For a heartland state that isn’t oftentimes associated with greater American cannabis culture and the burgeoning industry, Missouri’s cannabis industry has become a massive success on multiple levels. Considering the fact that the Missouri cannabis industry has only been allowed to recreational cannabis products since February of this year, it’s quite astonishing that the state has sold a total of $715 million in products since August, with $550 million of that being generated from adult-use sales. Over 200 dispensaries have opened evenly across all of Missouri and an additional 11,000 jobs have been created in the state.

Similarly to the economic boom that Minnesota will surely receive from their state’s recreational legalization measure, Missouri has a significant geographical advantage given the fact that The Show Me State is nearly fully surrounded by states without recreationally legal cannabis. In fact, there’s a total of seven different states that Missouri shares borders with that still live under recreational cannabis prohibition and even medical cannabis prohibition in the case of Nebraska. Combine all these benefits and advantages with the daily cannabis purchasing limits being over twice of what is legally permitted and you wouldn’t have to be a Nobel Prize-winning economist to understand why the Missouri cannabis industry is widely successful.

Noticing the glaringly obvious economic benefits and financial wave that comes with the legalization of cannabis in Missouri, the state has authorized an ambitious and innovative expansion plan for the flourishing cannabis industry while also including social equity measures similar to those that other legal states are offering.

Earlier in October, the state announced that they would be allocating 48 more cannabis business licenses among a large pool of over 1,600.

“A microbusiness is a marijuana facility license issued only to eligible individuals and entities.” the Missouri Division of Cannabis Regulations described. “These licenses are essentially small businesses that are designed to allow marginalized or under-represented individuals to participate in the legal marijuana market.”

“A microbusiness is different,” the website further explains, “from a medical or comprehensive facility because it is designed to provide a path to facility ownership for individuals who might not otherwise easily access that opportunity, such as those with a net worth of less than $250,000 or veterans with a service-connected disability.”

However in a very unique move and a measure that’s only been briefly discussed in other states, those 48 businesses will be considered micro-businesses and will therefore be less costly than it otherwise would be to receive the incredibly exorbitant cannabis license. Allocated for two new dispensaries and four new wholesalers per congressional district, the new cannabis businesses will hopefully be equally spread out throughout the state so Missourians from across the Show Me State could have at least a fair application process.

Still though, only three percent of the total applicants received a cannabis microlicense despite the fact that state officials anticipated anywhere from 5-8,000 people to apply for the licenses.       “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. Luckily for social equity applicants, the eligibility requirements are both extensive and explicitly stated.

The list of examples that would make an applicant eligible include: having a net worth of less than $250,000, having a valid service-connected disability card issued by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs or another agency, the applicant themselves or an immediate family member being convicted of a non-violent cannabis offense at least one year prior to the application date and residing in an area with at least 30 percent of the surrounding population living below the federal poverty level.

Beyond the initial requirements regarding social equity eligibility, there’s several more that prospective applicants had to meet. “Some of these requirements include the fact that an owner of a microbusiness facility may not also be an owner of another licensed cannabis facility and that an entity/individual may only apply for and obtain one microbusiness license. This gives a little more weight to the license living up to it’s namesake.” said, Cannabis Lawyer, Aaron John.   Furthermore, the microbusinesses are unable to be vertically integrated or having a cultivation that is directly connected to a dispensary owned by the same company and the cultivations are limited to a limit of 250 plants maximum.

In 2024, the Missouri Division of Cannabis Regulations plans on releasing 48 more of these innovative micro-licenses and an anticipated total of 144 micro-licenses to be awarded to Missouri cannabis business owners by 2025. St. Louis NAACP President Adolphus Pruitt perfectly summed up the optimism and feelings of opportunity and possibility surrounding these micro-license measures. “I think that the dispensaries and the growers have a relationship with each other will create an opportunity for some unique product to come into the marketplace that you won’t get anywhere else,” Pruitt says.

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