Clarence Cocroft said the state’s law blocking him from advertising his dispensary is a violation of the First Amendment.
OLIVE BRANCH, Miss — The owner of an Olive Branch, Mississippi, medical marijuana dispensary is taking legal action against the Mississippi Department of Health, suing them to challenge advertising restrictions he says are in violation of the First Amendment.
Clarence Cocroft, owner of Tru Source Medical Dispensary in Olive Branch, said he’s filing the federal lawsuit to address an advertising ban that’s “severely limiting” his company’s growth.
Cocroft opened Tru Source, the state’s first Black-owned dispensary, on March 16, 2023, a year after Mississippi’s law legalizing medical marijuana came into effect. In the months since, he’s struggled to find new customers due to Mississippi’s strict ban on advertising for dispensaries.
“Some people don’t know Mississippi has medical marijuana, and even if they do know about it, they might not know that Tru Source exists right here in Olive Branch,” Cocroft said. “It’s simply unfair that every other legal business in Mississippi is allowed to advertise, while I have to rely on word of mouth.”
According to the regulations, nearly all forms of advertising are restricted for dispensaries, prohibiting the use of billboards, radio and TV ads, as well as newspaper spots. Cocroft said these restrictions limit dispensary owners from effectively communicating information about their services to the public.
Cocroft argues that the restrictions imposed by the Department of Health infringe upon the First Amendment right to free speech for all dispensary owners in the state. He said the lawsuit is not only a fight for his business but a broader battle for equal treatment and protection of constitutional rights.
The legal dispute extends beyond Mississippi, as Cocroft points out that similar restrictions are in place in other states, citing Arkansas as an example.
Cocroft said the lawsuit is expected to draw attention to the intersection of state regulations, free speech rights, and the burgeoning medical marijuana industry, with potential implications for dispensaries nationwide.