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Licensure, microbusiness program still to go for recreational marijuana implementation

by Cameron Gerber | January 21, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

While recreational marijuana managed to clear voters last year, there are still administrative steps to be taken before the industry gets off the ground in Missouri, according to information from the state health department.

Voters passed Amendment 3 in November, legalizing the use and possession of up to 3 ounces of recreational marijuana for those 21 and up as well as the manufacturing and sale of marijuana products by licensed businesses. The amendment took effect a month later, decriminalizing use and possession, but sales have yet to begin.

The state began accepting requests from existing medicinal marijuana facilities for recreational licensure, giving existing licensees a spot at the front of the line. The Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) also released cultivation application forms on Jan. 7; if approved, they will allow licensees to grow their own plants with oversight from the department. Those forms will be accepted beginning Feb. 6, according to an infographic from the DHSS Division of Cannabis Regulation.

The same day, program rules are set to be officially finalized. DHSS has released three rounds of drafted program rules for the adult use of cannabis, with each round briefly available for public review and comments. The rule set will cover training, storage, inspections and more for licensed facilities.

Once the program has a few months to breathe, DHSS will begin distributing microbusiness licenses to business entities worth less than $250,000 and an income below 250 percent of the U.S. poverty level. Those licenses will be divided into two categories: microbusiness wholesale licensees will be able to cultivate and manufacture products, which can then be sold to retail-only microbusiness dispensaries.

Forms and instructions will be available June 6, per DHSS, with three rounds of applications accepted beginning this September, next June and in March 2025.

Some opponents to Amendment 3 argued the microbusiness provisions would restrict small or minority-owned businesses from accessing the amendment's full potential, though the state hopes to combat the issue through a chief equity officer set to be selected in the coming weeks, with a deadline of Feb. 6, 60 days after the measure took effect on Dec. 8.

"The chief equity officer shall assist with the development and implementation of programs to inform the public of the opportunities available to those people who meet the criteria," the ballot measure's language reads. "The chief equity officer may only be removed for cause and the department shall not interfere with the officer's lawful official activities."

The officer will oversee the microbusiness program -- touted as the first among states that have legalized recreational marijuana -- while educating possible minority participants and the public about their opportunities to take part in the program.

They will also take the lead on the design of the microbusiness program, with 300 days from the implementation date to begin issuing licenses.

Businesses and state regulators aren't the only ones pondering the changes in store with the full implementation of the new law: The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry has been providing guidance through informational releases and webinars, assuring employers they retain the ability to enforce their own policies and maintain a drug-free workplace if they so choose.

State and local law enforcement, meanwhile, said they expected the investigation of offenses on the road to remain largely the same, making use of extensive impairment recognition training over field drug tests. Prosecutors, meanwhile, have expressed concerns about the designation of smoking in public and giving drugs to those under the age of 21 as misdemeanor offenses.

Learn more about the state's plans and timetables online at cannabis.mo.gov.

Print Headline: Licensure, microbusiness program still to go for recreational marijuana implementation

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