Lyndall Fraker | St. Louis Public Radio

Lyndall Fraker

Recreational marijuana facility in San Francisco, California in Nov. 2018
File photo | Jaclyn Driscoll | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri has already approved more than 17,000 patients for its yet-to-be-launched medical marijuana program — a stark contrast to neighboring Illinois, which had fewer than 3,000 patients in the first 10 months. 

Licenses for Missouri’s dispensaries are expected to be awarded by January, and cannabis should be available for medical card holders by spring. 

At their core, Missouri and Illinois programs do the same thing: They allow doctors to certify patients to use cannabis if they have a qualifying condition. But there are significant differences in the details of each law, including who has access, how they’re getting access and how the programs can be changed in the future.

Legal medical marijuana
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

With the deadline to submit an application for a medical marijuana business closed, more than 2,100 were received, bringing in more than $5.3 million in fees, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. 

On Thursday, the department announced it would extend the deadline to 4:30 p.m. Monday. Initially the cutoff was midnight Saturday, but with a slow start early in the application period, the department expected an influx toward the end. 

DHSS begins accepting medical marijuana applications
Jaclyn Driscoll | St. Louis Public Radio

After taking in $4.2 million in early application fees, Missouri’s medical marijuana program is off to a slow start since it began accepting full applications on Saturday.

Roughly 600 applicants chose to pay their required fees in advance, but so far only 27 full applications have been submitted. The application process is extensive, and the deadline isn’t until Aug. 17. Still, Lyndall Fraker, the director of the state’s medical marijuana program, said he was surprised by the low numbers. 

Members of the REAL Cannabis Co. ownership team (from left) Justin Gage, Cheryl Watkins-Moore and Derek Mays stand in what they hope will be their flagship medical marijuana dispensary. They are one of few minority-owned businesses seeking a license. 7/29
Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

Cheryl Watkins-Moore has a vision.

Even though the building she’s standing in is empty, she points to spots where she can see a trendy coffee bar beneath a vaulted ceiling, retail shopping in the window front ⁠— and a medical marijuana dispensary in the back.

“People can come into the dispensary, take care of what they need to take care of and then be able to go on about their business,” said Watkins-Moore, the chief strategy and marketing officer of REAL Cannabis Co.

As Missouri moves toward implementing the voter-approved medical marijuana program, state officials on Wednesday warned potential patients to hold off on paying for a physician certification until June.