Thursday marked the first day of legalized recreational marijuana in Missouri, but a few asterisks have followed.
Missourians first approved Amendment 3 in last month's midterm election with more than 53% of votes in favor. The legislation went into action Thursday and Missouri residents 21 years old and older can now legally possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana.
But those hoping to buy marijuana without a medical license need to wait another two months.
Businesses holding a medical marijuana license can now apply for “comprehensive” licenses from the state that would let them sell recreationally. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services says that process takes about two months.
“The amendment gave us a lot of information that we have to abide by. But beyond that, we have to have a set of rules to administer,” Lyndall Fraker, director of the Department of Health and Senior Services Section for Medical Marijuana Regulation, said. “I think the intention will be to get all of [the applications] and then issue those licenses all at the same time, or at least in batches closer to the end of that 60 day period.”
Employees from Green Releaf, a Columbia medical marijuana dispensary, said it plans to apply for a comprehensive license first thing in the morning. The earliest customers can start buying recreational marijuana is February.
“There have been lots of requests,” Green Releaf CEO Jay Patel said. “Lots of phone calls, lots of people that would come to our door thinking that it is legal and they can just come in and make a purchase. So we've had to explain to them that it's not completely available yet.”
New startups have to wait a little longer for their turn. Fraker said 144 micro-licenses will be given out using a lottery-style system. Those licenses will be given to smaller and new businesses.
Applications will be available June 6, but the department won’t start accepting them until Sept. 4. The state said licenses will be awarded in three waves of 48 sets.
“It's a new day in Missouri, obviously, but we've been through it before four years ago with Amendment 2,” Fraker added. “I think we feel much more confident in what we're doing and where we're heading and how this, you know, the outcome.”