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Medical marijuana a step closer to reality today

Medical marijuana a step closer to reality today

Pre-filing for license applications begins

January 7th, 2019 by Philip Joens in Local News

FILE - In this June 21, 2018, file photo, a laboratory manager holds a cannabis sample in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

The state of Missouri will begin accepting pre-filed applications for medical marijuana facilities at 8 a.m. this morning.

Missouri's Department of Health and Senior Services will begin accepting the applications this morning at its Jefferson City office because state offices were closed Saturday and Sunday, the first two days that pre-filed applications could be accepted under state law.

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Jefferson City, Cole County and Callaway County officials said much remains to be determined as the DHSS fleshes out the rules for governing medical marijuana facilities.

In November, 65 percent of Missouri voters approved Missouri Amendment 2, which modified the state constitution to create a medical marijuana system run by the DHSS.

Under guidelines issued by DHSS and the ballot initiative, three types of commercial medical marijuana licenses will exist: Medical marijuana cultivation facility, medical marijuana dispensary facility and medical marijuana infused products manufacturing facility.

Pre-filed applications for medical marijuana cultivation facilities cost $10,000. Medical marijuana dispensary facilities and infusion center pre-filed applications cost $6,000.

Fees are nonrefundable and will only apply to the department for one year after the department first makes licensing available to the public June 4.

Megan Hopkins, DHSS chief of public information, did not respond to requests for comment. An unnamed DHSS representative responded to repeated online media requests via email by referring a News Tribune reporter to guidelines on the department's website.

Jack Cardetti, a spokesman for Missouri medical cannabis trade association MoCannTrade also served as the spokesman for New Approach Missouri, which led the Amendment 2 campaign.

Pre-filing does not give cannabis entrepreneurs an advantage when applying for a medical cannabis license, Cardetti said. Instead, the deposits will be used to fund the department's work and prevent delays in the medical marijuana program's implementation, he said.

"That is especially important because we knew that passage of Amendment 2 would take place in the middle of the state's fiscal year," Cardetti said. "The way Amendment 2 is structured, the funding for the department stands appropriated without the need for legislative action."

Pre-filed application forms and accompanying deposits were available online last week at health.mo.gov/safety/ medical-marijuana/index.php. A representative at DHSS' Jefferson City offices said last week that forms would be available at the office today.

The department began accepting pre-filed applications hand-delivered this morning to its office at 920 Wildwood Drive in Jefferson City. Pre-filed applications mailed to P.O. Box 570 in Jefferson City also were accepted for the first time today.

Pre-filed applications ask the applicant for his or her name, Social Security number, mailing address and the type of license sought. The forms do not function as applications to open dispensaries, cultivation facilities or infusion centers, according to the DHSS guidelines.

Beginning June 4, the DHSS will begin issuing applications to applicants who want to open dispensaries, cultivation facilities or medical marijuana infused products facilities, according to DHSS guidelines. Rules governing all medical marijuana facilities will also be finalized by June 4.

Kristi Campbell, Cole County Health Department director, said local health departments will not help craft the rules.

"We haven't heard a lot from (DHSS) about it," Campbell said. "They're the regulatory authority, so they'll be setting the regulations. They'll be accepting the applications."

On July 4, the state will begin accepting applications from patients with one of 10 qualifying medical conditions that want to seek access to medical marijuana.

On Aug. 3, the state will begin accepting applications for medical marijuana facilities. By Dec. 31, the state must begin the approval process for applications filed Aug. 3, according to the guidelines.

Once approved by the DHSS, cultivation facility licensees will be charged $25,000 per year to operate the facility. Dispensary and infusion center licensees will be charged $10,000 per year to operate each type of facility.

Facilities' licenses will be valid for three years.

When the license expires after three years, a three-year renewal of the license will cost $5,000 for a cultivation facility on top of the $25,000 per year charge to operate the facility. A three-year renewal for dispensary and infusion center licenses will cost $3,000 on top of the $10,000 per year charge to operate each type of facility.

Local power

As the department works to craft the rules that will govern Missouri's medical marijuana industry, local officials said much remains unknown. At least 24 dispensary licenses must be issued in each of Missouri's eight congressional districts, according to the ballot initiative.

The number of infusion centers may not be limited to fewer than one per every 70,000 residents, according to the ballot initiative. Cultivation facilities may be limited to one per every 100,000 residents of the state, according to the initiative.

Cardetti said DHSS will determine how many facilities can be in each county within a congressional district. Jefferson City Counselor Ryan Moehlman said the initiative prohibits cities or counties from enacting prohibitions on medical marijuana facilities.

"We cannot issue regulations that would keep out these type of facilities," Moehlman said. "It looks like there has to be some sort of path to allow these type of facilities within the city."

Cardetti said the campaign included this provision to ensure patient access to medical marijuana.

"Because this was a medical marijuana law and not an adult use law, patients needed to have relatively close access," Cardetti said.

Moehlman and Jefferson City Administrator Steve Crowell said the city may consider what local ordinances it can put in place to govern medical marijuana. The Jefferson City Council has not considered proposed rules, Crowell said.

Even without guidance from the state, the city will have some power to regulate the medical marijuana facilities on its own through its zoning power, Moehlman said.

"The City Council is going to need to determine where we want these type of facilities," Moehlman said.

Callaway County Western District Commissioner Roger Fischer said the county received several calls from people inquiring about opening facilities to grow and process medical marijuana.

Cole County Presiding Commissioner Sam Bushman said the county received emails from two people interested in opening medical marijuana facilities in the county.

As local governments wait for the state to issue its guidelines, Bushman, Fischer and Moehlman said local governments must wait patiently.

"There's no way we are prepared to open dispensaries until we get direction from the state," Bushman said.