Washingtonians lit and consumed their first legal purchases of cannabis on Monday as the city’s first medical-use cannabis dispensary opened with little fanfare.
“We had people walking in saying they had waited 50 years for this to happen, saying this was a historic day,” said Kathleen Beebe, a regional manager with the dispensary’s parent company.
According to Beebe, the dispensary, located at 901 E. First St., recorded more than 100 transactions on Monday and on Friday, Nov. 27, when the dispensary had a soft grand opening.
It is one of five dispensary locations that Missouri Health & Wellness plans to open, along with locations in Belton, Kirksville, Jefferson City and Sedalia. The parent company is preparing to launch its Jefferson City or Sedalia dispensaries in the near future.
“This has been a long time coming, and we are excited to bring medical cannabis to Washington, Franklin County, and the surrounding areas,” said Randy Stambaugh, statewide manager for Missouri Health & Wellness. “I can’t say enough about the support we have received from the city of Washington, the business community and the residents.”
The Washington dispensary is open Monday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The dispensary is closed on Sunday.
Location Manager David Harper, who oversees the Washington dispensary, said he and other officials were pleased by the turnout on Friday and on Monday. Within an hour of opening its doors on Friday, the dispensary already had completed orders for 10 patients.
“Even though we didn’t have a line out of the door, we still had a steady flow of people walking in all day,” Beebe said. Many of those coming to the dispensary were first-time cannabis users or purchasers, she added.
“We are curious to see what happens this weekend as well,” said Beebe in reference to the number of customers coming in to the dispensary, which is one of the first in the state to open. Other dispensaries have opened Ellisville, Manchester, Lee’s Summit, Springfield, St. Peters and Mexico. Washington’s dispensary is the closest to urban centers like Columbia, Rolla and Jefferson City, as well as communities south of St. Louis such as Cape Girardeau.
First-time users and others who had questions about products were able to sit down in one of the Washington dispensary’s two private consultation rooms to speak one-on-one with dispensary staff, who are trained to help explain the products, though Beebe said those conversations did not include staff offering health advice to the consumer.
Instead, the dispensary’s wellness specialists, or store clerks, encourage patients to keep a journal chronicling their experiences with cannabis use.
While some were expecting to see an opening day blitz at the dispensary consisting of long lines wrapping around the block as seen elsewhere in the state when dispensaries opened, Beebe and Harper said they are anticipating a second surge of customers once the dispensary begins carrying additional cannabis-infused products such as tinctures, edibles, vapes, pre-rolls and other products. The dispensary currently only sells loose flower.
“We are certainly getting a lot of calls from customers about when we will be carrying additional products such as concentrates, edibles and other products. When that happens we really think that will be a game changer for us,” Beebe said.
Information about product availability will be posted on the dispensary’s website, mhwdispensaries.com, and on social media when those products become available.
“There are some customers who prefer to not smoke their cannabis, so they are likely waiting until those products become available before coming to the dispensary,” Harper said.
In the meantime, Beebe and Harper said they are fully prepared to answer questions from those who are curious about the dispensary. For example, purchases at the dispensary are packaged in discreet packaging, including a sealed zipper bag that helps trap the odor of the cannabis.
“I think one of the biggest misconceptions that people (outside of the industry) have is the reasons why people use cannabis,” Harper said. “The lack of education about cannabis usage is very real and leads to a lot of doubts, a lot of questions.”
To that end, staff at the dispensary, which employs 19 people, are promoting the “It Is My Medicine” campaign. Beebe said, “It was vilified for so long, we know it will take time to change that mindset.”