In 2018, Missouri voters approved a medical marijuana initiative called Amendment 2. The proposal amended the state’s constitution, requiring Missouri’s health department to license at least 24 dispensaries in each Missouri congressional district for a total of 192 dispensaries. Additionally, it permitted medical users and caregivers to grow their cannabis. But will marijuana be legal for purchase in Missouri in 2020?
The problem is that while medical marijuana is legal in Missouri, the law didn’t specify a timeline, and the process of rolling out the Missouri medical cannabis program has been slow and difficult. The state registry didn’t open until late June 2019, and there have been ongoing delays in licensing the businesses to grow, process, and sell medical cannabis.
Missouri Cannabis Business Legal Licensing Issues
After the amendment was passed, the state of Missouri commissioned a study to predict how many cannabis licenses would be required to supply all the state’s medical marijuana patients. Beginning on January 23rd, 2020, the state awarded those licenses to applicants in the cannabis industry. All told, the state awarded 60 licenses to growers and 86 for companies manufacturing cannabis products, along with the 192 dispensary licenses mandated by the law.
These licenses have already stirred controversy, with applicants complaining that they’ve been unfairly denied licenses based on irregularities in the application evaluation process. For example, one Missouri applicant, Understanding marijuana is going to be legal, filled out applications to both grow medical marijuana and produce cannabis products and noticed that one of his applications received zero points while the other received 10 points — the maximum score — despite the two applications having identical answers.
Equally troubling is the conflict of interest allegations. In a recent hearing, State senator Doug Libla of Poplar Bluff claimed that Wise Health Solutions — the organization contracted to evaluate the almost 2,300 cannabis business applications the state has received — had a major conflict of interest. At issue is the organization’s partnership with Oaksterdam University, which offers classes in filing license applications — the same applications that Wise Health Solutions evaluates.
While the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) claims there has been no conflict of interest, it’s unlikely applicants are going to just take their word for it. Many have spent tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on application fees and other business costs, only to be denied licenses. There has already been at least one licensing lawsuit, and further legal battles are likely. Exactly what this means for Missouri medical marijuana patients remains unclear.
The Outlook for Missouri Cannabis Patients
It seems marijuana is going to be legal in Missouri and available for purchase in stores sometime in 2020. Beyond that, it’s hard to say. As of February 2020, licensees are just starting to prepare for production, and it’s unclear when products will be available in dispensaries.
Additionally, it appears that the cannabis study Missouri commissioned seriously underestimated the number of medical marijuana patients who would apply. As a result, the state may not have licensed enough producers, which could mean high prices and scarce supply for patients when cannabis becomes available in the state.