A Washington cannabis dispensary could be the first, if not among the first, medicinal cannabis dispensaries to open in the state, according to company officials.
“We have passed our final inspection and have been approved to operate the dispensary from the state. Now we are waiting on getting a steady supply of product before we move forward with our opening,” said Kathleen Beebe, a human resources and regional manager for Missouri Health and Wellness, which is the parent company of the dispensary set to open at 10 Franklin Ave.
According to the company’s website, the company also has dispensaries slated to open in Kansas City, Belton, Sedalia and Kirksville.
Beebe said only seven of the state’s 192 licensed medicinal cannabis dispensaries have been approved to open, following a final inspection by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, which is the state department tasked with administering the state’s medicinal cannabis industry. A spokesperson for the department did not return The Missourian’s request for comment for this story.
Unlike Illinois and a dozen other states where cannabis has been legalized, Missouri does not allow recreational adult-use cannabis.
“The number of dispensaries approved by the state health department to open is slowly increasing, but so far only a handful have been approved,” said Beebe, who added that Missouri Health and Wellness is eyeing an opening date of late October or early November for its Washington dispensary.
“I know people are excited for us to open, but we want to have a steady stream of supply before we open. The last thing we want to do is to open and then not have any supply,” Beebe said.
Medical cannabis was legalized in Missouri following voter approval of a statewide constitutional amendment in November 2018. That set into motion a regulatory program that has developed over the last two years and includes a mandate that products sold in Missouri must be grown from seeds planted after medical marijuana became officially legal in the state.
The coronavirus pandemic also has slowed the rollout, according to department of health officials.
Beebe said if the Washington dispensary is among the first to open in the state she expects that a large number of people from outside of the region could come here to make their purchases. “There are more than 65,000 Missourians enrolled in the statewide medical cannabis card program. Whenever it is that we are able to open, we are expecting to see long lines of people,” she said.
Beebe and other company officials are planning for different opening day scenarios and have met with representatives from the Washington Police Department, who may be asked to assist in traffic control measures should the parking lot at the dispensary become overwhelmed.
One such scenario, Beebe said, is to adopt a ticket system that would have would-be patrons of the dispensary take a ticket, wait in their car and then be contacted by an employee when they are able to enter the dispensary to make their purchase.
“Right now, we are planning on only allowing a few people to enter the dispensary at a time. This is largely due to COVID-19 and wanting to keep people socially distanced,” said Beebe, who added that the company wants to be good stewards of Washington, including trying to hire its first 10 employees from the local area. “We think Washington is a great community and so while people wait, we will be encouraging them to go to the riverfront, to go shop downtown, to go out to eat at a restaurant, because they may be waiting a while, especially on those first few days,” she said.
Once inside the dispensary, Beebe said customers will be asked to present their medical cannabis card, a valid photo ID, and to complete a patient in-take form. Once that form is completed, customers will be greeted by a sales clerk, who will help the customer select their purchases and answer any questions they may have.
Unlike a traditional department store or boutique shop, state rules prohibit dispensaries from having product displayed on the sales floor.
“It is our goal to be a very professional dispensary and to be a benefit to the community,” Beebe said.
Another Washington dispensary initially issued a state license to operate, Columbia Care, 1380 High St., no longer appears active. There is no sign of the dispensary in the strip mall at the High Street address.
According to Washington Community and Economic Development Director Sal Maniaci, representatives of Columbia Care have not sought or received an occupancy permit since receiving an initial zoning change from the city and state license offices.
“The ball is in their court,” Maniaci said.
Another company, Noah’s Arc Foundation, received an approval from the state to grow and another for infusing cannabis products, including edibles, in September 2019. The company, which had submitted nine other applications for other cities in the state, had indicated it wanted to build in the Heidmann Industrial Park.
Maniaci said owners of Noah’s Arc Foundation have not finalized their purchase of the industrial park property.
A Union-based dispensary, Green Gryphon, LLC, 6 Dell Centre Way, is not listed as having received its final approval from the state.