Those seeking to cultivate, manufacture, dispense, or test medical marijuana in Missouri can submit an application to the state for the next two weeks.
On Saturday, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) began accepting applications for medical marijuana facilities. All applications are due by midnight Aug. 17.
A third-party blind scorer will review and score the Evaluation Criteria Scoring Questions for all cultivation, manufacturing, dispensary, and testing facility applications, stripped of any identifying information.
“Early on as we began our research, our team got together to discuss the various ways we could award licenses, and we all agreed that a blind scoring system using a third-party vendor would be the fairest way to grant licenses to applicants,” said Lyndall Fraker, director of the Section for Medical Marijuana Regulation. “Since applicants will be scored solely on the content of their facility applications, we also believe that this will help set the industry up for a successful launch for Missouri patients.”
DHSS plans to license 60 cultivation facilities, 192 dispensaries, 86 medical marijuana-infused manufacturing facilities, and 10 testing laboratory facilities. The numbers are the same as the minimum set by the Missouri Constitution. The limits exceed the number of pre-filed application fees and the amount a recently-released study projects the industry will support.
As of July 30, DHSS has received a total of 592 pre-filed application fees totaling $4,208,000. Of those, 164 are for cultivation facilities, 334 for dispensary facilities, and 94 for medical marijuana-infused manufacturing facilities. The state recently rolled out an interactive map that shows who has prefiled application fees for facilities.
Jack Cardetti, a spokesperson for Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association (MoCannTrade), said he expects more than 1,000 facilities applications to be filed by the time the DHSS closes the application window on August 17.
“[Saturday] starts a very, very important part of implementing this medical marijuana program,” Cardetti said Friday morning on a conference call with reporters. “There is certainly no lack of interest in this program.”
The limited number of licenses in contrast to the expected number of applicants means there will be winners and losers. But it won’t be the state picking and choosing who is awarded a license and who is denied a license.
The state is using a third-party blind scoring system. More than half a dozen businesses have submitted bids to preform the blind scoring. The Office of Administration has not announced who gets the contract.
“We are committed to transparency and fairness and want to emphasize that the reviewers of applications will be blinded to the identity of applicants,” Randall Williams, director of DHSS, said in March “Those granted a license or certificate will be selected solely upon the content of their applications, and those assigning scores to applications will have no access to applicants’ identifying information.”
In other states with legalized medical marijuana, companies denied a license have filed lawsuits. Cardetti believes post-license litigation in Missouri might be limited.
“The thing Missouri has done that is going to limit some of that potential litigation and concerns on the back end is implementing a third-party blind scoring system,” Cardetti said.
The department began processing qualified patient and caregiver applications on June 28, roughly a week ahead of the timeline laid out in law. Since then, DHSS has approved more than 5,000 applications.
Stakeholders are estimating dispensaries will likely open late spring to early summer of 2020.