News, Politics

When Will Medical Cannabis Become Available in Missouri?

October 1, 2020 10:45 am ET
When Will Medical Cannabis Become Available in Missouri?

The legalization of cannabis is a long and complicated process. It’s not the case that cannabis laws are passed in the state legislature one day, and the next day residents of that state can go buy some herb or edibles. There are more hoops to jump through. There’s more red tape to cut. Sometimes, the process can seem endless. Missouri has had a particularly tough journey to legalization. Currently, medical cannabis is legal in Missouri, and cannabis has been decriminalized generally. Recreational cannabis remains illegal.

But the people of Missouri still have no access to medical cannabis. Only two dispensaries have opened thus far, both of them in St. Louis, and neither one has any product to offer. So what’s going on in Missouri? And how will the state correct the problem? To understand the future, we must first look back at Missouri’s complicated past with cannabis legalization.

The History of Cannabis Legalization in Missouri

In 2014, Missouri took its first steps toward legalization. Penalties were reduced for certain cannabis-related offenses, and while possession of small amounts of cannabis was still seen as a misdemeanor, this partial decriminalization was a significant step in the right direction. Later that year, the state legalized hemp oil for the treatment of seizures. Hemp oil is often the first substance to be approved along the path to legalization because of its lower THC content.

In 2018, a measure passed that legalized medical cannabis in Missouri and permitted Missouri residents with medical cannabis cards to grow up to six of their own plants. Patients were also permitted to purchase a set amount of cannabis per month, and commercially sold cannabis would be taxed at a rate of four percent, with the proceeds to benefit military veterans.

It sounded like a great deal. But that was when things began to go wrong.

Controversy Plagues the Missouri Cannabis Market

The fledgling medical cannabis industry almost immediately became the victim of charlatans looking to turn a quick profit. A private company, hired to score medical cannabis licensing applications in the state, was accused of operating with a flawed system and thereby tainting the scoring process, making it more difficult for qualified individuals to gain a license to operate a medical cannabis company. This issue is a significant part of the reason for the delay in cannabis being made available to those who need it most in Missouri.

In a parallel controversy, an individual posed as a licensed medical cannabis doctor in order to “help” hundreds of patients receive medical cannabis certification. This individual was discovered to be a fraud, invalidating all of the certifications granted since they had been signed by an unauthorized individual.

Moving Forward

The good news is that Missouri’s medical cannabis industry is starting to shore up the weak points, and things are looking promising. A few of Missouri’s medical cannabis cultivation facilities are nearing harvest time. When the plants are harvested, the crop will be required to go to a testing facility to ensure that it is of good quality and ready to be distributed to consumers hopefully by this coming fall.

One last hangup that Missouri is facing is that none of its testing facilities have yet been opened. But Lyndall Fraker, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services section for medical marijuana regulation, indicates that the testing facility will soon be open and ready for use. 

All in all, it spells good news for the residents of Missouri, who can look forward to at last gaining access to the medical cannabis they have been waiting for.

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