A hopeful for a medical marijuana cultivation facility — whose application the state snuffed last week — sued the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to reverse its decision.
On Thursday, a Cole County judge denied Paul Callicoat and his family's request for a temporary restraining order against the DHSS. The Callicoat family applied for a medical marijuana cultivation site called Sarcoxie Nursery Cultivation Center, LLC.
The Callicoats were among thousands of applicants who sought the right to grow, dispense, test, manufacture or transport the products.
However, the state is limiting how many of each of the facilities it intends to license — based on criteria laid out by Missouri's medical marijuana amendment.
On Dec. 27, the DHSS section on medical marijuana regulation announced its selection of 60 sites that are to be cultivation facilities in the state. The Sarcoxie nursery was not among them. It was one of 554 sites that applied for the right to grow medical marijuana commercially — each providing a nonrefundable $10,000 application fee.
Shortly after the state's announcement, the Callicoat family announced it would file for a temporary restraining order against the decision.
DHSS used a blind scoring system to rank applicants. It scored applicants based on agricultural experience, business experience, officers' qualifications and criminal records, letters of recommendation, business plans, security plans, and other criteria.
Sarcoxie Nursery Cultivation Center ranked 236th based on the scoring criteria.
Callicoat sued the DHSS on Monday over the decision to only license 60 cultivation facilities and over the scoring system. They wished for a restraining order against the DHSS decisions.
Because the judge whose court the case was assigned to was unavailable Monday, Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem heard arguments.
Callicoat's attorney Joseph Bednar argued the state's decision to cap the number of licenses at 60 violated a right to farm amendment of the Missouri Constitution. He argued the state should allow the market to decide which marijuana cultivation businesses should survive.
The Callicoats said in a statement they were gratified that Beetem thought those issues merited further review and are "concentrating on proceeding with litigation."
On Thursday, Beetem denied the request for a restraining order and sent the case back to Cole County Circuit Judge Pat Joyce's courtroom.
"Plaintiff has failed to establish irreparable injury at this stage in the proceedings," Beetem said in his order. "The proposed injunction does not maintain the status quo (60 licenses) nor does it set the clock back, which would be no licenses."
The plaintiff did not demonstrate a constitutional violation, which may warrant a temporary restraining order, Beetem noted, and reiterated the medical marijuana amendment sets minimum limits to the number of licenses the state may issue. Those minimum limits illustrate the writers of the amendment contemplated limits to the program.
On the other hand, whether the regulations constitute a special law, impede access to medical marijuana or prevent someone's "right to farm" are questions that could merit further review, he wrote.
The case is scheduled for a status hearing Jan. 21.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.