Customers Braved the Snowfall As State's 44th Cannabis Dispensary Celebrates Grand Opening
Half a dozen people waited outside of Taste Buds Dispensary before its grand opening Wednesday, Feb. 17. As the customers sat in their cars and anticipated the unveiling of St. Clair’s new medical marijuana shop, remnants of a heavy snowfall covered the store’s parking lot around them.
Until half of them grabbed shovels.
They helped employees dig out the entrance to the store, co-owner and general manager Larry Stiffelman said, before it could open at 10 a.m.
With that, Franklin County’s second medical marijuana dispensary was unveiled to the public at 1909 B North Service Road East. The county’s first dispensary, Missouri Health and Wellness, opened in Washington in late November 2020.
“(St. Clair) has been amazing,” Stiffelman said. “They’ve rolled out the red carpet, they’ve welcomed us with open arms, and they’ve helped us get to the finish line quicker than almost everybody else in the state.”
With the passing of Amendment 2 in 2018, at least 192 medical marijuana dispensaries can open in Missouri, said Jack Cardetti, Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association spokesperson. Of those allowed, only 44 dispensaries have been approved, and the St. Clair location is one of them.
Even among the 44 approved, fewer are welcoming customers. Stiffelman said there are only around 25 dispensaries open today because the product is difficult to obtain.
“It was a race. The state wanted everybody to have their facilities completed by the end of the last calendar year,” he said. “Unfortunately with COVID and a lot of other things, it didn’t happen.”
Stiffelman projects the St. Clair store will bring in $600,000 to $1 million in revenue this year. Of that, 2 percent will go to the city of St. Clair in tax revenue, or between $12,000 and $20,000. Another 4 percent goes to the Veterans Health and Care Fund, he said.
Across Missouri, cumulative dispensary sales reached about $12.7 million this month, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, and that number is nearly 37 times higher than it was five months ago. In October, cumulative sales were about $345,000.
At Taste Buds, the products currently for sale include sativa or indica flower, eight varieties of pre-rolled joints, gummies and cannabis-infused drinks, Stiffelman said.
“We’re just tickled to death to be able to offer marijuana as an option to people that have had a really hard time with hard drugs and other issues like PTSD, arthritis, depression,” he said.
Stiffelman and the other co-owners have spent about half a million dollars to launch and stock the store. There are nine total owners, but Tim Davis, Larry Stiffelman and Stiffelman’s wife, Sally, are the primary owners. The others did not want their names in the paper because they run other businesses too, Stiffelman said.
To start the store, they first banked with Triad Bank, but they switched to Electro Savings Credit Union.
New dispensaries will be spread across the state, with at least 24 throughout each of the eight congressional districts, Cardetti said. This allocation makes the medical product easy to reach for the 80,000 Missourians who currently have medical marijuana cards.
Even despite the snow, Stiffelman said he was impressed with the turnout at his store’s grand opening. A total of 34 people purchased products during the opening day, assistant manager Alycia Mundell said.
The Wednesday opening date was a delayed start; the store had first planned to have its grand opening two days earlier. It had postponed its plans due to the snow.
“It was just an unlucky break for us,” Stiffelman said. “We had to get open, we got the license, we’ve had some products, we’re excited to open for the community, but we know that the weather is not making it happy for everybody to get here.”
Due to the weather, Taste Buds is having another inaugural celebration April 20. There will be food trucks and marijuana from new cultivators around the state, he said.
Stiffelman said if given the chance, he would love to expand the store in the future. If recreational marijuana becomes legal, he would want to become licensed to sell that as well.
The store will be open Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Its website is tastebudsmo.com, and its phone number is 636-364-8419.
This story has been updated from the previously published version. The updated version includes additional quotes from the dispensary's ownership as well as the statewide cannabis industry association.