Leaster Gibson lives in Springfield now, but the Kemper graduate wants to be a part of bringing a new industry to Boonville: medical marijuana.
Businesses submitted more than 2,100 applications for medical marijuana facilities in Missouri. Six businesses submitted a total of 15 applications for Cooper County. A managing member of Springfield-based Foster-Gibson investments, Gibson applied to open a dispensary at the old Casey’s on Sixth Street and an extraction facility in the old Hostess building on Main Street.
The only application in Cooper County that was outside Boonville was for a growing facility near New Lebanon. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is processing those applications and will score each business to determine who gets a license and who doesn’t.
The department last Wednesday released the statewide list of applicants who filed for the opportunity to open medical marijuana businesses in the state. Under the provisions of Amendment 2, added to the Missouri Constitution in November, there must be a minimum of 192 dispensaries, distributed geographically around the state, with at least 24 in each of the eight congressional districts.
The state will also issue the minimum required 60 cultivation and 86 infused-product manufacturing licenses, but there are no directives to distribute those throughout the state. The state will also license 10 testing laboratories. The state received 2,163 applications of all types during the Aug. 2 to Aug. 19 window for submissions.
Gibson’s proposed extraction facility would take THC from the marijuana plants, which he would then sell to other processors to put in edibles and other consumable products, he said.
He’s a proud “old boy” who graduated from Kemper Military School in 1994 and still frequents Boonville. He wants the facilities to be a positive for the community, he said. As a medical marijuana patient himself, Gibson said he wants to know what he’s consuming, and he wants to extend that to his own consumers.
“Nobody is going to be more compliant and make sure the product is clean and safe,” he said.
Gibson was born with an issue in his knee that causes him chronic pain. He started using medical marijuana as a treatment for the pain when he was at law school in California. He decided he didn’t want to be an attorney, but his time in California did spark an interest in the medical marijuana industry.
Gibson helped create a company in 2014 that designed packaging specifically to ship marijuana. He’ll be involved in the day-to-day operations of the facilities in Boonville if the state approves his applications. Two of his partners have experience running a dispensary, and he thinks his experience as a consumer will benefit his customers.
David Steelman, a Rolla attorney, former state representative and current curator of the University of Missouri, has also applied for permits in Boonville. Working with Cultivate, a Massachusetts-based medical marijuana company, Steelman applied for growing, manufacturing and dispensing permits for a building in the Mid-America Industrial Park off Ashley Road, between Caterpillar and Holiday Inn Express. Steelman says he’s been in favor of reforming marijuana laws for 40 years, and he thinks the budding medical marijuana industry is a big opportunity for rural Missouri.
He picked Boonville because he knows there are plenty of hard-working people around and it already has an industrial park right on Interstate 70, he said. Steelman hopes the state approves all his applications, but he thinks the growing and manufacturing could be the biggest benefit to Boonville.
“I’ve watched so many economic opportunities bypass rural Missouri,” Steelman said. “What we’re really interested in is setting up a situation that is not just two people in a dispensary selling, but is also the cultivation and manufacturing, which will be dozens of jobs that are pretty high paying.”
Cultivate will hire and train people from the Boonville area to work in the facility if it’s approved, Steelman said. He was drawn to the company because it’s not very large yet and was started by a family with experience in the food industry.
“I like the way they do business, I like who they are and I like their commitment to quality control,” Steelman said.
Four other companies applied for permits in Cooper County but had not returned calls by Friday morning:Cresco Labs, a Chicago-based medical marijuana company, has applied for growing and manufacturing licenses for a facility inside the Glen Martin building next to the MFA on Radio Hill Road. Hylytz Farms, a company registered in Pilot Grove, applied for a growing license for a facility near New Lebanon. MOCO Team, a company registered in Columbia, has applied for growing and manufacturing licenses for a facility on a currently undeveloped parcel on Nor-Cat Way, behind the Pilot truck stop on Ashley Road. Maryland-based medical marijuana company Seven Points Agro-Therapeutics applied for a license to open a dispensary at 319 Main St., the former Family Counseling Center.
Boonville will zone growing and manufacturing facilities Central Commercial District (C-2), like most other manufacturing in Boonville. Most of the city’s C-2 zones are centered around Ashley Road, B Highway and the waterfront.
Dispensaries will be regulated similarly to liquor stores. They’ll have Local Commercial District zoning (C-1) and have to be at least 100 feet away from schools and churches. Dispensaries can only be open from 6 a.m. to 1:30 a.m., Monday through Saturday.
In the Fourth Congressional District, which includes all or portions of Audrain, Boone, Cooper, Howard, Moniteau and Randolph counties in Central Missouri, the department received 128 applications for dispensary licenses, 78 applications for cultivation licenses and 46 applications for infused product manufacturing.
There were applications from 20 of the 24 counties in the district, with only Dade, Hickory, Moniteau, and St. Clair counties without applications.
In the central Missouri region:Audrain County entrepreneurs are seeking one cultivator, one dispensary and one infused product manufacturer’s license. Cooper County applicants are seeking six cultivator, three dispensary and six infused product manufacturer licenses. Howard County business Lit Naturals is seeking to put a growing facility and dispensary in Fayette. Inovatia AgriTesting Services, LLC, has filed an application to be a testing laboratory. Randolph County applicants asked for eight cultivation, five infused product manufacturer and eight dispensary licenses.
All the applications must be scored by a contractor hired by the department. Applications must be approved or denied for licensure by DHSS within 150 days of the application submission date.