JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — History is being made Friday in Missouri, as those 21 and older can now buy recreational marijuana.
In November, voters approved Amendment 3, making Missouri the 21st state to legalize adult use. Early Friday morning, 335 dispensaries, cultivation, and manufacturing facilities across the state were told by the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) that they could expand their businesses.
“It was a process that I think was complete by around 7:30 this morning, so a lot of facilities were kind of waking up to the news that they were able to go ahead and start their adult-use program,” DHSS communications director Lisa Cox said Friday. “Just in the last 24 hours, you can tell people are excited the day is here.”
It’s a monumental day in the Show-Me state, as those 21 and older can now buy and possess up to 3 ounces of recreational marijuana. Under Amendment 3, the state was required to approve comprehensive licenses by Feb. 6 to allow dispensaries, cultivation, and manufacturing facilities to sell both medical and recreational cannabis.
“We have a few that have not submitted those requests yet, but the vast majority, at least 97% of the medical facilities applied and most of them did on day one,” Cox said.
Since Dec. 8, the department has been accepting and reviewing comprehensive license applications. Cox said DHSS wanted to make sure it had the program rules out for facilities before licenses were converted. Due to the amount of work, DHSS created a new division to oversee both the medical and recreational programs.
“The Division of Cannabis Regulation, they do everything from handle the application process, so whether it’s facility-related or our medical patients and caregivers, and then now, also the consumer cultivation and now also the consumer cultivation,” Cox said.
Cox said over the next year, the division will grow from nearly 60 employees to about 150. She said the department is still in the hiring process for a division director.
Not only was Friday opening day for recreational sales, but applications are also now open for home cultivation.
“Based on the medical program, and how quickly we were able to process those patient and caregiver applications, we expect it will go very smoothly and quickly,” Cox said. “There’s not a deadline, we just expect to approve those as quickly as we are able to.”
Those approved would be allowed to have six flowering plants, six nonflowering plants, and six seedlings.
What’s next for the industry? Later this year, the division will start accepting applications for 144 new small marijuana businesses across the state. Those businesses could grow up to 250 plants.
The licenses will be broken up into eight congressional districts, allowing each district to get six new licensees during each wave. Under the referendum passed by voters, a “chief equity officer” would establish a program dedicated to communities that have been impacted by marijuana prohibition on the licensing process and offer resources to those interested in a license. Cox said the division’s chief equity officer was hired on Feb. 1.
She said the division has also asked dispensaries to watch for consumers that purchase marijuana multiple times a day.
“We’re asking facilities to use their best judgment if someone is coming in over and over in the same day or in short periods of time and trying to make transactions multiple times,” Cox said. “What we added to the regulations is having facilities keep an eye on that. We don’t want people looping and potentially going through a drive-thru over and over and potentially putting that product into the black market.”
DHSS’s reminder to parents is to keep their products away from their kids.
“It’s very easy for kids to pick up an edible or a gummy and think they are harmless and that can go horribly wrong,” Cox said. “What we don’t want to see is an uptick in 911 calls or poison control calls because kids have accidentally gotten into marijuana products.”
Medical marijuana will continue to be taxed at 4%, but recreational will have a state tax of 6%, and local municipalities can add on an additional 3%. The state estimates the industry to bring in roughly $1.2 billion.
Since the medical marijuana industry opened up for patients two years ago, the state has brought in roughly $495 million, sending about 5% of that, or about $27 million, to veterans’ healthcare services. DHSS said there are about 204,000 patients and 3,000 caregivers that have licenses in Missouri.
According to the amendment, 2% of the 6% sales tax will go to the “Veterans, Health, and Community Reinvestment Fund,” then one-third of the remaining balance will be transferred to the Missouri Veterans Commission, another third goes to the Missouri State Public Defender program, and the remaining portion goes to DHSS to provide grants to increase education and resources for drug addiction treatment and overdose prevention. Even though it’s legal, Fraker’s reminder is that marijuana is not allowed everywhere.
One place marijuana isn’t allowed is in universities and college campuses. The policy is in response to the federal Drug-Free Schools and Community Act which was passed back in 1989 and the Drug-Free Workplace Act passed in 1988. Violating either one of those congressional acts could put federal funding at risk.
Before the November election, medical marijuana cards were only valid for one year, now they are good for three years. Amendment 3 also expanded the amount of medical marijuana a patient can buy from 4 ounces of dried marijuana flower to 6 ounces a month. The revisions also include allowing a nurse practitioner to certify a patient’s medical marijuana card instead of just a physician.
Instructions and details for the micro businesses will be available June 6, 2023, and applications will be accepted starting Sept. 4. For more information, visit the DHSS’s Cannabis Regulation page.