A Cole County Circuit Court judge took under advisement Monday the civil lawsuit filed by a Sarcoxie family whose application to grow marijuana was rejected last week.

The Callicoat family, represented by Joseph Bednar and Brian Bear of Spencer Fane, argued that the state’s 60-license limit is unconstitutional and asked Judge Jon Beetem to eliminate the cap.

“We should let the market decide,” Bednar said in court Monday. “We don’t limit anything but the casinos in Missouri ... That’s not the American way.”

The lawsuit also claims the cap violates the family’s “Right to Farm,” which was voted into state law in 2014.

“Why are we limiting the ability of our farms to grow new products?” Bednar asked. “This is a slippery slope.”

The state announced approval of 60 licenses last week in accordance with the law’s minimum, said the state’s lawyer Ross Kaplan.

“(The rules) are to protect the public, not licensees,” Kaplan said.

Bednar also found fault with the state’s incentive known as “geographical bonuses.”

This incentive favors applicants in high unemployment zip codes, making it more likely for them to receive a license.

He said that the data used to determine these bonuses was out of date.

“There is no rational basis for these bonuses,” he said.

The lawsuit named the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, its director Randall Williams and director of the state’s Section for Medical Marijuana Regulation program Lyndall Fraker as defendants.

The Department of Health and Senior Services used a third-party “blind scorer” to determine which applications for medical marijuana cultivation facilities met eligibility requirements, as prescribed by the program rules.

A “blind scorer’ will be used for all applications, stripped of any identifying information, according to the department.

The plaintiffs, Paul and Wendy Callicoat and their son Jonathon, had invested in opening a cultivation facility in Sarcoxie, a town of 1,330 in Jasper County. Their application was among over 500 denied this month.

According to the Joplin Globe, Paul Callicoat is a retired Joplin cardiologist who had invested in a former nursery on 70 acres in Sarcoxie solely for cultivation and manufacturing purposes.

Callicoat was heavily involved in efforts last year to pass the medical marijuana initiative in Missouri, the Globe reported.

The nursery previously grew peonies and ornamental trees before falling vacant for several years before Callicoat purchased it, the Globe reported.

Callicoat had planned to turn the Sarcoxie Nursery into a vertically integrated medical marijuana business with onsite cultivation and a dispensary at another location, according to the Globe.

Applications for dispensary facility and manufacturing licenses have not been approved or annnounced.

Manufacturing licenses will be issued Jan. 10, and dispensary facility licenses will be issued Jan. 24, according to the health department timeline.

Missourians voted to legalize medical marijuana in December 2018.

Supervising editor is Molly Hart

  • Education reporter, fall 2019. Graduate student. Reach me at tran.nguyen@mail.missouri.edu or in the newsroom at 882-5700

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