Missouri Medical Marijuana: Going into 2020
Missourians have shown great disappointment over the past week in regards to state-issued licenses. The DHSS released the final scores of applications regarding cultivation, transportation, and testing facilities just before the new year and Missourians are not happy.
On December 23rd, 21 licenses have been awarded to transportation facilities, 10 have been awarded to testing facilities, and 60 have been approved for cultivation. Only three applications were denied for transportation facilities, seven were denied for lab testing facilities, and over three hundred were denied for cultivation facilities. Missourians are taking to Facebook to express their angers with the state, claiming the fees gathered from denied applications are not being spent as promised.
The one thing some citizens are concerned about is that the applications awarded were to those of "Big Money." This claim is often correct in most states with newborn medical marijuana programs. However, looking at some of the denials in Missouri shows the opposite. Most national companies that applied for licenses in Missouri were denied. Some of the nations biggest players like GTI and Cresco Labs were denied according to the information released by the DHSS. So the state wasn't playing favorites with every corporate cannabis company that sought to enter the state's emerging market. However, while some "Big Money" applications were denied, so were a lot of local businesses. At first glance this can be upsetting and depressing because it seems like Missouri is increasing their barrier to entry into the market in Missouri. Missourians know that small local businesses are the key to a thriving cannabis industry, but the state government doesn't seem to reflect this notion. As upsetting as this information feels, we must look at the situation from multiple perspectives. Of the 24 applications submitted for transportation facilities, only 3 were rejected. This is because the state said "the department will certify all transportation facilities that can demonstrate they meet minimum standards as described in 19 CSR 30-95.025(4)(A)." Of the 17 applications for testing facilities, only 10 were approved. The reason being that the state limited the number of testing facilities. They limited the number of licenses to 10, and all ten were awarded. Now, for cultivation facilities, the numbers are a bit different. There were over 500 applications originally submitted to the state. From the very beginning the state has said they were only going to approve 60 cultivation facilities in the state of Missouri. This is a decent number of cultivation facilities for a state with a brand new medical marijuana program. Most states start off with about 10. The amount of applications submitted were overwhelming and it's clear that Missourians are passionate about growing medical marijuana. However, the state did exactly what it said and awarded 60 licenses. Now the scoring of those applications is being brought into question by many Missourians. The state's emergency rules outlined how the applications will be scored and there are a plethora of requirements that more than likely disqualified a lot of applicants. Any applicant that scored below 1497.41 was denied. This is unfortunate because the line between being approved and being denied was about 2 points for some businesses. Approximately 100 applicants scored over 1400, which means many good businesses were denied licenses to cultivate medical marijuana in Missouri and the reasons are unclear. If the system for scoring was inaccurate in any way, this could have altered the outcome for many applicants.
The state will issue more cultivation licenses if the demand for medical marijuana in the state exceeds expectations but that seems to be the only hope for applicants who filed near-perfect applications. It's an unfortunate circumstance for Missouri but it is important to understand Missouri's medical marijuana program from a nationwide perspective. Many medical marijuana programs do not allow for the combustion of the plant material, most don't allow at-home cultivation, and most states license such a small number of cultivation and dispensary facilities that won't even meet market demand. Missouri is set to license 192 dispensaries and 86 manufacturing facilities in the first months of 2020. Despite the number of applicants, there will be a lot of licenses awarded for a state with a medical marijuana program that's in it's infancy stages. So while we uncover the details of the scoring of applications, let's remain positive as the outcome of this program is expected to exceed standards across the nation.