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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Unless you’re one of the roughly 200,000 medical marijuana patients in Missouri, the new recreational marijuana law officially taking effect on Dec. 8 doesn’t impact would-be recreational buyers too much yet.

It’s the first day that marijuana businesses can submit the paperwork to state regulators that would allow them to transition their business to the recreational program. That approval process is expected to take at least a few weeks.

“It is possible that we will see sales as early as mid-January,” said Clovr Cannabis CEO Josh Mitchem, who was also heavily involved pushing the ballot measure that legalized recreational marijuana.

Mitchem would be pretty happy with sales in the middle of January since it would mean state regulators would have beat their Constitutional deadline in early-February.

He’s expecting the roughly 200,000 existing medical patients to balloon to roughly 800,000 or more once anyone 21 and older is allowed to purchase marijuana products in dispensaries.

“There just weren’t enough patients to handle the amount of licensees that we have,” said Mitchem, saying recreational legalization will save many cannabis businesses in Missouri. “Most of us are breaking even or losing money every month so seeing the increased revenue and increased consumers from all the licensees will literally save our businesses.”

Already on Wednesday, Mitchem says he heard the system that tracks medical marijuana purchases had been updated, allowing medical patients to have six ounces of marijuana products.

What if you don’t have a medical card?

Even though it will be legal to have up to three ounces for adults who are not medical patients starting on Dec. 8, since sales haven’t started yet, being caught with that product could be an issue.

“If the law enforcement really wanted to go down that path and say, ‘OK you have six ounces, but you don’t have a medical card, how could you possibly have legally purchased this,” Mitchem said.

His advice is to just wait the roughly 45 days for recreational sales to officially start.

Local rules and taxes

In the meantime, it gives local elected leaders like Kansas City Councilmember Eric Bunch and his colleagues time to work out what rules will look like in their communities.

The new law gives local leaders the choice to put a three percent sales tax on recreational marijuana sales and to designate places for people to consume what they buy in public.

That opens the door for venues like the Smokey River Entertainment District, which would exist in a small, unique community just north of the Missouri River.

Adults won’t be able to use marijuana where alcohol is being consumed and they can’t smoke anywhere tobacco smoking is already banned.

“You can’t walk down a street drinking a beer, also you can’t smoke in a park,” Bunch said. “There are places where you can consume alcohol outdoors but those are almost always on private property or through a special permit on public property.”

The University of Missouri reminded the public Wednesday that marijuana will still not be allowed on its campuses and properties.

The Department of Health and Senior Services is expected to release an updated set of rules Thursday that could be pretty close to exactly what govern the recreational growing, production, and sale processes.

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