Whether you’re new to the cannabis industry, or have experience in other states, there are a few things you need to know about opening a dispensary in Missouri.
If you have specific questions, you can jump to the section that will help you get your Missouri-based medical marijuana dispensary open as quickly and compliantly as possible.
The state of cannabis in Missouri
The story of legal cannabis in Missouri started in 2014, when regulators enacted SB 491, a bill to lower penalties for possessing cannabis. That bill took effect in 2017.
In November of 2018, Missouri residents voted yes on Amendment 2, which legalized medical marijuana for registered patients with serious health conditions.
After a year of setting regulations, dispensary licenses were awarded in January 2020. And the competition was fierce: 192 licenses were issued to a pool of over 1,200 applicants.
The number of dispensary facility licenses will be limited to 192 in Missouri, unless the DHSS determines the limit must be increased in order to meet the demand for medical marijuana by qualifying patients.
According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), “the number of dispensary facility licenses will be limited to 192, unless the department determines the limit must be increased in order to meet the demand for medical marijuana by qualifying patients.”
In addition to licenses for dispensaries, Missouri also requires licenses for marijuana cultivation, manufacturing, testing, and transportation.
Missouri cannabis dispensary laws
Just in the past three years, we’ve seen many states — including California, Nevada, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Illinois and now Missouri — start operating and legally transacting cannabis sales.
From what we’ve seen so far, Missouri is really doing things well. There will be some bumps in the road, but the state appears to be setting regulation with the utmost professionalism and rigor.
While not an exhaustive list, here are a few of the primary regulations* you need to be aware of in Missouri. (See the full list).
19 CSR 30-95.080.2.C.1-4: (C) Dispensary facilities must, for every transaction
- Receive the transaction order at the dispensary directly from the qualifying patient or primary caregiver in person, by phone, or via the internet, and not from a third party;
- At the time of sale, verify through the statewide track and trace system that the qualifying patient or primary caregiver is currently authorized to purchase the amount of medical marijuana requested and, in the case of a seed purchase, that the patient or primary caregiver is currently authorized to cultivate medical marijuana;
- In the case of a delivery order, receive payment before the medical marijuana leaves the dispensary, subject to refund if the delivery cannot be completed; and
- At the time of sale or delivery, require production of a qualifying patient or primary caregiver identification card, a government issued photo ID, and in the case of medical marijuana seed purchases, a patient cultivation identification card.
Dispensary design requirements
19 CSR 30-95.080.2.E.1-3: (E) Dispensary facilities must design their facility and staffing in such a way as to accomplish the following:
- The general public, qualifying patients, and primary caregivers may only enter the facility through one (1) access point into an area where facility agents shall screen individuals for qualifying patient or primary caregiver status. No medical marijuana may be accessible in this area;
- Only qualifying patients, primary caregivers, and, if requested by a qualifying patient, up to two (2) additional persons to support the qualifying patient, may enter any areas beyond the facility’s access point area;
- In any limited access area where medical marijuana is accessible, the facility shall only allow access at any given time for a number of qualifying patients and/or primary caregivers equal to the number of staff available.
Constitutional amendment, section 4: The tax shall be a rate of four percent on the retail price.
19 CSR 30-95.040.4.G.3: 3. Each facility shall use a department certified seed-to-sale tracking system to track medical marijuana from seed or immature plant stage until the medical marijuana is purchased by a qualifying patient or primary caregiver or destroyed. Records entered into the seed-to-sale tracking system must include each day’s beginning inventory, harvests, acquisitions, sales, disbursements, remediations, disposals, transfers, ending inventory, and any other data necessary for inventory control records in the statewide track and trace system.
19 CSR 30-95.030.5.A: (5) Purchase and Possession Limitations. (A) Qualifying patients may only purchase, or have purchased on their behalf by their primary caregivers, four (4) ounces of dried, unprocessed marijuana per qualifying patient, or its equivalent, in a thirty- (30-) day period;
19 CSR 30-95.040.4.G.5: 5. Each dispensary facility shall be responsible for ensuring that every amount of medical marijuana sold or disbursed to a qualifying patient or primary caregiver is recorded in the seed-to-sale tracking system as a purchase by or on behalf of the applicable qualifying patient.
19 CSR 30-95.040.4.K.4-7: 4. Marijuana and marijuana-infused products shall bear a label displaying the following information, in the following order:
A. The total weight of the marijuana included in the package:
- For dried, unprocessed marijuana, weight shall be listed in ounces or grams;
- For concentrates, weight shall be listed in grams; or
- For infused products, weight shall be listed by milligrams of THC;
B. Dosage amounts, instructions for use, and estimated length of time the dosage will have an effect;
C. The THC, tetrahydrocannabinol acid, cannabidiol, cannabidiol acid, and cannabinol concentration per dosage;
D. All active and inactive ingredients, which shall not include groupings of ingredients that obscure the actual ingredients, such as “proprietary blend” or “spices”;
E. In the case of dried, unprocessed marijuana, the name, as recorded with the Missouri Secretary of State, of the cultivating facility from which the marijuana in the package originated and, in the case of infused products, the name of the infused-product manufacturer, as recorded with the Missouri Secretary of State; and
F. A “best if used by” date;
5. No branding, artwork, or other information or design elements included on marijuana or marijuana-infused products shall be placed in such a way as to obscure any of the information required by this section;
6. Marijuana and marijuana-infused product packaging shall not include claims of health benefits but may include health warnings; and
7. Marijuana and marijuana-infused products must, at all times, be tagged with traceability information generated by the state-wide track and trace system.
