Missouri’s medical cannabis retailers are gearing up today, as dispensary owners are eagerly awaiting word from the state’s health department that they can open their doors to adults 21 and older, a few days earlier than anticipated.
Less than 90 days after registered voters approved a constitutional amendment legalizing adult-use sales, the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services, Division of Cannabis Regulation announced Feb. 2 that approved medical dispensaries could launch sales to the broader adult-use market starting Friday, Feb. 3.
Previous guidelines from the state health department’s cannabis division (DHSS DCR) indicated that sales could start as early as Feb. 6, but in an email sent to media and operators Thursday afternoon, officials said medical dispensaries can open as soon as they receive approval today, so long as they know and adhere to stated rules.
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“Nearly all of Missouri’s licensed medical dispensaries requested to convert their medical license to a comprehensive license (adult-use + medical), and approximately 90% of those dispensary facilities who have submitted the request did so on Dec. 8, 2022, the first day they were able to submit such request,” Lisa Cox, communications director for DHSS, said via email. “DHSS has 60 days from receipt to review and approve these requests, per Article XIV, meaning most dispensaries must be approved (or denied) by Feb. 6. In order to ensure all systems and processes are working as planned ahead of the Feb. 6 constitutional deadline, the Division of Cannabis Regulation within DHSS will begin approving conversion requests on Friday, Feb. 3. … After conversion, sales to adult-use consumers (age 21 and up) may begin as soon as comprehensive dispensary facilities are ready to commence operating under their new authority.”
Businesses will be notified by email, according to DHSS officials. Five people working for the DCR will be sending staggered notifications, but they did not indicate a specific time the approvals may hit inboxes.
“December 8 was the first day they were able to apply, so not the deadline per se. Those who haven’t can still continue to apply to convert. 174 dispensaries applied on day one,” Cox said in a follow-up email.
Dan Nelson, CEO of Kansas City Cannabis Co., which operates four stores in the state, says the company has been preparing for this moment since November, hiring and training 25 new employees and expanding hours to meet what is anticipated to be a strong demand.
“The state has been doing its best to keep us informed and has worked hard to try and adhere to timelines voted on last November,” Nelson said. “Three months is a really quick turnaround to flip a switch to rec. Honestly, we’ve had some concerns and created our own angst waiting to see if the state could pull it off.”
If retailers launch as planned, it will be one of the fastest adult-use rollouts in the U.S. and on par with Arizona’s swift launch in 2021.
Nelson said his focus is not only exceeding expectations of new customers today, should Kansas City Cannabis Co. be one of the dispensaries approved to open, but meeting the needs of patients who have been the foundation of the business since the company started medical sales in 2021. (The first dispensaries opened in Missouri’s medical market in October 2020.)
“You’re going to have a wave of three to four times the amount of customers you’re used to the first month or so,” Nelson said, emphasizing the need for a bigger team and a solid company morale to handle the influx. The company ranked no. 6 on Cannabis Business Times “Best Cannabis Companies to Work For – Dispensary” list, which was announced earlier this week. “It’s a pivotal point to win your customer base; that’s their first interaction with you, and that’s a win-lose situation. That’s why we do the extensive training because we pride ourselves on the experience. We can’t afford to discount and price cut everything, but we can provide excellent customer service, and I think that’s how you win at home.”
Missouri will be the 19th state to launch adult-use cannabis sales when approved dispensaries open today,
When asked if Kansas City Cannabis Co. felt prepared for a potentially earlier launch than planned, Nelson said, “We’re just eager. That’s an understatement.”