Medical marijuana brings dispensaries to Columbia

Medical marijuana is now legal in Missouri and patients will be able to purchase medical marijuana in spring 2020.
MU Med Weed Graphic

Medical marijuana, approved by Missouri voters last fall, will be available for sale by spring 2020 and changes are coming to Columbia, such as new dispensaries.

According to ABC 17 News, a company called Agape Total Health Care of Missouri, LLC has applied to open five medical marijuana dispensaries in Missouri, one of which is in Columbia. The others are in St. Louis, Kansas City, Liberty and Springfield. Columbia’s Planning and Zoning Commission will review the application.

Dan Viets, director of the Missouri chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, has been heavily involved in the implementation of Missouri’s medical marijuana amendment.

Viets has been a criminal defense lawyer for 33 years and says that the persecution some users of marijuana have faced has kept him motivated to fight for marijuana reform.

“A great majority of my clients are very nice people who don’t deserve to be treated like criminals,” Viets said.

Viets is also the president of New Approach Missouri, which wrote the language for Article 14, the medical marijuana amendment. The organization was able to get the measure on the ballot in November 2018 after gathering thousands of signatures.

He explains that the state of Missouri will issue five different types of licenses for dispensaries, testing facilities, manufacturing facilities and testing labs, as well as certificates for transportation. The licenses are limited in number and applicants must pay a nonrefundable application fee, according to St. Louis Public Radio. The fees can reach as much as $10,000 for cultivation facilities.

Patient applications have been open since June 2019 and are only available online. Qualifying conditions for obtaining a medical marijuana card include cancer, epilepsy and other chronic medical conditions. Patients must also have a physician certification form, according to the state’s website. There is a $25 fee associated with applying for a patient card and an additional $100 fee for growing one’s own cannabis, which can be done in limited amounts, according to the Springfield News-Leader.

“We hope that the state Department of Health and Senior Services will begin to issue cultivation licenses before the end of the year,” Viets said. “We hope they’ll do that by October or November of this year. And if they do, that means there could be cannabis available to sell as early as February or March of next year.”

The state has until Dec. 31, 2019 to issue all of the licences and certificates. In the meantime, an independent third-party organization will score the applications in order to decide who will receive a license and who will not.

In the future, Viets says that NORML will continue to advocate for the legalization of adult use of nonmedical marijuana.

“As 11 states have done, NORML certainly hopes that the state of Missouri will end criminal prohibition of adult use of marijuana as soon as possible,” Viets said.

Edited by Ben Scott | bscott@themaneater.com

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