Just when things looked to be somewhat settling for the future of medical marijuana in Mississippi, a potential new hurdle has appeared – the supply of electricity to the sector.
Mississippi’s Medical Cannabis Act became law after Governor Tate Reeves grudgingly signed off on it last week, ending a couple of years of mayhem over medical marijuana.
The Mississippi State Department of Health says it is now working to establish licensing and patient registry structures, and plans to start accepting online license applications by June this year.
As cultivation, processing and dispensing facilities start being built, something they’ll all need of course is electricity – and a shadow has been cast over the supply of this essential service.
In the USA, hemp has been legal at a federal level since the signing of the 2018 Farm Bill. Hemp is defined as the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of the plant with a delta-9 THC concentration of not more than 0.3 percent by dry weight. Above that THC level and cannabis is considered marijuana – and marijuana remains illegal at a federal level.
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is a major electricity utility supplying Tennessee and parts of Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky and several other states. In Mississippi, every county in the Northeast region is supplied by TVA.
TVA is a federally-owned electric utility – and this is where the challenge lies. According to a Daily Journal article, the TVA isn’t sure whether it can legally supply power – even indirectly – to medical marijuana facilities.
At this stage, there doesn’t appear to be an official policy as to whether local utilities buying power from TVA can then subsequently sell electricity to marijuana businesses. But no doubt the situation will be watched closely as it doesn’t just affect Mississippi, but also service areas in other states.
With 37 US states – by some counts 39 – now permitting medical cannabis in various forms, it’s probably high time the federal US Government caught up with the times.
On a related note, Tennessee State Rep. Jason Powell last week filed legislation to propose an amendment to the Tennessee Constitution to legalize the use, cultivation and sales of medical cannabis. If that should pass muster and if the TVA situation isn’t resolved, it could really put a spanner in the works for in-state production and distribution.