by Calvin Ishee, Associate Publisher

In spite of 74% of Mississippians voting for medical marijuana, Pass Christian became the first coastal city to opt out of participating in this program.  During Tuesday’s Board of Alderman meeting Pass Christian Mayor Jimmy Rafferty recommended that the City opt out of the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act of 2022.  This act gives cities the right to have businesses that cultivate, process, and sell/distribute medical cannabis.  This law was designed to give relief to Mississippians  from severe ailments such as chronic pain,     

Mayor Rafferty noted that this program was new here and stated that Pass Christian would like to wait and see how other cities in Mississippi deal with this issue.  He added that he didn’t think “it was the right thing to do” considering the age of Pass Christian residents.  He also stated that the prudent thing to do was to see how other cities handle this new program before deciding whether the City should opt in at a later date.

Ward 3 Alderman Kirk Kimball pontificated on the negative aspects of this bill by offering examples of his experience with the sale of marijuana in California . He repeated his claim that it was a “quality of life “ issue and with these businesses you have a lot of “unpalatable activity”. He added, “I’ve also seen these facilities pop up in locations and they destroy everything of what that area once was.  Now that may or may not happen here. I’m just telling you what I’ve seen from my own eyes.”  He concluded by saying, “I don’t want it here in my town.”

Ward 1 Alderwoman Betty Sparkman reminded the Board that an overwhelming number of Mississippians voted for medical marijuana.  She added, “It was passed by the legislature and it’s coming, whether we personally favor it or not.  I do not believe this is a moral decision, it is more of a business decision.”  Alderwoman Sparkman also noted that these businesses will be profitable and pay taxes and stated that there are citizens of Pass Christian that “need marijuana and should not be penalized and further inconvenienced by going to another town. The people have voted for this and I do not  consider this a quality of life issue, I consider this a business issue.”

Ward 2 Alderwoman Regina Charlot expressed her concerns regarding this program and commented, “We’re too small of a town to have something like this.” She also stated that all businesses aren”t the same and this type of business may not be good for Pass Christian..   

In the end the Board voted unanimously to opt out of the Mississippi Medical Cannabis program.  Although Pass Christian can easily opt back in, social media has been bombarded with residents’ displeasure with the Board’s decision on this matter.  One person commented, “What a dumb move. It must be nice not to need the extra money.”  Another added, “Although not what it should be, medical marijuana is key to ending the opioid epidemic in our state. Too bad Pass Christian leadership doesn’t want to get in on the financial benefits of this new industry.”  Another person told a story regarding how their family members were able to get relief for chronic pain and other medical issues with the use of medical marijuana.

The Board also unanimously voted to opt out of the Beatline Road Extension Project. Board members expressed their concerns about the amount of money the City would have to contribute to this project as well as the potential displacement of twenty Pass Christian families. 

Additionally, The Board tabled various requests for the free use of the Randolph Center.  Requests for use by non-profit organizations have grown exponentially with the center being unavailable for public use due to programs being offered by these organizations. 

Alderman Kimball noted that the annual power bill for the Randolph Center is over $42,000 and that the “daily burn rate was $113.”

Alderwoman Sparkman asked that the non-profit organizations explain why they need to use the Randolph Center on such a frequent basis.  The City is going to evaluate the use of the center, fix ongoing facility issues, evaluate the need to mandate liability coverage for groups that use the facility on an ongoing basis as well as determine the best use of the building.

During the review of the Consent Agenda items, Alderman Kimball noted that Mayor Rafferty only had $189 remaining in his training/travel budget.  The Board initially provided $1,500 to the mayor for the current fiscal year and Mayor Rafferty has attended various training opportunities as well as meetings with the Mississippi Municipal League.

As frequently requested by Alderwoman Charlot, Alderman Pickich and Alderman Kimball, the Board asked the City for a detailed plan for effectively dealing with infrastructure and paving needs. Board members specifically asked the administration to develop a prioritized list of infrastructure and paving projects that includes cost estimates for each project.  Ward 4 Alderman Victor Pickich has been very aggressive and proactive with trying to get funding for infrastructure and paving projects in his ward.

For months, Alderman Pickich has been stressing the need to repair the badly damaged road at the juncture of Henderson Ave and North Street. Once the plan has been submitted by the administration, the Board will determine which projects will be done first and how they will be funded.

After a lengthy Executive Session to discuss a personnel matter in the Code Office, Tom Duffy, Pass Christian Code Officer left the meeting and retorted, “Well that was a huge waste of time.”

During the Executive Session Mayor Rafferty left the meeting only to return at a later time.  No reason was given by the City for the mayor leaving the meeting nor was Tom Duffy’s input to the meeting provided.  The only explanation given for going into Executive Session was the acceptance of Duffy’s resignation.

Although The Gazebo Gazette reached out to Tom Duffy for comment, he stated that he wouldn’t offer a comment at this time.