Columbia has at least another 6-week wait before medical marijuana is sold
Medical marijuana dispensaries are starting to open in Missouri. It may take a little longer in Columbia.
N’Bliss dispensaries in the St. Louis area saw long lines when they opened over the weekend. A Kansas City area dispensary was to open Monday.
Six different companies plan to open dispensaries throughout Columbia. As of Wednesday afternoon, they were not yet approved to operate.
Calls and emails were sent to all six, with GRD Columbia LLC, Shangri-La, COMO Health LLC and QPS Missouri Holdings LLC responding.
GRD will be located at 204 E. Broadway near Walgreens, operating as Green Releaf Dispensary. The facility still is under construction, CEO Jay Patel said.
It likely will open late November or early December.
“Construction, we’re hoping, will be done by the end of November,” he said. “That is when we will be able to ask the state to do the inspection.”
Nevil Patel, CEO of Shangri-La, plans to open one of his dispensaries at 3919 Peachtree Drive in December. Another Shangri-La location is planned at 1501 Creekwood Parkway for a late January opening.
Shangri-La was the only company to receive approval to open two different dispensaries in Columbia.
“We should actually be able to meet those deadlines,” Patel said.
COMO Health plans to open as 3Fifteen Primo Cannabis at 4003 Ponderosa St. in early November.
While the business will be ready to open by Halloween, 3Fifteen still has to receive its occupancy license from the county before it can have its commencement inspection by the state, CEO Jason Corrado said.
“The commencement inspection has to be scheduled by the state and that is out of our control,” he said.
QPS will operate as High Profile Boutique Cannabis and plans to open in early 2021 at 1500 I-70 Drive SW.
The company has local and out-of-state partners as the brand operates in other states, President Vishal Rungta said.
The process to open in Missouri has been similar to other states.
“Missouri has had a very robust licensing process,” Rungta said. “That was a more unique and merit-based process. Post licenses being awarded, it has been fairly similar to what we see in other markets.”
Other Green Releaf locations are in Mexico, Moberly and Troy, with the Mexico and Moberly facilities likely opening within the next week. They will not be selling medical marijuana to start off with, however, due to a lack of available supply, Jay Patel said.
“We do not have supply secured yet, because there is a supply shortage,” he said. “So we may be permitted to open and we may open with CBD and other items, but don’t know about the THC products.”
THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, which gives those who use it a high. CBD does not cause a high.
The ability to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Missouri has been interesting, Jay Patel said. Missouri voters in 2018 approved an amendment to allow the sale, growth and usage of medical marijuana.
Business owners then had to go through a rigorous vetting process and provide substantial nonrefundable fees to apply for an operating license. Many applications were rejected.
“It is stricter and more compliant in the work [we had to do] with the department of health and senior services,” Jay Patel said. “They were with us every step of the way.”
Other businesses do not have as strict oversight, he said.
That oversight still was helpful, Nevil Patel said.
“They respond to all our questions in a timely manner,” he said. “The state is not causing any delays. There are some delays in the industry.”
The delays mostly are attributed to product availability. COVID-19 related shutdowns also slowed down the process, especially for those building new stores.
“Boone County has been a pleasure to work with,” Corrado said, adding he doesn’t expect to have any issues acquiring medical marijuana products to sell.
Only customers with a state medical marijuana card and doctor approval can purchase marijuana from the licensed dispensaries. Prices, starting out, are expected to be expensive. N’Bliss was selling marijuana when it opened Saturday for $125 for one-eighth of an ounce.
“This past week three dispensaries opened up in Missouri and to the best of my knowledge two out of three ran out of products,” Nevil Patel said. “I am not sure when the next supply round will be for them.”
He is appreciative of everyone’s patience as the medical marijuana process has progressed in the state.
“We are trying everything in our power to make sure we get products to patients as soon as possible,” he said.
He is seeking to build relationships with area cultivators and product producers. The crop takes time to grow and to let it dry.
Rungta said he wants to ensure there is ample product when he opens.
“We want to open and provide our patients with all of the major categories and a full array of products,” Rungta said. “In a new market, it takes awhile for that supply chain to come online.”
For most businesses, you construct a facility, receive an occupancy and business license and you can open. For dispensaries, they have to follow additional compliance procedures.
“Once all of that is done, we have to prove to the state that whatever we stated in the application, we are 100% compliant with it,” Jay Patel said.
This includes things as small as business signage and employee training processes.
“We are required to submit training manuals, certain documents we are using in the business, safety protocols. There are a lot of requirements around security,” Corrado said.
For 3Fifteen this includes upward of 30 security cameras and an armed guard.
After the state says a dispensary can start to purchase products from a cultivator or infused product manufacturer, they have to use the seed-to-sale tracking system, which is governed by the state.
Once a plant reaches a certain growth height, it is tagged. That tag then follows that plant through to its sale, whether its in the form of plant buds or in a product containing THC.
“Until that product makes it to the patient, every step of the way it is tracked,” Jay Patel said, adding it includes transport information, handling, testing and more.
The reason for the stringent tracking is if there is a product issue, the state can immediately identify it.
“There is probably not any other business governed in Missouri as strict as cannabis,” Jay Patel said. “They want to make sure the program was put in successfully and there are not any errors. At least, that’s the goal.”
The Missouri Department of Health and Human Services expects most of the state’s 192 approved dispensaries to be open by the end of the year.
State employees are responding to inquiries from owners even late at night, so they appear to be working round the clock on this, Nevil Patel said.
“Missouri patients have always been our North Star as we work to implement the state’s medical marijuana program,” Dr. Randall Williams, department director, said in a news release. “We greatly appreciate how hard everyone has worked so that patients can begin accessing a safe and well-regulated program.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.Medical Marijuana dispensaries opened in St. Louis over the weekend. Columbia residents will have to wait at least six more weeks. ]]>