After a long wait following a voter-approved constitutional amendment to legalize medical cannabis in 2018, Missouri’s nascent medical marijuana industry is going from strength to strength.
The state regulator – the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) – issued its first round of licenses in February last year, with the first legal sales of medical cannabis taking place the following October.
Since then, revenues from medical marijuana sales totaled $32 million by mid-April. That works out to around $2 million in sales a week. These sales are driven by the nearly 93,000 medical marijuana card holders processed by DHSS, while the number of licensed dispensaries has jumped from 20 this time last year to 80 today.
And Missouri’s medical marijuana program doesn’t appear to be showing signs of slowing down. Applications for MMJ cards in Missouri increased substantially last month, according to Lyndall Fraker, the state’s head medical marijuana regulator.
“We had stimulus checks go out, some people are already receiving their income tax refunds,” Fraker said. “Seems like maybe the economy and people getting over COVID, and they’re getting out a little bit more. Maybe they’re making a doctor’s appointment they didn’t make a year ago.”
Missouri’s medical cannabis sales have generated around $1.3 million in taxes for the state’s general fund so far, with even better returns anticipated in the future. Fraker expects sales to top $100 million by the end of summer and $200 million by the year’s end. The Marijuana Business Factbook, however, gives a more optimistic estimate of $225 million -$300 million in sales for 2021. These figures are buoyed by the fact that only around 40 percent of successful applicants for a dispensary license are already operating, with others expected to open their doors in the coming months once they’ve put the finishing touches to their retail spaces and passed the final inspections.
Jack Cardetti, a representative for Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association, said the industry’s strong performance is giving the state’s post-pandemic economy a much needed boost.
“With us coming out of the pandemic, there being a lot of economic uncertainty — a new industry coming in Missouri, thriving and creating jobs is good for everybody,” he said. “Already we have more facilities, more dispensaries open than the entire state of Illinois — even though Illinois is an adult-use market and has twice the population of Missouri.”
One of the main concerns medical marijuana dispensary owners had at the outset of legal sales was securing enough product to sell. And while some retailers have experienced supply chain shortages due, in part, to marijuana cultivators and manufacturers hampered by the coronavirus outbreak, it appears many have now overcome these teething problems.
“Now we have quite a few more cultivators coming up. We have more manufacturing facilities. So, supply is doing a lot better now than it was when we opened,” said Charlea Estes-Jones, general manager of a medical marijuana dispensary in Cassville.