Medical marijuana to create jobs and economic activity

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COLUMBIA – Missouri is the 33rd state to legalize medical marijuana. Medical marijuana will not only provide patients with another treatment option for chronic pain and conditions, but it is also expected to generate revenue and boost Missouri’s economy.

In the November mid-term election, Missourians passed Amendment 2, legalizing medical marijuana, with nearly 66% of the vote.

All 33 states with legal medical marijuana run their programs differently. Jack Cardetti, spokesperson for the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association, said there are best practices, including a reasonable timeline to implement the new law. According to Cardetti, MoCannTrade advocates for businesses and those in the medical community looking to be involved in the medical marijuana program.

Cardetti was also a part of the campaign committee for NewApproach Missouri, the group that supported Amendment 2.

Cardetti said, with the implementation of the new law, patients and veterans will see benefits. Patients will be offered another treatment option, and veterans’ services will receive tax revenue from the retail sale of medical marijuana. He said there is another benefit, though, for the state’s economy. Cardetti said, according to federal law and the Missouri constitution, all economic activity produced by medical marijuana must stay within the state’s borders.

“Everything from the cultivation of the medical marijuana to the end sale at a dispensary, all of that takes place within Missouri’s borders. It can’t cross state lines at all,” Cardetti said. “That means the hundreds of millions of dollars of economic activity will stay right here in Missouri.”

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services would not comment for this report, stating it was still early in the “stages of regulation development,” and it could not answer specific questions.

This is what's next for Amendment 2, according to the timeline DHSS provided:

  • June 4, 2019 - All application forms will open based on finalized regulations
  • July 5, 2019 - DHSS will begin accepting patient and caregiver applications
  • August 3, 2019 - DHSS will accept business license applications
  • December 31, 2019 - Deadline to approve the business license applications

Cardetti said medical marijuana will be regulated and tracked from the time the plant is a seed, until it is sold at a dispensary. That regulation will require employees at facilities for every stage.

“There are going to have to be thousands of workers that work in this industry, at the cultivation facilities, at dispensaries, manufacturing the medical marijuana, so this will create a number of jobs that don’t exist in Missouri today,” Cardetti said.

According to the timeline from DHSS, it will open application forms for all licenses on June 4, 2019. Cardetti said the department will be required to issue at least 300 licenses for the medical marijuana industry: 60 cultivation licenses, 80 manufacturing licenses and 192 dispensary licenses.

Cardetti said there is a “fine line” for the right number of licenses to create a competitive market.

“You want to make sure there’s enough licenses out there that this doesn’t become a monopoly, that there is competition in the market, because more competition, obviously, ensures that Missouri patients are able to get a product that’s a high quality product at a very affordable price,” he said.

That competition within the medical marijuana industry could also create competition for those already involved in a similar business.

The main difference between medical marijuana and CBD is the levels of THC. THC is the psychoactive compound in cannabis- medical marijuana.

Sacred Leaf is a CBD dispensary in Columbia. It operates legally under the Farm Bill act. CBD stands for cannabidiol, which is a group of compounds closely related to cannabis: marijuana. CBD is used for pain relief, anxiety, epilepsy and other conditions. Savannah Foos, the dispensary’s general manager, said it is still too early to tell how the legalization of medical marijuana will affect the business.

According to Foos, many of Sacred Leaf’s customers would qualify for medical marijuana, but there is no guarantee they will choose to use it.

“It’s a preference. People choose CBD because they don’t want that psychoactive,” she said.

Foos said she does not know if Sacred Leaf will try to get involved in the medical marijuana industry and said the store’s owner is waiting for more rules and regulations before moving forward.

“Even if we did expand and get into that side, we’re not going to abandon CBD, so it’d be merely an expansion,” she said.

Foos said, even if it hurts her sales, she hopes customers who qualify will take advantage of the medical marijuana treatment option if it will help them.

“Our main goal at our place, Sacred Leaf, is customer satisfaction, people getting the relief of whatever symptom that they need,” she said.

Cardetti said this is an exciting time for Missourians.

“Right in front of their eyes, they are going to see an industry take off from the ground up and it’s going to be really exciting and it’s going to be extremely beneficial to Missouri patients,” he said.

Amendment 2 went into effect on December 6, 2018, giving patients and doctors the opportunity to talk about the possibility of medical marijuana as a treatment option.

The amendment is expected to be fully implemented by late summer of 2019.