A Biloxi casino has won over local city officials in its thinking that Mississippi’s forthcoming medical cannabis industry shouldn’t be allowed to open dispensaries near the beachfront resorts.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) signed the state’s Medical Cannabis Act into law in February. The statute allows individuals diagnosed with certain medical conditions to receive medical marijuana from a licensed cannabis dispensary.
The Mississippi Department of Revenue and Department of Health are handling dispensary applications and the issuance of licenses. To date, 10 businesses in Harrison County, home to Biloxi, have received cannabis dispensing privileges.
Along with the state agencies, applicants must receive local approval before opening a medical cannabis dispensary. One such applicant sought to open a marijuana facility directly across from MGM Resorts’ Beau Rivage Resort & Casino. The Biloxi City Council this week rejected that location after fielding opposition from the gaming property.
Casinos and Cannabis Don’t Mix
Commercial casinos are required to adhere to all federal laws. And with cannabis remaining a Schedule 1 narcotic on the federal level, casinos must stay far away from the expansion of legal marijuana use and states’ decriminalization of the plant.
The Gulf Coast is where the bulk of the Mississippi gaming industry’s annual revenue is realized. Of the nearly $2.67 billion won last year by the 26 casinos in the state, the 11 coastal casinos accounted for $1.6 billion of the money.
Beau Rivage is the Gulf Coast leader, and property Vice President and General Counsel Anthony DelVescovo says legal marijuana sales shouldn’t be permitted in such close proximity to the MGM casino. Speaking before the Biloxi City Council this week, the MGM official urged the local government to keep medical cannabis dispensaries further away from the resorts.
We do believe they [medical cannabis dispensaries] belong in certain areas,” DelVescovo said. But one of those areas, he explained, isn’t right in front of the Beau Rivage.
Local Biloxi businessman and restauranteur Field Nicaud is seeking to enter the state cannabis industry with a medical dispensary on property he owns across Beach Boulevard from Beau Rivage. Nicaud currently runs the Fill-Up with Billups restaurant on the property.
MGM opposed the location of the proposed dispensary since it’s directly across from its casino and adjacent to MGM Park, home of the Biloxi Shuckers Minor League Baseball team. DelVescovo told the council that the ballpark is family-oriented, and persistent smells of cannabis would be a detriment to the experience.
MGM Touts Community Importance
Beau Rivage is Biloxi’s largest employer and largest taxpayer. MGM says its impact extends far beyond its resort walls. DelVescovo told the council that MGM spends $40 million to $50 million a year on marketing Mississippi’s Gulf Coast to travelers across the southern states.
Donovan Scruggs, an attorney representing Nicaud, believes MGM successfully used scare tactics to win over the Biloxi City Council. Scruggs said the state’s medical marijuana program prohibits public consumption, meaning those worries regarding cannabis odors don’t carry weight.
State lawmakers would need to pass additional laws in order to allow medical marijuana participants to consume their legal purchases anywhere other than in their private residences.
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