ST. LOUIS – A new multi-million industry that sprang up almost overnight with state passage of legalized medical marijuana has applicants vying for licenses – and some who haven't gotten them are suing.
In January, the state sorted through applications for hundreds of permits for retail sales, cultivation, the making of edibles, safety testing and other weed-related areas, the Springfield News-Leader reported. Licences were expected to go out Jan. 31.
The ratio of applicants to awarded licenses is 6 to 1.
Who gets a medical marijuana license is based on a scoring system overseen by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. That system has drawn criticism. Among the complaints: Government officials awarded bonus points to applicants whose operations were located in economically distressed zip codes, the newspaper reported.
A former flower nursery grower, Jonathan Callicoat, who applied to grow marijuana and was denied, sued the Health Department. He told the News-Leader he felt the decision was arbitrary and unfair.
“We think the scoring system was changed to an unconstitutional format," Callicoat said, alleging zip code preference.
One of the questions asked on the application was, "What is your marketing plan (to sell weed)?" A reported two-thirds of applicants scored zero on the question.
“One lawsuit has been filed in relation to the scoring process,” Lisa Cox, communications director with the state health department, told the St. Louis Record. “At least 180 petitions have been filed so far with the Administrative Hearing Commission.”
Missouri’s medical marijuana industry may be worth $100 million, the News-Leader reported.
Missouri voters passed Amendment 2, the legalized use of pot for medical purposes, in 2018. Roughly 30,000 patients have been approved to receive the drug since last June, and an equally fast-growing army of growers wishes to sell it to them.
Marijuana is used to treat pain, particularly in terminally ill patients.
Missouri is one of 33 states that have legalized medical use of marijuana. According to the News-Leader report, two-thirds of Americans believe medical pot should be available to adults.
An applicant for a weed-growing license who is denied can appeal to the Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission, tasked with serving as a middle-man between the public and state government.
Cox said funds available to the health department through its Missouri Veterans Health Care fund are made up of taxes collected on medical marijuana sales and application/licensing fees. The funds are being used to administer Amendment 2 (legal medical use).
“This is so that general tax revenue is not used on medical marijuana program expenses,” she said. “These expenses will include defending the department in medical marijuana cases.”
Legal use of marijuana for recreational purposes approved in Oregon and California could be offered to voters in Missouri. Four petitions are collecting signatures (160,000 needed) to place legalizing recreational weed on the ballot.