Missouri will soon be home to a variety of new businesses catering to the state’s emerging medical marijuana industry. Many of of those were started by Missourians in other states who are now able to come back.
March 11-12 at Union Station in St. Louis, thousands of people attended the MoCannBizCon & Expo put on by the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association.
George Nolen, founder of Mo Greens Wellness, which is dedicated to helping patients, caregivers, and cultivators successfully grow medical cannabis, said the reality had yet to set in for him.
“I’ve been so busy since I’ve been here, that I really haven’t sat down and had time to think about it,” Nolen said. “But seeing this event pulled together — and it’s happening right here in the state when I’ve had to travel so far to go to an event like this in the past — it’s a big thing, the fact that we were able to pull all this together.”
“I think they’re bringing a huge value to potential license holders here in Missouri,” Nolen added. “It’s a big deal.”
People from across the country and the world mingled on some of the medical marijuana industry’s newest terrain, addressing issues as diverse as cannabis cultivation, grow-site security and insurance policies.
Amber Iris Langston of Midwest Cann Expos, the main organizer of the event, said the expo consisted of 90 speakers and 120 vendors, “many from Missouri and many from out of state who have experience in the industry.”
Langston, who has been working in cannabis activism for 20 years, said the medical marijuana industry in Missouri is comprised of businesspeople who are interested in creating new jobs, offering a good product and “being part of their community as ambassadors for medical cannabis.”
“They’re here, and they’re meeting each other, and there’s going to be business deals in here no doubt that are going to make people millionaires someday, and that’s cool to think about,” Langston added.
Langston said that the expo was a tremendous resource for people currently jumping through bureaucratic hoops to acquire a license, as well as people hoping to connect with others in the industry who have the necessary skills and regulatory knowledge required to get an operation started.
“Many people that I find all over the country that are from Missouri … are now working in the industry elsewhere, and are now here representing the companies that they’re part of, and wanting to be part of what’s happening back home,” Langston said. “And now, here we are.”
Nolen said he left the state when medical marijuana didn’t make the ballot in 2016. He has been living in Oregon, cultivating his skills in the medical marijuana industry, until about a month ago when he came back home to Missouri.
On the second day of the conference, Nolen, who also plans to offer patient cultivation classes, spoke on the topic of bringing genetics into the marketplace.
“We’re going to be going all over the state teaching people how to grow their own medicine,” he said.
Langston made the point that industry conferences like the MoCannBizCon & Expo serve to normalize the idea that cannabis is a legal and legitimate business.
“People have got this image in their head, that is a very stigmatized image, of who a cannabis user is,” Langston said. “and they just haven’t experienced, thought about or realized that there’s very professional people that are doing this.”
“And it’s a legal market, it’s a place where you can have a business and create jobs,” she added. “You have to have business acumen; it’s not just growing in your closet anymore.”
One business, Bat Country Farms, got started in Bakersfield, California, but is slated to move to Missouri, where it will grow cannabis in conjunction with a dispensary called Mo’roots Dispensary that will be located in St. Charles.
Jacob Treacy, Brandon McDaniel and Matthew Sheehan represented Bat Country Farms at the expo. All three are from Missouri, and they hope to grow and dispense medical cannabis in their home state.
Todd Statzer of Colorado-based Urban-Gro stood under a grow light and explained what Urban-Gro does for individuals starting out in the cultivation business.
“We develop the whole plan for them so they don’t have to,” he said.
Urban-Gro works nationwide helping troubleshoot as well as providing expert insight on the technical and regulatory intricacies associated with the task of growing medical marijuana effectively and in compliance with local laws.
“For example, anything to do with chemical applications, there’s a compliance factor in there with every state, with how much of it they can and cannot be used,” he said.
Statzer said that Urban-Gro is more in the business of forming-long term relationships with medical marijuana grow operations, as opposed to a revenue model based on growing the product itself.
“Instead of just making money on a product, we’d rather make money on a partnership, Statzer said.
“We’re not a distributor we’re a partner.”