Medical marijuana is legal in Missouri, but renting space for dispensaries proves difficult

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Theresa Lane figured her extensive management experience in the pharmaceutical and medical fields made her a prime candidate to apply for a license to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Missouri.

Not so much.

“I do feel like we’re being treated as if we’re trying to sell drugs on the black market, and we are not,” said Lane, a married mother with a young child.

Lane hoped to open a "Hemp Haven" franchise in Blue Springs and planned to apply to the state for a license to operate a medical marijuana dispensary.

“We are the equivalent of a pharmacy. We are trying distribute a medicine to a patient at this point in time, as far as medical cannabis goes,” Lane said.

She submitted 12 rental applications in Blue Springs to operate a commercial space for her dispensary.

All 12 lease applications were rejected, Lane said, as soon as each landlord became aware she hoped to operate a medical cannabis dispensary.

“I don’t feel like it’s legal,” Lane said. “As the business we are aspiring to open is legal, at least on a state level.”

And there’s the rub.

Even though Missouri voters approved medical marijuana last year, marijuana is still considered illegal by federal drug laws.

“A landlord can actually turn you down if you’re a smoker, if you have kids or any reason they think you might not be a good tenant,” Kansas City attorney Phil LeVota said.

LeVota said landlords can’t discriminate based on gender, religion and ethnicity. But beyond that, a building owner is entitled to reject prospective tenant based on its business.

He said that creates a scenario where only people and companies with very deep pockets will likely be in position to successfully apply for a license to operate a dispensary in Missouri.

“A lot of the backers with big money have done this in other states. They have come to town and found a local person and teamed up with them,” LeVota said. “And once they do it, their application looks a lot better with the state.”

“This has been passed by the people of Missouri,” said Jay Humfeld, co-owner of KC’s Hemp Haven. “Missouri wants this stuff, and how can we give the Missourians what they want if no land lord will give us a shot?”

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