The Bible Belt certainly isn’t known for being particularly friendly to cannabis, but opportunities are slowly starting to open up in certain areas. The Louisiana marijuana program is one example of a small but promising start, and a few other Southern states show limited potential, as well.
While as a whole, the Southern states are often slow to accept cannabis as anything other than a drug, there have been significant shifts. Florida, for instance, was the first to legalize medical marijuana and open up a cannabis program (albeit an extremely limited one).
Here’s what you need to know about the state of cannabis in this hold-out region of the U.S., from the bare-minimum Texas CBD allowances to the small-but-promising Louisiana marijuana program.
Southern States With Little to No Movement
The Florida, Texas, and Mississippi marijuana programs may have had decent starts but have since stalled for the foreseeable future — or at least the next few years. We’re keeping an eye on them for future developments, but we don’t expect much movement at this time.
True to the common conception of Florida as a separate entity from the rest of the South, Florida’s marijuana program is very different from what we see in other states.
Initially, Florida’s program issued only five licenses, though it later opened up a few more. However, Florida’s program is not an open application route, so no one is currently able to compete for licenses in the state.
Although Florida’s legalization measures helped trigger a domino effect to get the other Southern states moving, it’s likely to be a few years before Florida’s own program picks up any further momentum.
Texas does have a medical marijuana program, but the state allows only 1% THC in their medical marijuana products. At such a low THC rate, it’s essentially a CBD program. And it’s very minimal — just over 3,000 patients are registered, and there isn’t much movement happening in the state, overall.
If you want to get into the Texas market, be prepared to work exclusively with CBD and CBD-adjacent products for a while. Cultivation is another option to consider, but the market is saturated. While we don’t recommend starting out in Texas at this time, if you’re so inclined, manufacturing will be your best bet.
In early 2021, Mississippi looked like it would follow in Oklahoma’s footsteps in terms of plentiful and accessible license availability. Unfortunately, however, government and legislative issues have put the program on hold for the next two or three years.
If you want to build a cannabusiness in one of the Southern states, we’d suggest exploring opportunities in the Arkansas, Alabama, and Louisiana marijuana markets instead.
Southern States With Some Opportunities
The Arkansas, Alabama, and Louisiana marijuana programs offer a few more opportunities, especially if you establish the right connections prior to entering the market there.
Arkansas is currently legalized for medical cannabis, and the application window is open. However, the state also has a high barrier of entry. You’ll need expensive surety bonds and to meet strict zoning limits. Once a zone fills its allotted number of dispensaries, no more dispensaries will be allowed to open in that zone.
While you can certainly apply for a license in the Arkansas medical marijuana program, know that it will be an expensive endeavor and that you may have better luck with the Alabama or Louisiana marijuana markets.
Alabama’s Compassion Act will likely resemble Florida’s cannabis program. Although there probably won’t be a low THC cap, it does appear as though operators will only be allowed to sell manufactured products — no raw plant, smoking or vaporization products, or baked goods.
The Act also has a large residency requirement — 51% of all license holders must be Alabama residents — as well as huge capital requirements, making the barrier of entry extremely high.
If you’re looking at entering the Alabama marijuana market, you’ll want to get started as soon as possible finding real estate and establishing yourself as a local team. MSOs are already moving in, but they’re required to work with local teams, and it will take time to build up those connections.
The Louisiana marijuana program kicked off in 2018 with a total of nine licenses. But despite being a small program, it was set up well and there are many lobbying efforts to expand cannabis retail.
However, growth within the Louisiana marijuana program is still slow. Louisiana legislation only authorized the Louisiana State University and Southern University agriculture centers to grow medical cannabis, so you’ll have to contact the Board of Pharmacy regarding licensing to dispense any medical cannabis.
As is true of any Southern State, entering the Louisiana marijuana market is all about who you know and how you advocate locally for cannabis. You can’t just show up and submit an application; you have to play an active role in educating the community and helping write ordinances that simply don’t exist yet.
That’s where HYC comes in. We can help you make important local connections and develop the necessary knowledge base to educate your community. There will always be local political challenges, but with the right knowledge and connections — and an early start — you have the opportunity to impact change.
Get Your Foot in the Door With Louisiana Marijuana
The Louisiana marijuana program offers a fairly typical example of what to expect in Southern states — slow movement, small programs, and the importance of making the right connections. But if you can get your foot in the door early and weather both political and local delays, opportunity is there.
Working with an experienced cannabis consultant can give you the credibility, connections, and partners you need to be successful. Don’t miss your chance to get into the Louisiana marijuana market early! Get in touch today to schedule a consultation.