Forty-six medical marijuana dispensary facilities received licenses to operate in the Kansas City area, according to a list issued by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Friday.
Missouri is required to license at least 192 facilities — 24 per Congressional district — where qualifying patients can purchase marijuana. As of Jan. 21, DHSS has issued medical marijuana ID cards to 29,457 Missourians and 820 to caregivers.
Most likely, the earliest patients can buy marijuana will be summer, according to many of the winning applicants, because of the need to wait on Missouri cultivators to grow the crop and laboratories to test the product.
In a statement, DHSS said the 192 dispensaries were the top-scoring applicants that met “all eligibility requirements” established by the state rules. A third-party blind scorer evaluated about 1,163 dispensary applications statewide, and a total of more than 2,100 applications for each category.
The full list, that shows each applicants’ rank, is here. In the two Congressional districts that include the Kansas City area and parts of northern and western Missouri, 350 applicants vied for licenses.
Given the odds against them, it was like winning the lottery for those who received licenses.
“I was jumping up and down,” Sullivan said. “I jumped into my husband’s arms.”
Sullivan learned from DHSS that her company, Fresh Green, had won licenses to operate two dispensaries: one a 4,000-square-foot building at 7130 Wornall Road in Kansas City, the other on Sam Walton Lane in Lee’s Summit in front of Walmart and next to GameStop.
She and her husband, Rob, who owns the law firm Sullivan Law, will now be in the medical marijuana business with another couple, originally from Missouri who now live in Oregon.
Sullivan, who grew up in Kansas City, first became familiar with the cannabis industry as a student at the University of California-Los Angeles. She helped educate people about California’s Proposition 215 which in 1996 made California the first state to legalize medical marijuana.
“Once we moved back here I never thought it would come here,” she said.
Like Sullivan, Cheryl Annen was still in shock Thursday after finding out that DHSS had approved the application for 3rd Street Dispensary, 510 SW 3rd St. in Lee’s Summit.
She and her husband co-own restaurant Country Kitchen in Warrensburg, and their business partners Mary Ann and Mark Westhues are a nurse anestheologist and a construction contractor, respectively. The Westhues’ daughter, Dr. Eileen Rowe, will serve as minority partner.
Both couples, all of whom live in Lee’s Summit, wanted to open a dispensary nearby, despite fears about the stiff competition.
“We wanted to be where we raised our kids, where we live and work,” Annen said.
Both couples have personal experiences with loved ones who could have benefited from medical marijuana. In Annen’s case, she had to watch her mother suffer from the pain caused by side effects of medication for ALS.
“It’s too bad we didn’t have something not as strong or harsh on the body at the time,” Annen said.
Annen said there is much to do before opening. The location used to be an abandoned HiBoy Drive-In. “Ironic,” she joked.
Other than physical repairs, Annen said they only want to sell high-quality marijuana products, which will take time.
“It’s the same as a restaurant, just a different menu,” Annen said.
Kansas City Cannabis Company won four of the five dispensary applications it submitted. They will open at 149 Crown Hill Road in Excelsior Springs, at 310 S. Platte Clay Way in Kearney, at 1713 NW Burdett Crossing in Blue Springs, and at 9322 Missouri-7 near Lake Lotawana. Their application for a location in Lee’s Summit, which they planned as their flagship store, was denied.
“We’ve been working one year and two months towards today,” Forest Palmer, head of dispensary operations for Kansas City Cannabis Company, said. “…It’s been a doozy of a year.”
Dan Nelson, its chief operating officer, attributed the company’s success to their roots in Kansas City.
“It’s our team — 95 percent of our team is all home-grown Missourians,” Nelson said. “The CEO (Kevin Stallings) is a local businessman, philanthropist and gives back to the community…I have good business relationships I’ve made over the years that helped us through the process.”
Kansas City Cannabis Company plans to have the dispensaries as places for healing and education, where those unfamiliar with the plant would feel comfortable exploring a new option for treating their ailments, Palmer said. Each location will have health and wellness specialists.
”We don’t want to go into this with the ‘stoner stigma,’ of making people feel like they are still involved in a criminal activity when they are certainly just trying to get medicine,” Palmer said.
The Department of Health and Senior Services first inspect the dispensaries to make sure they are in compliance with regulations and the plans they submitted to the state.
In a stop in Kansas City last summer, Missouri’s medical marijuana program’s director, Lyndall Fraker, cautioned there would be a “lot of disappointed people” in the metro area. The state was being cautious in initially granting only the minimum number of licenses, but could authorize more in the future, he said.
“We need to see first if these numbers will be sufficient,” he said at the time.
Friday’s announcement most likely isn’t the end of the road for most dispensary applicants. They have 30 days to appeal, and most have already pledged to do so.
Notably, the Healing Center of Kansas City was denied all five applications for dispensaries, which were spread across the state. One dispensary would have been located in Independence.
The owner of that establishment has filed a lawsuit challenging zoning regulations in Independence that govern where dispensaries can locate. The constitution allows cities to limit operations within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare or church. But the Independence City Council in July implemented further restrictions.
A Missouri judge ordered the state not to deny that application based on the zoning rules until he holds a hearing on the lawsuit next week. The plaintiff’s lawyer in that case argues that the city’s zoning rules would automatically disqualify more than half of all applicants within the city limits.
Iqbal Malik, of Dream Leaf Inc., said all five dispensary applications were denied by DHSS. Malik, who has run the vape shop It’s A Dream in Kansas City for years, was surprised. He paid $100,000 in consulting fees, alone, and his total investment was likely more than $300,000.
Two of the dispensary applications were for Independence, and Malik was worried that Independence zoning rules may have tilted application scoring against him.
“We were 100 percent sure were going to get a license,” Malik said Thursday. “…I think there has to be a flaw in the scoring system.”
Sarcoxie Nursery was denied all four of their dispensary applications, as well, two of which would have been in Kansas City. The company has sued the state for denying it a cultivation license.
“This remains consistent with the flawed scoring process that has been brought into question by us and others,” co-owner Dr. Paul Callicoat said in a statement. “We remain committed to ensuring there is safe and effective access to medical marijuana for eligible patients across our state. We are grateful for the continued outpouring of support as we move forward with our pending litigation.”
Over the last few weeks, DHSS has awarded licenses for each step in the process of getting marijuana ready for purchase. The businesses include cultivation facilities where it will be grown; manufacturing sites where marijuana-infused products will be made and testers to examine the product for abnormalities.
In all, the state approved at least 10 testing facilities, 60 commercial growers and 86 manufacturers.
“Today’s milestone represents over a year of effort by many people to put the final piece in place so that appropriately screened patients in Missouri can receive medical marijuana,” Dr. Randall Williams, DHSS director, said in the statement.
via: KansasCity.Com (LISA GUTIERREZ, CRYSTAL THOMAS, AND KEVIN HARDY)
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