Lawsuit Dismissed: Federal Judge Upholds Mississippi’s Medical Marijuana Advertising Restrictions

JACKSON, Miss. — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the owner of a medical marijuana dispensary in Mississippi who claimed that state regulations prohibiting advertising in most media amounted to censorship. U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills ruled that since marijuana possession is still illegal under federal law, it is not considered a “lawful activity” and therefore does not receive constitutional protections for commercial speech.

The owner of Tru Source Medical Cannabis, Clarence Cocroft II, opened his dispensary in Olive Branch following Mississippi’s legalization of medical marijuana for people with debilitating conditions in 2022. However, he has faced difficulty reaching customers due to the state’s ban on medical marijuana businesses advertising in any form of media.

Judge Mills justified his dismissal of the lawsuit by stating that overturning Mississippi’s advertising restrictions would infringe upon state sovereignty. He also noted that the legalization of marijuana in Mississippi went further than what Congress has done, questioning the power of a federal court to instruct the state legislature on how it should handle marijuana legalization.

Cocroft plans to appeal the ruling to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that the state’s regulations violate the First Amendment rights of businesses. He believes that this case is not just about his dispensary but about defending the right of all cannabis industry businesses to advertise their legal operations truthfully.

Represented by the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit libertarian law firm, Cocroft filed the lawsuit against the state’s Department of Health, Department of Revenue, and Alcoholic Beverage Control Bureau. According to his attorneys, the regulations imposed by the Health Department, which prohibits advertising or marketing in any media, are unconstitutional.

While President Joe Biden has granted pardons to individuals convicted of marijuana use and possession on federal lands, marijuana remains a controlled substance under federal law. Judge Mills emphasized that as long as marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, states have the authority to regulate how it is advertised.

Cocroft’s legal team argues that when Mississippi legalized medical marijuana, it relinquished its power to censor speech related to the product. They contend that if a product is legally sold, it should also be legally permissible to discuss its sale.

This ruling raises important questions regarding the intersection of state and federal marijuana laws and the implications for businesses in the cannabis industry. The outcome of Cocroft’s appeal could have far-reaching consequences for medical marijuana businesses in Mississippi and potentially influence advertising regulations in other states as well.