COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The operators of medical marijuana retail shops in Missouri will have the exclusive ability to get licensed first under the state's recreational program.
Voters approved Amendment 3 -- which legalizes recreational marijuana and expunges some non-violent crimes from criminal records -- on Tuesday. The approval set in motion a ticking clock to get the recreational licensing program up and running.
Medical marijuana facilities will be the only ones to get licenses for the program's first 18 months. Sales will likely begin in February, said Lyndall Fraker, director of the medical marijuana section in the Department of Health and Senior Services. The amendment goes into effect Dec. 8.
There will be 144 micro licenses given out to people in a lottery style system. These will be available for people looking to start a business in the cannabis field around September 2023.
A micro license is designed to give people who are looking to step into the industry a fighting chance against corporate entities. A business with this license will be allowed to grow a smaller amount of marijuana.
"They're smaller licenses," Fraker said. "People with a micro license will be allowed to grow up to 250 plants. This is designed so that people who aren't entering the business backed by millions of dollars can get a bit of profit to eventually expand their business."
Things like veteran status, a personal income, location and if they have a previous marijuana conviction will all play a role in the preference points an applicant may receive.
When all the micro-licenses get rewarded, there will be a period that the DHSS reviews the supply and demand of marijuana in Missouri.
"We don't want to reward more licenses to bigger companies and leave the small business owners in the dust," Fraker said.
According to Fraker, it is still hard to tell if there will be more licenses handed out after the micro licenses are all given away and businesses start up. The amount of licenses awarded afterwards and when they are given out will be at the discretion of the health department.
For all future licenses, a lottery system will be used.
According to Fraker, if more licenses are given away after micro-licenses are set up, 50% of them must go to applicants interested in micro-licenses.
"It comes down to not cutting the little guys out," Fraker said. "We want everyone to have a fighting chance in this new market."
Recreational sales will be taxed at a 6% rate and those revenues are expected to more than cover administrative costs.
About 24,000 more people voted on Amendment 3 than voted in the U.S. Senate race.
The state has experience in the marijuana business -- Missouri began its medical cannabis program in 2018.
The Department of Health and Senior Services reported Thursday that the state has 194 medical marijuana dispensaries cleared for operation, 77 manufacturing facilities, 50 businesses cleared for cultivation, 24 for transportation and eight for laboratory testing.
Licensees must also get local approval for their operations.
In the City of Columbia, applications for these businesses can be found online or at the City Business License Division office.
In order to obtain a license, the completed medical marijuana facility license application must be filled out, as well as a criminal background check for both the applicant and the manager of the facility. At the time an application is sent, a certificate of no tax due must be given.
If a partnership is involved, applications must be sent by everyone. Applicants need to be a resident of Missouri for at least one year before sending in an application.
Applicants will be notified if their application gets denied but will have the opportunity to appeal to the license review board.
In Columbia, the number of licenses given out is limited to one per 20,000 people in a population.
A more detailed list of scoring criteria regarding the chance of receiving a license can be found here.
According to the Department of Health and Senior Services, medical licenses are valid for three years from the date the license or certification is issued.
A full list of costs and deadlines for license renewal and applications can be found on the City of Columbia's website.