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2020 has been a year of new marijuana laws. Illinois became the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana on Jan. 1, six years after Colorado first started recreational sales. Missouri begins medical marijuana sales later in the year — likely this summer — and thousands of residents have already received certification cards. Below, find all of St. Louis Public Radio's coverage on cannabis in Missouri and Illiniois, including our St. Louis Guide to Legal Marijuana.

Missouri Awards 192 Dispensary Licenses For Medical Marijuana Program

Have a question about legal marijuana in Illinois or medical marijuana in Missouri? Ask here, and we'll update this guide with answers as we report them out.
Eric Schmid | St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has begun awarding the 192 licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services began awarding the 192 state medical marijuana dispensary licenses on Thursday. 

According to the constitutional amendment that voters approved in 2018, the department was required to license at least 192 dispensaries, 24 in each of Missouri’s eight congressional districts. This means DHSS could have awarded more licenses, but officials want to see if the minimum number can meet demand. 

“In early 2019, DHSS commissioned an independent study from the University of Missouri to determine how many licenses would be necessary to meet Missouri’s demand,” according to a statement from Lisa Cox, a spokeswoman for DHSS. “The results showed it would be many years before the medical marijuana market would be likely to sustain even the minimum number of licenses mandated by the Constitution.”

Dispensaries are the sites where medical card holders will go to actually receive their medication. Program director Lyndall Fraker said Missourians may be surprised by the look of the facilities. 

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“I’ve even heard some describe them as similar to an Apple iPhone store or something like that,” Fraker said. “Very sleek and neat. The products will be, certainly, behind a counter.”

Fraker said they will not look like many of the CBD (cannabidiol) shops that have become popular throughout the state because those are not subject to the same rules as dispensaries. For example, marijuana leaves are not allowed to be displayed on dispensary buildings. 

Alexis Gabrielson, who helped write applications for one company that was awarded five licenses, said the company has not officially announced approval, so she did not want to disclose its name.

The company will own dispensaries in Belton, Washington, Sedalia, Jefferson City and Kirksville. She said that now it will begin the build-out process and hire employees. 

“Also, developing relationships with the cultivators that were awarded cultivation licenses, because the Missouri dispensaries can only get product from within Missouri,” she said. 

DHSS has said medical marijuana sales will begin in this spring. However, Gabrielson says there’s still a lot of work to be done, and it’s too soon to tell if that’s achievable.

The full list of dispensaries will be made public once the licensees have been notified.

Follow Jaclyn on Twitter: @DriscollNPR

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