The new Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act raises some interesting zoning issues. First, the Act describes where cannabis facilities can be located by reference to areas of municipalities and counties zoned commercial, industrial and agricultural. There are no statewide zoning or other definitions of these terms; each municipality and county that has adopted zoning has its own code and its own definitions. There are uses defined as commercial in some of the rural county codes that would not be allowed in commercial districts in municipalities with very restrictive zoning ordinances. This may cause municipalities with more restrictive ordinances to opt-out of the Act. Second, some municipalities and many counties in Mississippi have not adopted any zoning restrictions. The Act may encourage those municipalities and counties to adopt zoning ordinances to try to control the location of cannabis facilities. Third, the Act permits a municipality or county to grant a variance to permit cannabis uses in commercial zones. A variance traditionally is for exceptions to dimensional restrictions, like setbacks or height restrictions, while a use permit allows a use that otherwise would not be allowed in that district. Allowing cannabis facilities in commercial areas arguably is more like a use permit than a variance. The practical significance of this distinction is that many zoning ordinances make it easier to get a variance than a use permit in terms of notices, hearings, and which bodies need to approve the action. For example, a local planning board may be able to give final approval for a variance, but the mayor and board of aldermen may need to approve a use permit. It will be interesting to see how these issues affect implementation of the Act.
Rod Clement’s practice is concentrated in commercial real estate and secured transactions. He regularly represents purchasers and developers of shopping centers, office buildings and distribution centers, and represents lenders and borrowers in financings. Recent projects that he has worked on include development of solar power farms and student housing, purchase of healthcare facilities, and sales and financings of multi-family properties. He also has extensive experience with judicial and non-judicial foreclosures and receiverships. Rod is a member of and has served on the board of directors of both the American College of Real Estate Lawyers and the American College of Mortgage Attorneys. He currently is serving on ACREL’s Member Selection Committee. Rod has been listed in Band 1 of Chambers USA in Real Estate since Chambers began covering Mississippi. He has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America®in Real Estate and Land Use and Zoning for over 15 years. Best Lawyers named him “Lawyer of the Year” in Real Estate Law in Jackson in 2011, 2014 and 2018 and in Land Use and Zoning Law in 2013, 2016 and 2019. He is one of only two attorneys in Mississippi listed in International Who’s Who Legal: Real Estate for 2013-2015. He also is listed in Mid-South Super Lawyers.