Take an inside look at the budding $44M business of Missouri medical marijuana

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GLADSTONE, Mo. — ReLeaf Resources in Grandview is one of about a dozen medical marijuana dispensaries in the Kansas City metro.

Statewide, there are 101 dispensaries authorized to sell medical marijuana. You can find an interactive map with all of the state’s dispensaries here.

Josh Ordo, manager at ReLeaf Resources, is eager to talk about the explosive growth of Missouri’s newest multi-million dollar industry.

“I think we broke the five-year estimate (for sales) in six months,” Ordo told FOX4.

At this dispensary, and the others like it, only people with a state-approved medical marijuana card are buzzed into the premises to make purchases. You can find details on how to apply for a medical marijuana card click here.

And many of the patients here aren’t exactly who you might expect to see purchasing this newly legalized form of medical cannabis.

“Lisa,” who wanted to withhold her last name, became addicted to opioid painkillers after being diagnosed with chronic lower back pain.

“I was on hydrocodone for probably six months or so, and my back pain just kept getting worse and worse. I was pretty much bedridden,” Lisa said.

Not one to ever enjoy recreational marijuana, Lisa was a bit surprised when her doctor suggested medical marijuana. She now swears by a brand of edibles, which are combination of medical marijuana and CBD.

“I don’t want to get high. I have a bad feeling. I don’t like that feeling at all,” Lisa told FOX4. “So with these, I’m not having it. And the pain relief — it’s just been amazing.”

Finding the right approach, with patients like Lisa, is a critical part of the job at a dispensary, Ordo explained.

“Just educate your patients, don’t just sell them to sell them something, get them educated,” Ordo said, “because they’re going to have a bad time. People out there know what it’s like to have a bad experience smoking weed.”

At ReLeaf Resources, approved patients can purchase the medical marijuana in several different forms. There’s “flower,” or the bud, the type of marijuana most people think of, which is smoked. But there are also edibles, vape pens and even topical products.

Mitch Alexander is a medical marijuana patient who prefers to smoke the product.

“I prefer rolled joints or blunts myself, so five or six of those a day,” the 23-year-old said.

Alexander has been diagnosed with lower back pain, anxiety and insomnia.

“In the last few years, I’ve had almost zero problems going to bed,” Alexander said. “Like once I hit the bed, I’m usually asleep within a few minutes because I usually take some form of cannabis right before bed to help me stay asleep.”

Since sales became legal in October, medical marijuana sales have topped $44 million. A 4% sales tax on the product is earmarked for a fund benefitting Missouri veterans programs.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson directed $2.5 million to be spent building a village of tiny homes for veterans in St. Louis, modeled after the village in Kansas City. But critics point out that, so far, nearly as much money has been spent from the fund to fight lawsuits from disgruntled groups that were not granted dispensary licenses.

It’s far from perfect. Even so, people like Ordo are convinced the explosive growth, and public acceptance of a once-taboo recreational drug, will only continue in Missouri.

“It’s so beautiful to see what this plant can do,” Ordo said. “This thing transcends so many borders so many ideologies. It’s just — it’s cannabis.”

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