COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Missouri cannabis regulators have announced detailed plans for entering a lottery system to earn one of just 144 microbusinesses licenses.
When medical marijuana was first legalized in 2018 the state issued 338 licenses were given out to sell, grow and process marijuana. These licenses were hard to get due to the high volume of applicants.
As part of Amendment 3, which legalized the purchase of marijuana for recreational use, the recipients of these 338 licenses had a significant advantage in having the first crack at selling recreational marijuana.
Some criticized the state for creating a state-sanctioned monopoly since the businesses the state picked to hand out the original 338 licenses had a significant advantage.
Thomas Howard, a cannabis industry lawyer in Peoria, Illinois says Missouri is intentionally creating a limited market as a way to control these licenses.
“That does a lot of things. It slows down the rollout of how long it’s going to take. Because the lawsuits always result in these limited license jurisdictions as the license in itself has some general intangible value behind it.”
However, as part of Amendment 3 the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services was also tasked with creating a lottery process for granting a limited number of new small business licenses called “microbusinesses.”
According to DHSS, microbusinesses “are designed to allow marginalized or under-represented individuals to participate in the legal marijuana market.”
Howard, added that microbinesses are a way for the state to benefit local communities.
“I'm sure St. Louis doesn't just have the Budweiser brewery, Howard said. "They may have many smaller local artisan breweries that are owned by regular people that happen to live there. That's what the micros bring to the state but mostly to their community where it operates. It allows the industry whether that's craft beer or craft cannabis to have that local flavor in the community.
Unlike the initial applications for a medical marijuana license, the fee to apply for a microbusiness is refundable if the application isn’t chosen. This was a major complaint about applicants during the initial rollout of Missouri’s medical marijuana program. The fee for a microbusiness license is also much lower at $1,500.
The application window for the first round of microbusiness licenses will be July 27 to Aug. 10, despite the fact that the state constitution does not require it to open until September. The licenses will be issued in October, the state said Tuesday.
The random lottery drawing will award six microbusiness licenses in each of the eight Missouri congressional districts, for a total of 48 microbusiness licenses. Each district will receive two licenses for microbusiness dispensaries and four for wholesale facilities.
A dispensary facility is licensed to sell marijuana products for medical or adult use, while wholesale facilities are licensed to cultivate and manufacture marijuana products. Microbusinesses that are cultivating products are limited to 250 plants at one time.
According to Cannabis.Mo.Gov, applicants for a microbusiness license need to meet each of following criteria:
- Have a net worth of less than $250,000 and have had an income below 250% of the federal poverty level, or successor level, for at least three of the 10 calendar years prior to applying for a marijuana microbusiness facility license; or
- Have a valid service-connected disability card issued by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, or successor agency; or
- Be a person who has been, or a person whose parent, guardian or spouse has been arrested for, prosecuted for, or convicted of a non-violent marijuana offense, except for a conviction involving provision of marijuana to a minor, or a conviction of driving under the influence of marijuana. The arrest, charge, or conviction must have occurred at least one year prior to the effective date of this section; or
- Reside in a ZIP code or census tract area where:
- Thirty percent or more of the population lives below the federal poverty level; or
- The rate of unemployment is 50% higher than the state average rate of unemployment; or
- The historic rate of incarceration for marijuana-related offenses is 50% higher than the rate for the entire state; or
- Graduated from a school district that was unaccredited, or had a similar successor designation, at the time of graduation, or has lived in a zip code containing an unaccredited school district, or similar successor designation, for three of the past five years.
Check back for more details on this developing story.