There will be no commercial medical marijuana grown in Boone County, and two applicants in Audrain County will be the only licensed growers in an eight-county area of central Missouri, the state Department of Health and Senior Services announced Thursday.
The department released a list of the 60 growers who will be licensed initially in the state, based on scores compiled for their applications and the result of background checks and other reviews of the applications received in August.
The medical marijuana provisions of the Missouri Constitution, approved by voters in November 2018, require at least one cultivation facility for every 100,000 residents but don’t include any requirements for a geographic distribution of licenses.
Medical marijuana patients and caregivers are allowed to grow a small amount in locked, indoor facilities under the provisions of the constitution.
The 60 approved applications were selected from those who received the top 65 scores from among more than 550 applications for cultivation licenses. Reactions from rejected applicants from the area who could be reached ranged from accepting to critical.
“I think I have to see the results of the process and some additional details before I make any judgement,” said Eric McSwain of Lit Naturals of Fayette. “It seems to this point that everything was pretty fair and transparent.”
McSwain is waiting on scoring of dispensary applications, which will be announced on or before Jan. 24.
Luke Hendren of Blooms4Meds, who applied for a cultivation facility near Rocheport, said he didn’t understand why his company was denied. He has an organic farm and 50 years of farming experience among the group that was working on the cultivation license.
“The scoring system is grossly unfair,” Hendren said.
The only application from Hendren’s group was for a cultivation facility.
The notification of cultivation applicants is the third step in the rollout of licenses for commercial medical marijuana facilities. The first group of 10 licenses for testing facilities, including a Fayette firm, was released Dec. 19 and the names of 21 firms that will be licensed to transport medical marijuana were released Monday.
The department is expected to name the companies that will be licensed as manufacturers of marijuana-infused edibles and other products on Jan. 10 and the winning license applications for dispensaries on Jan. 24. The state will issue 86 licenses to make marijuana-infused products and 192 to open dispensaries.
Only the dispensaries must have a geographic distribution through the state, with at least 24 dispensaries in each of the eight congressional districts. As of early December, more than 22,000 patients had been approved for medical marijuana, a larger number than expected.
The approved cultivation applications in Audrain County were for 1913 Holdings LLC, in Vandalia, which will also be licensed to have cultivation facilities in Waynesville in Pulaski County and Carrollton in Carroll County, and Standard Wellness LLC, which received three cultivation licenses for facilities that will be built near Vandalia.
“We got our approval this morning,” a pleased Nate Kurash of 1913 Holdings said.
Kurash, who lives in Cleveland, Ohio, said he and Missouri-based investors have leased a building from Vandalia that was previously used as a city vehicle maintenance garage. It will have to be equipped and inspected before any marijuana is grown there.
“I am saying we are easily six to nine months if not nine to 12 months away from a crop,” he said. “There’s a lot of work to be done for the retrofit and the security.”
Kurash is experienced in operating marijuana businesses in Ohio and elsewhere, he said.
“I will say that the Missouri process in my opinion was very smooth,” he said. “I would give it a B-plus.”
No one from Standard Wellness could be reached for comment.
The license applications were subject to a blind grading by Wise Health Solutions, which won a contract in August to do the work. The department also conducted additional review of applications and expected that a handful of applicants with scores good enough to receive a license would be denied for a variety of reasons.
The rejected applications include eight from Boone County, one from Audrain County, six from Cooper County, eight from Randolph County, seven from Callaway County and seven from Cole County.
The rejected applicants were all given a “conditional denial,” which means that if any higher-scoring applicant is not able to meet licensing requirements, such as construction of a growing facility or inspection requirements, they could be eligible to receive a license in the next 395 days.
Warrick Wadman, whose Missouri Cann Crush application for a Paris Road facility in Columbia scored almost 180 fewer points than the last application to receive a license, said he is still hoping to win a manufacturing or dispensary license.
“I could pursue those without a cultivation license or with one,” he said before receiving his notice. “It would just adjust funding.”
Many applicants reached after receiving notice they would not be licensed said they wanted to review their scores in detail before deciding what to do.
“I am really disappointed,” said Drew Stuart of Show-Me Relief, who applied for a license in Mexico. “That is all I will say about that.”
But Connie Jacoby of Canna Botanicals, which applied for a license in Moberly, said she will be working to appeal the decision. She is a nurse who has taught seminars for Mother Earth News and wanted her operation to focus on growing strains for research to determine whether any particular cannabis is better for particular conditions.
The application was also a minority- and women-owned business, she said.
“I surely am disappointed,” she said. “I hope and pray they are looking at it from a correct vantage point.”