts, Growing Greene’s owner, met with board members at their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday and outlined her plans for the new venture. Wade told supervisors she had found out days before the meeting that the county’s blessing was not needed for her to join the medical marijuana industry with a facility in Greene County, but that she decided to meet with them anyway in case they had questions or concerns. She admitted being a little nervous that the county leaders may have been swayed by the other officials across the state who were ‘opting out’ of the program, despite the overwhelming support the issue received in the last statewide election.
She left the meeting feeling emboldened and excited about her decision to base her new business venture in her home community.
“Today I watched a great group of men lay aside their personal opinions to not only honor the will of the people, but also do their own research, so they could make a knowledgeable and sound decision,” Wade-Felts wrote in a social media post later Monday. “I could really tell they had done their homework.”
“They didn’t judge, they spoke with integrity, they listened, they asked questions, and because of great conversations that lead to understanding, today I made history, in our area anyway. Well, we made history actually.”
During her presentation to the board, Wade-Felts joked that it was surreal feeling to sit in a room with the sheriff, her parents, the Greene County Board of Supervisors and others to “discuss me growing weed”. But, Wade-Felts was clearly prepared for the moment and walked supervisors through the plan she and her husband, Al Felts, have put together. She discussed the permitting process, the operational and security plan for the business, and how growing medical cannabis was as much a passion for her as a business decision.
“I am sitting here convicted about this issue because it played a role in my life and well-being,” Wade-Felts said. “I am a stage 4 cancer survivor that was sent home to make arrangements to die some 16 years ago.
“My entire livelihood revolves around natural medicine.”
Wade-Felts said she would be active in the business, but the day-to-day operations would be under the watchful eye of Al Felts. She will continue to operate the couple’s other business, Indigenous Apothecary, located in Richton.
Growing Greene has applied for a Tier 1 micro-grow license and has already began construction on a facility in the northeast corner of the county that will accommodate growing up to 300 plants at a time. Per statute, the operation will be entirely indoors with no outdoor cultivation. She told supervisors she had toured several facilities in other states and plans to far outpace all security and regulatory requirements.
“Our whole mission is to grow quality, not quantity,” she said.
Wade-Felts said none of the product she grew would be sold through her business and that she was not planning at this time to apply for permits for a processing facility or a medical marijuana dispensary.
“I’ve done some research on this myself and the thing I like is that this is going to be so strictly guarded and not going to be a patch of weed out here growing,” District 4 Supervisor Wayne Barrow said. “I am not into the marijuana thing, but is here and a lot of people do use it for medicine and maybe it will help.”
“I think the county will definitely benefit from what y’all are creating and I think that is great.”
District Two Supervisor Elton Clark agreed.
“Not locally, but I have seen the good (medical marijuana) has done for some people,” Clark said. “The regulations in this law are probably stronger than anything I have seen.”
District 1 Supervisor Dillon McInnis thanked Wade-Felts for coming to the meeting and being open with her ideas and plans.
“I want to thank the Board of Supervisors for breaking chains today,” Wade-Felts said later in the day on social media. “This is a new territory that they chose to navigate, when the easy thing would have been just to Opt Out.”
The Mississippi medical marijuana industry was born back in February when Gov. Tate Reeves signed SB 2095 into law, establishing a program for the production and sale of medical cannibis products in the state of Mississippi.
As part of the law, cities and counties in the state had until May 3 to decide whether they would opt out of allowing the growing, processing or sale (individually or as a whole) in their communities. Ridgeland and Pass Christian were the first two cities to opt out of the program. Several others have followed suit, including George County and the City of Lucedale. At press time Tuesday, the day of the deadline, no local municipality had voted to opt out, although a spokesperson in State Line said the issue was on the agenda at the town board meeting that night. Results from that meeting were not available at deadline.
If citizens of the above cities and counties wish to overrule the decision, they can petition for an election to have it reversed. The petition must include signatures of either 20% of the population or 1,500 people, whichever is less depending on the city or county.