Mississippi dispensary sues to overturn state’s marijuana advertising ban

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A Mississippi medical marijuana dispensary owner sued state agencies in federal court in a bid to overturn the strictest ban on cannabis advertising in the United States.

MMJ sales in Mississippi began earlier this year, but state regulators have “prohibited dispensaries from advertising and marketing entirely,” including listing products for sale on websites, attorneys for Clarence Cocroft II claimed in court filings.

“If I pay taxes in this business, which I do, I should be able to advertise,” Cocroft, who operates Tru Source Medical Cannabis in Olive Branch, said at a Tuesday news conference, according to the Associated Press.

Defendants named in the suit are:

  • Chris Graham, the commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Revenue.
  • Pat Daily, the chief of enforcement of the Mississippi Alcoholic Beverage Control Bureau.
  • Dr. Daniel Edney, state health officer for the Mississippi health department.

Cocroft’s lawsuit claims that Mississippi’s prohibition on marijuana advertising violates his free-speech rights under the First Amendment and the restrictions are so onerous they’re directly harming his business.

The lawsuit seeks a declaration from a judge that the ban is unconstitutional as well as a permanent injunction preventing its enforcement.

State officials have not yet filed a response, according to the court docket.

Cocroft is the latest marijuana business operator to challenge state restrictions on cannabis advertising.

Most states strictly regulate marijuana business advertising, but only a few ban it outright.

These include nearby Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana, but Mississippi goes further than those states, Cocroft’s attorneys claimed.

Under Mississippi’s MMJ regulations, dispensaries and other businesses “are prohibited from advertising and marketing in any media.”

In the program’s first year, the state licensed 242 businesses, including 154 dispensaries and 66 cultivators, and enrolled 1321 patients.

Since the program launched in January, sales have totaled $15.71 million through July.