Medical marijuana could be available in dispensaries this fall, now that two cultivation facilities passed inspection and have been certified to begin growing plants in Missouri.
One cultivation facility near St. Louis and another in Perryville were allowed to legally plant crops in mid-June, the first businesses in the state to gain official approval.
“If you do the math, 90 days from those time frames, you are looking at September and October,” said Lyndall Fraker, director of Missouri’s medical marijuana program.
“That’s when I think you will be seeing quite a few dispensaries ready to sell product.”
More requests for certification from cultivators are expected in the next two months, Fraker said. The closest cultivation facility to Columbia is in Macon.
One of the certified growers, BeLeaf Medical in Earth City near St. Louis, has three cultivation sites available, but only one will be used until the remaining two are inspected.
“Initially we may be at hundreds of pounds per harvest, but the frequency of our harvests and amount of the harvest will increase as our operations grow,” said Dr. Stephanie Cernicek, chief science officer for BeLeaf Medical.
Fraker said the medical marijuana program is on track, and the Department of Health and Senior Services has met all of its deadlines.
“We have two cultivation facilities that are up and running now and growing product, and we have three others that have requested commencement inspections, and we have those in the works,” he said.
“We are going to have more licensed facilities than any other state except Oklahoma; a lot of people don’t realize that,” he added. “We should have plenty of product out there to allow people to get a good price on it based on supply and demand.”
Two-thirds of Missourians voted to legalize medical marijuana under Amendment 2 in November 2018.
In the last year, the state has received applications from 60,054 medical marijuana patients, according to the Department of Health and Senior Services, an increase of more than 30,000 since January.
Of the total applications received, 54,784 patients have been approved, according to the department.
Last month, DHSS announced it was launching an investigation into the use of unauthorized physician signatures for 600 of the approved medical marijuana applications.
State officials have said there is no evidence to indicate the affected patients were aware the physician was not authorized, but the physician certification was still not valid. Patients were given 30 days to submit a valid certification before the license would be revoked.
DHSS has referred the case to the Attorney General’s Office and to the Missouri Board of Healing Arts for further investigation.
Earlier this year, the state also received at least 2,200 applications for 192 dispensary, 60 cultivation and 86 processing licenses.
No cultivation or processing licenses were granted in Boone County, but seven Columbia businesses were awarded dispensary licenses. A total of 42 applications from Columbia were rejected.
In August, the Columbia City Council approved local ordinances for medical marijuana dispensaries and capped the number that would be allowed at seven.
Dispensaries in Columbia include GRD Columbia at 204 E. Broadway; Shangri-La Columbia at 1501 Creekwood Parkway; Shangri-La Columbia South at 3919 Peachtree Drive; CoMo Health at 4002 Ponderosa St.; QPS Missouri Holdings at 1500 Interstate 70 Drive SW; Holistic Missouri at 1400 Forum Blvd.; and BBMO 3 at 5230 Interstate 70 Drive SE.
Some of the locations, including Holistic Missouri, are already home to a CBD business, making the transition to dispensary fairly effortless.
But, across town at the Peachtree Drive Shangri-La Columbia South location, the space is still home to a car wash.
At least 800 appeals have been filed by companies that were denied licenses to cultivate, sell or manufacture marijuana products.
The lawsuits claim scoring discrepancies and potential conflicts of interest occurred in the process of awarding the medical marijuana licenses.
According to DHSS, two appeals have been settled. As a result, one new medical marijuana testing facility was to be issued a license and an existing medical marijuana dispensary license would be exchanged for a new dispensary license.
The department claims that both were related to administrative issues, not scoring concerns.
The state legislature has also weighed in on medical marijuana regulations.
In March, the legislature took action to make it a felony for a state agency or employee to disclose to the federal government or unauthorized third party any information about those who applied for or obtained a medical marijuana card.
Under the bill, HB 1896, anyone who works for a licensed medical marijuana facility must undergo a criminal background check.
In addition, the act prohibits the sale of any edible marijuana product designed to appeal to those under 18. That includes candies, gummies, lollipops, cotton candy, or products in the shape of a human, animal or fruit.
The governor has yet to sign the bill into law.