The first medical marijuana dispensaries in Missouri should be able to open their doors to patients on Jan. 24, 2020.

The state’s Department of Health and Senior Services announced that it will begin issuing licenses before the end of the year. Testing facilities can expect to receive their licenses on Dec. 19, followed by transportation facilities on Dec. 23 and cultivation facilities three days later.

It then plans to issue licenses for facilities that produce infused cannabis products on Jan. 10. Dispensary owners should expect to gain their licenses on Jan. 24 and then seed to sale licenses will be granted on Jan. 31.

“The high level of interest from patients and facility applicants has presented unique challenges for our team as they have implemented the constitutional amendment which will make medical marijuana available to qualified patients in Missouri,” said Dr. Randall Williams, director of DHSS.

Williams said that the team has moved the program forward as quickly as possible, and he is pleased with the progress it has made.

DHSS has 348 licenses to dish out – of which 192 are for marijuana dispensaries – and it began accepting applications in August. In total it received more than 2,200 applications, so the majority of hopeful entrepreneurs are going to be left disappointed.

Under state law, each facility application must be approved or denied within 150 days of the date on which the application was considered complete.

Sixty-five percent of Missourians voted in favour of a constitutional amendment that legalized medical marijuana in a November 2018 referendum. DHSS revealed that around 22,000 patients in the state have already qualified for the medical marijuana program, and they will begin receiving their prescribed doses in January.

Missouri has limited the number of dispensary licenses to 24 per congressional district and competition is fierce. Aspiring dispensary owners in Kansas City say the application process is “backwards”, as applicants must set up an entire business plan and pay some upfront costs without any guarantee of securing a license.

These applicants cannot approach banks for loans, as marijuana remains illegal at a federal level in the U.S., so they have turned to private individuals for investment pledges when creating their business plans. Missouri recommends they plan to raise $125,000 per dispensary license.

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