A marijuna plant | Via Brett Levin/Flickr

Forum draws residents worried about outside capital in Missouri medical marijuana

Missourians seeking to acquire highly sought-after licenses authorizing them to operate within the state’s developing medical marijuana industry are concerned that capital from outside of the state is poised to displace prospective Missouri-owned businesses.

In a public forum hosted Wednesday by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, people from across Missouri provided feedback on what they would like the department to consider as it drafts the rules and regulations for the state’s medical marijuana program. Those are expected to be released in June.

In November, Missourians approved Amendment 2, a constitutional amendment backed by New Approach Missouri, which enshrined the legalization of medical marijuana for qualifying patients in the Missouri constitution.

Amendment 2 states that all facility licenses, as well as medical marijuana testing and transportation certifications, must be issued to people who have been Missouri citizens for at least one year before applying.

Despite this, there will be residents who are 51 percent owners, Peter Andreone, a marijuana business lawyer based in Kansas City, told the Columbia Missourian in December. That will qualify those residents as majority owners under the law, he said, even though they benefit from funds coming from other states.

Mike Johnson, a Missouri resident, said at the forum that one thing the department should keep in mind when drafting the rules and regulations is that, “the big businesses and money coming (from) out of state should be the last to be considered.”

The desire to prevent out-of-state investors from muscling their way into the state’s newly minted medical marijuana industry was a common theme expressed by many who testified.

“This is about Missouri; it needs to stay about Missouri,” said Robert Powell, a member of the Mid-Missouri NORML chapter and Missouri Cannabis Industry Association, eliciting applause. “If you’re not living in Missouri, you shouldn’t be able to do what you want to do just because your dollars are bigger than me, or anybody else in Missouri.”

Powell said that the department should consider license seekers’ assets in order to determine if outside money is being used to fund medical marijuana operations in Missouri.

“And that’s fine,” Powell added, “if the money stays in Missouri.”

Rachael Redler, a Kansas City resident, said the department should allow for individuals to receive acceptance of licenses on a provisional basis before acquiring the property on which to operate their business.

Redler said that, for somebody like her, a prospective small business owner, having to apply for a license with a property in hand, or even a lease, is difficult and tips the advantage to wealthier individuals.

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