JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — It’s been almost two years since Missouri voters legalized medical marijuana, and by the beginning of next week, there will be four total dispensaries open in the state.
Voters in the Show-Me State passed an amendment in 2018 legalization medical marijuana. Missouri was the 33rd state to legalize cannabis as medicine, but why, two years later, are there less than five dispensaries open?
The director the state program said it’s due to the lack of product.
“I think it’s 12 facilities that are ready to sell. They are just waiting on the product,” said Lyndall Fraker, director of the medical marijuana section of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. “By industry standards, we were the fifth-fastest state to get up and going out of 33.”
Fraker said Missouri issued 358 business licenses out of the 2,200 applications. Some of the dispensaries are already open, and he said they are selling CBD products or other things while they wait for medical marijuana.
“And those minimums are 60 cultivation facilities, 86 manufacturing facilities and 192 dispensaries,” Fraker said. “Those minimums were based on projections of what they thought the needs of Missourians would be.”
He said COVID-19 has played a role in some of the delay in facilities opening.
“Three dispensaries that are selling produce: two in St. Louis and one in Kansas City,” Fraker said. “COVID has delayed some. Now it really didn’t delay us on our end, but it certainly delayed facilities.”
Next week, another dispensary is set to open in Springfield, but what’s the hold-up?
“There are two cultivators that are producing and selling the product in the state,” Fraker said. “Nine that have been approved but they are growing, but only two are harvesting. The rest of them are growing so the product is not ready yet.”
He said it takes 90-120 days to grow the plant.
“So once it’s harvested in a bud form, in a flowering form, then that product would be sent to a testing facility if it’s going to be sold directly to a dispensary as a flowering product,” Fraker said. “It has to be tested at the final stage before it goes to the dispensary.”
Fraker said all medical marijuana sold in the state is grown here in Missouri.
“If we would have issued a license for everyone that asked for one, there were 578 cultivation applications I believe, just cultivation, we issued 60,” Fraker said. “If we would have issued one to everybody, then they would have produced over 8 million pounds of marijuana a year. That would have served over half of our state population, about 3 million Missouri patients.”
Patients in Missouri can receive up to 4 ounces of medical marijuana a month unless they receive a second opinion from a doctor and the doctor requests more.
Last week, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services investigated a compliant at medical marijuana dispensary where a product the patient purchased contained mold.
“The particular mold that was on this one particular bud or one particular bag or dose of product was not a poisonous fungus,” Fraker said. “There was mold on the product, but the mold was not toxic.”
Fraker said the state has received 80,000 patient applications, and DHSS has already approved 70,000 of them.
“This program in Missouri would be a doctor, patient relationship program,” Fraker said. “We weren’t going to get involved in that. We project to have somewhere around 150,000 patients after three years and, like I said, we are at 70,000 now after a year and a half.”
Patients are also allowed to have their own home-cultivation, but after Dec. 31 this year, all seeds must be purchased from a dispensary.
“They can have six mature plants. They can also have six seedlings and six clones,” Fraker said. “They can have a total of 18 plants in their home at one time but only six mature plants that are producing.”
Fraker believes voters legalizing medical marijuana was a step towards legalizing recreational weed and said voters could have the chance to approve it sooner rather than later.
“Absolutely, I think that was the intent of the drafters,” Fraker said. “We’ve already heard that they are going to try and work and get it on the ballot. But I don’t think the legislature will do it. I think it will have to be a petition. It’s going to be on the ballot in 2022. I’ve very confident in that, but I don’t know what that language will look like.”
There’s an additional 4% sales tax on all medical marijuana products purchased in Missouri. Fraker said after expenses are paid, the revenue from the program goes the Missouri Veterans Commission.
“We’ve already transferred over $1 million to the veteran’s fund,” Fraker said.
Fraker said he hopes to have 96 dispensaries open and selling medical marijuana by the end of the year.