Medical Marijuana Sales Soar In Missouri, What’s Next?
Missouri’s medical marijuana industry is faring well since the first dispensaries opened their doors last October. Today, more than 100,000 patients and caregivers use and purchase medical cannabis in the state.
Jack Cardetti, a spokesperson for the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association, noted that there are already more dispensaries in Missouri than in Illinois. He added that one week in April, the industry generated $3.3 million in sales and that the state is about to reach $40 million cumulatively.
“One of the things we're really proud about is that there's really good patient access here in Missouri; you're not going to have to drive halfway across the state. Because as we speak right now, there are 137 facilities that are approved to operate in the state of Missouri: cultivators, manufacturers, dispensaries, and there's even more coming online,” Cardetti said on Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air.
Cardetti joined host Sarah Fenske to give an update on the fledgling industry. Also joining the conversation was Brennan England, head of the Missouri chapter of Minorities for Medical Marijuana.
“We're definitely feeling the buzz, pun intended, with not only what's going on with the industry, but also how the existing culture is really gearing up for that,” he said.
England founded the St. Louis Cannabis Club, which connects people with resources for medical marijuana consumption and assists entrepreneurs with interest in the medical marijuna industry. One such effort involved starting the state's first cannabis consumption site, the Cola Lounge.
“One of the things with a lot of these brands, is that they're coming into a new market [and] they underestimate how rich and nuanced cannabis culture is, [which] comes with morals and codes and a glossary of terms that you won't know unless you know,” England said.
“That’s something [St. Louis Cannabis Club] pride ourselves on, being the stewards of here for Missouri — in a safe and responsible and fun way — is helping these brands, these dispensaries and cultivators connect in a really authentic way and in authentic places with consumers. And so we're seeing that piece really effervesce.”
As sales increase and more people access medical marijuana cards, more options will become available for consumers at reasonable prices. He added that a lot of physicians want chronic pain patients to try medical cannabis instead of opioids, but they don't necessarily want you smoking the flower buds.
“What we've seen so far and we'll continue to see is the other delivery mechanisms: edibles, tinctures, vapes and concentrates. And so you now can walk into your local dispensary and find a wider array of products. But two months from now, there'll be even more selection, better prices and more of those delivery mechanisms,” Cardetti said.
England added that he has concerns about some of the products available to consumers currently.
“The edibles market that comes out first swinging heavy with sugary treats, which is contraindicated, sometimes on paper contraindicated, for our most at-need patients — let alone that sugar is an inflammatory no matter what you're healing from,” he explained.
“As we're moving forward, I think there's going to be more of a challenge and a pushback from the wellness and medical community for these processors to really step up the game and put out more than gummies and sodas first for our most at-need patients. And that's one of the things that we supplement here at the lounge, is teaching people about the breadth of how it goes boldly beyond the brownie with how you can consume your cannabis.”
In addition to seeing an expansion in product selection, England would like to see more focus on how legalization efforts in the industry affect minorities. Before Wednesday’s discussion, he shared with St. Louis on the Air how he would like to see decriminalization efforts move forward — a measure he believes would benefit populations historically impacted by marijuana convictions.
“As much as it's a cool thing that medical cannabis is really starting to rock, if we're not focusing directly on expungement and getting people out of jails, specifically minority Black and brown people that have been at the direct receiving end of the negative stereotypes and drug policing that surrounded this plan, then we're only creating more of a problem than we're creating a resolution,” he said.
Cardetti explained during the live discussion that one of the main challenges also facing the industry right now is access to banking services and regular financial institutions.
“It's also one of the reasons that we see, quite frankly, a lack of diversity in the industry. We know that it is significantly statistically harder for people of color, including African Americans, to start a small business. Yet, when you're talking about an industry where you can't go down to a local bank and get a loan, you can't get an SBA loan, you can't get federal grants or anything like that, we know that it really hurts the ability to have a broad diverse industry here,” Cardetti explained.
“So the United States House of Representatives has passed what's called the Safe Banking Act and now sits over with the U.S. Senate. We need them to pass that, it's going to help our members and operators, it's going to be good for consumers, patients that aren't having to deal with cash all the time, and we think it's going to lead to a more diverse industry.”
England added that expungement is key to starting to address disenfranchisement.
“We're talking about centuries of systemic abuse, not just on the cultural level, but on the psychological level. There are entire communities of Black people that still completely shy away from the idea of legal cannabis because of the stigma that's been put in culturally of the danger — not the cannabis plant itself — but of the policing and cultural connotations of not being able to get a job,” he said.
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.