Nearly 2,200 people have paid thousands of dollars in application fees each to open medical marijuana businesses in Missouri, according to the Department of Health and Senior Services.
The department released a list Tuesday of the applications for dispensaries, cultivation, testing and manufacturing facilities it received during the initial application period from Aug. 3 to Aug. 19. Businesses with addresses in Boone County make up 67 of the thousands of applications.
Applicants had to pay $6,000 for dispensary and manufacturer applications and $10,000 for cultivator applications, according to previous Missourian reporting. The health department plans to approve or deny applications within 150 days of receiving them.
After that, entrepreneurs will have the option to pay another $2,000 to apply for a Columbia license. The Columbia City Council in August decided to give business owners 21 days after receiving a state-issued license to apply for a city license. The city will then have 60 days to review those applications.
The state will approve only 192 licenses for dispensaries, 86 for infused product manufacturing facilities and 60 for cultivation facilities, according to previous Missourian reporting. They will be dispersed throughout the state’s eight congressional districts.
Depending on how many applications are approved by the state, the 51 businesses hoping to open a dispensary in Columbia will be facing tough competition. The Columbia City Council passed an ordinance in August that limits the number of dispensaries in the city to seven.
Aaron Stone, who is originally from Colorado, hopes to open his dispensary, which would be called Canna Lux, with his partner, Amir Ziv. The dispensary would be located off U.S. 40 outside Columbia and near the Midway Truck and Travel Plaza. Stone said he and Ziv also submitted applications for dispensary, cultivation and manufacturing facilities in Cooper County.
“When we selected our location, we wanted to target areas that have less populace, where we could employ local residents and compete in a more rural demographic,” Stone said.
Stone chose Boone County for his dispensary because of its proximity to Interstate 70 and Jefferson City, where he and Ziv can take part in policy discussions.
Stone said his business had to pay around $28,000 in fees, which were higher than what he’s used to in Colorado, but he approved of the health department’s application process.
“DHSS did a great job in rolling out a blind scoring system and providing top-notch support,” he said.
Because his dispensary would not be within Columbia’s city limits, Stone doesn’t have to worry about the seven dispensary limit. There are no specific regulations for medical marijuana facilities in Boone County, Resource Management Director Stan Shawver said. All Stone would have to do is open his dispensary on land zoned for commercial use.
Stone believes the seven dispensary limit is an “overstep” of the City Council’s power.
Other applicants such as Western Edge CD4 Retail applied in multiple districts to increase their odds of getting approved. Kathy Hartwell, one of 10 owners of Western Edge, thought the application process was fair.
“I felt like the questions were good for vetting candidates and also making them realize the work that they would have to put in to be successful,” she said.
Second Ward Councilman Mike Trapp and his partner John Borland, who owns Grass Roots Smoke Shop in Columbia, applied to open dispensary, manufacturing and cultivation businesses called Crossing Paths.
Trapp spent a couple of years working at a medical marijuana evaluation clinic in California, where he said he developed an interest in the benefits of medical marijuana. He is also the former director of Phoenix House, which works with people dealing with substance abuse problems.
“(Medical marijuana) has a lot of hope as a harm-reduction substitute for people who have substance disorders with more serious substances like opioids or alcohol,” Trapp said. “I also think that it can be really invaluable for chronic disease management.”
Trapp doesn’t see his position on the council as conflicting with a potential marijuana business. He has abstained from voting in all medical marijuana ordinances.
In addition to Columbia applications, the state also received one cultivator application from Quenten Andrew Estabrooks in Sturgeon, two cultivator applications from Blooms4Meds and Como Grow in Rocheport and two manufacturer and one cultivator application from MoCanCure in Ashland.
Meanwhile, as of Thursday morning, the state health department reported approving 9,806 medical marijuana patient applications and 220 caregiver applications, the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association said in a news release.
“Much as we’d like to say this comes as a surprise, the new data is consistent with both our early projections and the intense interest we see and hear among Missourians each day,” the association’s executive director, Andrew Mullins, said.