Amendment 2 passed this month by over a 30% margin in Missouri. Jackson County’s top prosecutor, Jean Peters Baker, issued a statement within a week of Amendment 2’s passage stating that the County would cease prosecutions for possession and use of cannabis, except for limited circumstances. My office has received a lot of calls inquiring as to how and when the new law will go into effect. Here’s what we know:
First, we can only speculate as to application and licensing fees because much of the law’s implementation depends on the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) promulgating regulations. DHSS will be the state agency charged with implementing and enforcing the new medical cannabis laws. We suspect that the regulations will be modeled after other states, like Colorado, but won’t know for sure until the Department sets out regulations and forms for those interested in participating.
December 6, 2018 is the date the law goes into effect. Patients can approach doctors and request a doctor consider certifying them for medical cannabis use as a qualifying patient. This is not a prescription, rather, it is a certification. Doctors who want to consult with a lawyer or patients curious about approaching doctors can contact my office for more information. Our office has created a form, with the language from Amendment 2, that doctors and patients can fill out together if a patient, in the doctor’s opinion, qualifies for certification. The certification will be used as the foundation for the application patients will submit for medical cards. The state must begin accepting applications for medical cards no later than June 4, 2019. We anticipate the application forms will be made available through DHSS. Certifications will be good for one year from the date of certification, although certifications might have to be renewed and current to within 30 days of a person’s application date.
August 3, 2019 is the date when DHSS must being accepting applications for business owners who wish to obtain a medical cannabis license for a dispensary, grow operation, or other business involving medical cannabis. Such businesses might include becoming a qualified or certified seed-to-sale tracking system provider, medical cannabis transporter, occupational employee in the cannabis industry, the owner of a dispensary or grow operation, or even a manufacturer of cannabis extracts. DHSS will also begin accepting applications from qualified patients who wish to grow their own plants, up to 6 per patient, and up to 18 per qualified caregiver for qualified patients (each caregiver can only have up to 3 qualified patients they provide care for).
So while we’re waiting on the regulations, what are entrepreneurs to do? First, you can begin setting up your business entities. We anticipate, based on Colorado’s regulations, that business entities will have to furnish a lot of paperwork in the application process. We can begin setting up those business entities, collecting those documents, and gathering the information necessary in the meantime. Business owners also need to obtain real estate, either through ownership or a lease. There are a lot of paperwork hurdles here, too, that will require navigation, such as proof of possession of the premises and planning for security requirements. Obtaining financing will be difficult, because traditional lenders – like banks – are federally regulated and aren’t likely to participate in loaning money to operations that are illegal federally. This means non-traditional and private funding options will likely need to be explored and that often takes time. In a nutshell, there are plenty of things to do before DHSS makes the application forms available and finalizes the regulations.
What about my right to purchase firearms? Because cannabis is still a Schedule I narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act, a federal law, holders of medical cards are likely to be denied access to purchasing firearms because of the federal background check laws. The regulations will likely determine whether medical card owners can still possess a firearm. This article covers the topic briefly, but well.
What are the general requirements? Most of the types of licenses required by those looking to open and operate a cannabiz are likely to require that the licensee have been a Missouri resident for at least a year prior to the date of the application; be a US citizen; be able to pass a criminal background check; and to fully disclose all sources of legal funding for the operation. These requirements are general, will be subject to refinement by regulations, and may not apply in every circumstance.
Please call with questions or to set up a consultation…and stay tuned!