The two-week period to submit medical marijuana business applications began Saturday.
Prospective cultivators, transporters, dispensers and manufacturers filing applications in the next two weeks are competing to secure a license to operate in the lucrative medical marijuana market, which the Missouri Cannabis Industry Association estimates will mature into a $480 million annual industry.
Jack Cardetti, spokesperson for the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association (MoCannTrade), said Friday in a conference call that the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has received 4,400 applications from patients seeking a medical marijuana card since the June 28 filing period began. He said almost all of them have been certified.
Researchers estimate there will be 19,000 qualifying patients by 2020, according to a study conducted by MU.
A patient seeking a medical marijuana card must submit to the state a physician’s certification attesting they suffer from a qualifying condition, which includes cancer, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder and glaucoma.
As of July 30, a total of 592 pre-application forms have been submitted by businesses hoping to open cultivation, dispensary and manufacturing facilities, according to the department’s website. That includes 45 pre-application forms filed for businesses in the 4th Congressional District, which includes Boone County.
The state has collected $4.2 million in application fees.
The applications will be evaluated through a third-party, blind-scoring system. Cardetti said the health department is still reviewing bids from companies that want to do the evaluations.
The conference call Friday featured three business owners seeking licenses: Derek Mays, chief executive officer for REAL Cannabis in St. Louis; Susan Griffith, president of CAMP Cannabis in St. Louis; and Kevin Schnell, president of KC Protective Services in Kansas City.
Mays, a black attorney, said he is interested in ensuring minorities like himself get a foothold in the medical marijuana industry. Mays lamented that minority ownership was not a factor in the application scoring system, but he said his company’s application would emphasize its diversity, as well as its plan to open businesses in low-income communities.
Mays noted there were challenges to preparing for the application period. Because of restrictions on where a facility can be located, there is fierce competition for limited real estate, which each company needs to secure before filing.
The company has also had some difficulty getting fingerprints from out-of-state employees, he said.
Griffith said her company planned out the workload for each day during the application window to ensure the company submitted by the Aug. 17 deadline.
She said the Department of Health and Senior Services has been “amazing” to work with throughout the application process, providing businesses a clear road map to licensing.
Schnell, a former law enforcement officer and veteran, said his company is seeking a marijuana transportation license. Before deciding to file an application, Schnell said he talked about the decision with friends in law enforcement, who noted that medical marijuana is legal in the state and could help treat post-traumatic stress disorder.
Guarding marijuana shipments would also give his staff the opportunity to remain in the state with their families, rather than working a security detail overseas.
The department has until Dec. 31 to approve facility licenses.