When it comes to the availability of medical cannabis in Missouri, this is the question being asked quite often. Whether it be from patients, the general public, or local municipalities, people want to know and are looking for information to help them better understand what is going on. Unfortunately, there really is no good definitive answer. Realistically, it is still quite a bit away. While this is probably not a popular viewpoint to have, it needs to be said.
Stepping back for a moment to put this all in context, once facility licenses were awarded, a common misconception was that the industry in Missouri would be up and running shortly thereafter. However, irrespective of the ongoing appeals and other associated legal matters, setting up a state run cannabis program from scratch is no easy task. It takes a lot of time and energy to put the necessary infrastructure in place, especially considering the federal illegality of the plant. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) should be commended for what has been accomplished in a relatively short amount of time. That being said, they still have a long way to go to get this program running fully. Most can agree that some missteps have occurred in the past and that more are likely to occur in the future. However, this is pretty much par for the course, not only with cannabis, but with countless other brand new public and private endeavors.
Now, getting back on track. When might patients have access to medical cannabis from licensed dispensaries in Missouri? Best guess, based on current information, is mid to late Fall 2020. (Also, it is worth noting that not all licensed cultivators will have products available at this time. It will more likely than not just be a few, with additional cultivators coming to market with products throughout 2020 and 2021.)
Why so long? First, all the measures taken around the spread of the coronavirus have had an impact on a wide range of normal business activities in every industry. While things are starting to get going again, the first commencement inspection is still yet to occur. Second, is nature. Assuming the first few cultivators pass their final commencement inspection in June, it will likely take at least four months for plants to go through the complete grow cycle (flower, harvest, dry, cure, and test - especially as they get acclimated to their new growing environments) and out the door to dispensaries and manufacturers. And speaking of manufacturers, the arrival of a wide range of processed/infused products in the market will likely be a little behind the actual flower.
For patients who are relying on these new businesses to obtain their medicine, this is a less than ideal scenario. Especially since many will have had their medical card for over a year without access to cannabis through licensed dispensaries as they had initially thought. As the waiting continues, they will be required to go through the certification process, again, and renew their card, both of which, of course, are not free. After that, then they will probably have to wait some more for dispensaries to open.
While there is a lot of anticipation to the “official” product launch in Missouri, it is best (and fair) for the entire industry to try to manage everyone’s expectations when it comes to the realities of this program and provide open and honest ongoing communication. To help fully implement the vision of the DHSS in creating “a program that provides safe and secure access to medical marijuana for qualifying Missouri patients through consistent regulation, enforcement, and education,” we must all work together to make a great medical cannabis program in Missouri. If we do, it will be well worth the wait.