*Disclaimer: This list of laws is meant to be descriptive and not legal in nature. For more on medical marijuana laws in Missouri, visit the DHSS site or talk to your lawyer.
About Metrc: The Missouri track-and-track software
Metrc (Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting Compliance) is the track-and-trace provider for Missouri, barring any changes.
There’s been some legal back-and-forth: Missouri approved Metrc as the tracking provider, but said Metrc can’t charge for package or plant tags. A judge ruled against Metrc on January 10th, saying they can’t charge for the tags. Metrc is still saying they’ll support the state of Misosuri and be the system of choice. Hopefully that doesn’t change, but make sure you watch this closely.
Like many other states, Missouri has cultivation licenses, manufacturing or processing licenses, and dispensary licenses.
10 tips for opening a dispensary in Missouri
As you start the process of opening a dispensary, you’re probably feeling some anxiety and maybe some frustration around the legality and compliance.
To help prioritize, here are 10 tips for getting your Missouri dispensary open:
- Understand compliance. This is the first and single most important thing for any cannabis business owner to grasp. Marijuana is a business of compliance and you absolutely must understand all the regulations and how to follow them to the highest standard. Whether it’s personally you or someone on your team, for long-term success, you just must have this locked up. It’s your license and livelihood, make sure to protect it.
- Prioritize inventory management. Your inventory — and how it’s audited and managed — is just as important as compliance. And the two are intrinsically linked. Make sure you have the right people managing inventory and that your state reporting of that inventory is accurate.
- Choose your software and hardware carefully. Every new market gets deluged in the first few months by technology vendors; it’s just a reality of opening a new store, especially in a new market. Everyone will say their software is best. Trust your intuition and look for vendors who genuinely care about your success. Do your homework to understand what hardware, printers, network, and dispensary POS system will best serve your needs.
- Consider your store layout. While there’s several dispensary design layouts you can choose — each with their own customer experience and inventory considerations. Based on Missouri regulations, we recommend the Bank model. That model is most common within medical marijuana dispensaries. It’s where a patient checks in, waits in the waiting room, enters the secure room, then works with a budtender to complete the sale of cannabis products.
- Take advantage of available resources. For example, the DHSS is approving vendors who want to support medical marijuana businesses in the state, including cannabis POS software vendors. See the full list of approved vendors here. Be cautious about signing with vendors that the state hasn’t approved; the law actually requires that you use state-certified vendors.
- Hire experienced people. In a new market like Missouri, you’ll mostly be hiring inexperienced people who want to get into the cannabis industry. But if you happen to find someone who has worked in the industry in other states, hire them. If they have experience with Metrc, definitely hire them and be prepared to pay them more for their experience and knowledge.
- Draw from prior experiences. Use lessons learned from other professional endeavors, but don’t expect everything to translate. If you have retail management or ownership experience, certain areas of the business — like merchandising, staffing, etc. — may transfer, but not everything. The laws around dispensaries are so unique, including in COGS, 280-E, and writing off business expenses, so make sure you don’t just take your past experience and assume it’s all the same here.
- Think about the future. If Missouri follows the current trend, recreational sales could happen in a few years. If that’s of interest to you, start planning for that now. Consider how your space could transfer to a med and rec opportunity, how much storage space you have for inventory, and how budget or staffing needs could increase with a change to recreational.
- Stand out from the crowd. Just like in any industry, you need to create a unique and memorable brand and make sure potential customers know about you. Consider how memorable your store name and logo are, and depending on your location, how to maximize your signage to help you be found. Also consider your online presence, both through your own website and social media, but also on Google, Yelp, Weedmaps, Leafly, and the like.
- Know your customer. One challenge for new dispensary owners is in matching your inventory to your anticipated patient base. Do your research on the population base around your store to get a sense for who your customers/patients may be, then make sure you have the types of products that they’ll care about. Once you open your doors, watch your inventory and sales data, review your patient demographics, and refine as necessary.
Opening a dispensary is no small task, but we’re with you every step of the way.
For more tips to getting your medical marijuana dispensary up and running, check out the How to Open a Dispensary: Getting Started Guide.
The guide goes in-depth on many of the topics mentioned here, including:
- Inventory management and auditing
- Key employees every dispenary needs
- Average dispensary employee wages
- Best practices for choosing a dispensary point of sale system
- The difference between the store layouts
- Considerations for your tech stack
- And more.
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