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Missouri’s cannabis industry is rolling after early supply constraints eased

Sales lead Rashaad Thomas, 27, works on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, at the Good Day Farm Dispensary in the Central West End.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Sales lead Rashaad Thomas, 27, works on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, at the Good Day Farm Dispensary in the Central West End.

Nearly seven months after legal recreational cannabis sales began in Missouri, the state’s program appears to be strong.

The industry has soldmore than $715 million of marijuana in that time, with adult-use products accounting for nearly $550 million of that total.

And some of the supply constraints from months ago have eased, said Jack Cardetti, spokesman for the Missouri Cannabis Trade Association.

“We’re really seeing supply start to catch up to demand,” he said. “With only six months into our program there’s a lot of variety that’s on the shelves and a lot of quality products.”

Those early supply hurdles kept some dispensaries, like Mint Cannabis’ St. Peter’s location, from opening earlier this year. That location’s first official day of business was this past Saturday, said Raul Molina, chief operations officer for Mint Cannabis, a national cannabis chain with locations open in Arizona, Michigan and Missouri.

“We didn’t want to go out there and start with limited amounts of flower and vapes, which is what we had available when we were first allowed to open,” he said. “When we felt we could properly stock our stores is when we finally figured it was our time to go and see what we could do in the Show-Me State.”

Molina admits this approach diverges from some of his peers in the industry, who want to maximize profits while the opportunity is there.

“It’s not always all about the margins,” he said. “We want you to have the right experience with cannabis so that you don’t try it and decide it’s not for you.”

This kind of priority on consumer experience flows throughout the industry statewide, Cardetti said.

“There’s more access in Missouri,” he said. “There’s 200 dispensaries spread evenly throughout the state, so people aren’t having to drive for hours to get to a dispensary.”

And that has led to a boom in employment in the industry as well. Cardetti said there are 17,000 direct jobs in the cannabis industry, up from about 6,000 a year ago.

“A lot of small businesses are having trouble hiring lately, but because of the excitement and enthusiasm around the cannabis industry, our industry is having not quite as hard of a time hiring employees,” he said.

The industry will soon expand when the state awards and distributes 48 micro cannabis licenses over the next few months, meant to provide opportunities in the industry for businesses in, and applicants from, communities most affected by the criminalization of cannabis.

The state received about 1,600 applications for the micro licenses, far fewer than the 5,000 to 8,000 some state officials had expected.

“We were stunned at how many people didn’t apply, but it also shows how many people don’t trust the system,” said Brennan England, Missouri director for Minorities for Medical Marijuana. (England is also the founder of the St. Louis Cannabis Club and a professor with the cannabis science and operations program at St. Louis University.)

Missouri’s system for applying for these licenses allowed variances on many of the requirements in the application intended to bolster the chances of applicants of color in the state, he explained.

“There was no real firm enforcement that (the state’s) equity officer was able to put in place to make sure that minorities or people that have been affected by the war on drugs have been prioritized,” England said.

He also said the limited number of licenses and lottery process for determining them also hampers the ability to form a minority-owned cannabis vertical, that is growing, processing and dispensing marijuana under one umbrella company. England adds that he is watching to see how this licensing process plays out to identify potential for improvement in the future.

But a cannabis business license is far from the only entry point into working with cannabis businesses, and it’s something England stresses to other people of color who have interest in connecting with the industry.

“I encourage people to look at their existing skill set, their existing assets as a professional, and look at ways that that might be a need for a cannabis business,” England said.

It touches sectors like agriculture, security and technology, marketing, advertising, plumbing, electrical and others, he said. Winning a dispensary license or running a consumption lounge can be flashy but those ventures may not be the best entry point for someone without the experience running something similar, England said.

“The first pivot is to look at your existing skill set, because that’s what’s going to be authentic to you,” he said.

Copyright 2023 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Eric Schmid covers the Metro East area in Illinois for St. Louis Public Radio. He joins the news team as its first Report for America corps member and is tasked with expanding KWMU's coverage east from the Mississippi. Before joining St. Louis Public Radio, Eric held competitive internships at Fox News Channel, NPR-affiliate WSHU Public Radio and AccuWeather. As a news fellow at WSHU's Long Island Bureau, he covered governments and environmental issues as well as other general assignments. Eric grew up in Northern Colorado but attended Stony Brook University, in New York where he earned his degree in journalism in 2018. He is an expert skier, avid reader and lifelong musician-he plays saxophone and clarinet.