Biloxi council rejects medical cannabis dispensary near Beau Rivage

Published on: September 9, 2022, 01:05 am.

Last update: September 9, 2022, 01:21.

A Biloxi casino has won over local city officials, arguing that Mississippi’s budding medical cannabis industry should not be allowed to open dispensaries near seaside resorts.

Biloxi Casino Beau Rivage Mississippi Marijuana
The owner of the Fill-Up with Billups restaurant across from the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, Miss., wants to replace the restaurant with a medical cannabis dispensary. But MGM Resorts says marijuana businesses should not be allowed near its casino. (Image: Filling in with Billups)

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) signed the Medical Cannabis Act into law in February. The statute allows people diagnosed with certain medical conditions to receive medical marijuana from a licensed cannabis dispensary.

The Mississippi Department of Revenue and Department of Health handle dispensary applications and licensing. So far, 10 businesses in Harrison County, where Biloxi is located, have been granted cannabis distribution privileges.

Along with 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 rejected that location this week after fielding opposition from the gaming property.

Casinos and cannabis don’t mix

Commercial casinos are required to comply with all federal laws. And with cannabis remaining a Schedule 1 narcotic at the federal level, casinos must stay away from the expansion of legal marijuana use and states’ decriminalization of the plant.

The Gulf Coast is where most of Mississippi’s gambling industry’s annual revenue is generated. Of the nearly $2.67 billion earned last year by the state’s 26 casinos, the 11 coastal casinos accounted for $1.6 billion of the money.

Beau Rivage is the leader of the Gulf Coast, and Vice President of Property and General Counsel Anthony DelVescovo says legal marijuana sales should not be allowed in such close proximity to the MGM casino. Speaking before the Biloxi City Council this week, the MGM official urged local government to keep medical cannabis dispensaries away from resorts.

We really believe them [medical cannabis dispensaries] they belong to certain areas,” DelVescovo said. But one of those areas, he explained, isn’t right in front of the Beau Rivage.

Local Biloxi businessman and restaurateur Field Nicaud is trying to enter the state’s cannabis industry with a medical dispensary on property he owns across Beach Boulevard from Beau Rivage. Nicaud currently operates the Fill-Up with Billups restaurant on the property.

MGM objected to the proposed dispensary location because it is directly across the street from its casino and adjacent to MGM Park, home of the Biloxi Shuckers Minor League baseball team. DelVescovo told the board the ballpark is family-oriented, and the lingering odors of cannabis would detract from the experience.

MGM supports 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 board that MGM spends $40 million to $50 million a year marketing the Mississippi Gulf Coast to travelers from 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 about cannabis odors don’t hold weight.

State lawmakers should pass additional laws to allow medical marijuana participants to consume their legal purchases anywhere outside of their private residences.

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