Jonathan Robertson looks at products

Jonathan Robertson familiarizes himself with the products Feb. 18 at Taste Buds dispensary.

A majority of Missouri’s medical marijuana businesses, including several in Franklin County, have been granted extensions after failing to meet a one-year operating deadline, state authorities told The Missourian this week.

Statewide, approximately 260 of the state’s 370 licensed marijuana companies won’t have to open until as late as September rather than one year from the time they were required to open under state regulations. Receiving an extension is crucial for marijuana-related businesses, which under state law could face losing their license or certification if their facility “has not passed a commencement inspection within one year.”

The extension announcement is another chapter in the state’s rollout of its medical cannabis licensing program, which has been beleaguered by COVID-19 and other delays.

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services records show 89 commercial licenses are approved to operate or are operating. Locally, Taste Buds, the St. Clair dispensary owned by LSA314 LLC, opened in February, and Missouri Health and Wellness, a dispensary in Washington, opened in November.

LSA314 LLC was formed in January 2019, with Timothy Davis, formerly of St. Clair and now of Manchester, listed as registered agent and Laurence J. Stiffelman, of Ballwin, as organizer, according to Secretary of State records.

Missouri Health and Wellness was formed in October 2020 and has two registered addresses in Eldon — one a home on Juniper Road and the other a P.O. Box. Although no owner is listed, the Osceola-based law firm Collins and Jones is the company’s registered agent in Missouri.

Among area dispensaries yet to open are Green Gryphon LLC in Union, which received an extension until July 1 to begin operations. The Missourian reached out to owner Alex Close, who did not respond by press time. Close, a resident of Columbus, Ohio, according to state records, started the company in July 2019. Ryan White, of St. Louis, is the registered agent.

Another dispensary, which is awaiting permission to open, is Columbia Care. Originally planned for a location near the intersection of High Street and Highway 100 in Washington, company officials requested and were approved by the state to move operations to Hermann.

Columbia Care is owned by Nicholas Vita, a one-time Goldman Sachs executive, according to state records. A Massachusetts businessman, Vita built the New York-based Columbia Care into one of the most expansive cannabis companies in the world, with operations in 18 states, Canada and Europe, according to one cannabis trade publication.

In 2019, Columbia Care had 96 dispensaries and cultivation centers in 15 states, with over 600 employees and a market capitalization of almost $700 million. The company is now listed on the Canadian stock exchange and in 2019 invested more than $140 million to acquire Colorado’s biggest chain of marijuana dispensaries, according to NPR.

Columbia Care also is awaiting final approval for a medical marijuana-infused product manufacturing facility in Columbia, Mo., according to the state.

The Missourian reached out to Mallory Rousseau, director of pursuit and development for Columbia Care, but did not hear back by press time.

Manufacturing Plants Pending

Washington city officials say at least one of the cannabis companies granted a license to construct a manufacturing facility in Washington will proceed.

Noah’s Arc Foundation LLC was granted preliminary approval to build a marijuana-infused product manufacturing facility in the city’s Heidmann Industrial Park. An exact address has not been finalized yet, and the company has requested an extension of its one-year deadline. The request is under review, according to state officials.

Noah’s Arc’s chief operating officer is Dr. David Sciortino, a St. Louis area chiropractor, who did not return calls by press time. He and Jeff Aboussie, of Wildwood, and Jason Strotheide, of Clearwater, Florida, are listed as organizers of the company.

Aboussie, who previously worked as the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council’s secretary and treasurer, is now a registered lobbyist, according to online records. It is not known what Strotheide’s background is prior to helping form Noah’s Arc Foundation. James Pursley, of Chesterfield, is the company’s registered agent.

Noah’s Arc Foundation also is awaiting approval for manufacturing facilities in Berkeley and in Jonesburg, a community in rural Montgomery County.

A second area manufacturing facility also is in the works.

Licensed by MR 5025 OH100 LLC, the facility registered plans with the state for a plant on Old Highway 100, just outside Washington’s city limits. The company is registered to David T. Woods, of Clayton.

A spokesperson for the state said the company, also known as “Midwest Roots,” with Woods registered as its organizer, has not received permission to operate at that location.

Midwest Roots was founded in March 2019, and Jack Coatar, an attorney with Spencer Fane LLP in St. Louis, is listed as its attorney. Coatar, who is also an alderman in the city’s seventh ward, did not respond to The Missourian’s request for comment.

A third company, SLCC LLC, is planning to open a manufacturing facility in the 1400 block of Hoelzer Court in Pacific, which is part of the city’s industrial park, according to state records.

Organized by Trivia Reddit-Blue, of Chicago, it has been granted an extension and has until June 7 to become operational. Owner Jason Kabbes told The Missourian he did not have any further updates about the company.