The state of Missouri recently legalized the sale of medical marijuana. This means good news for entrepreneurs in the state. As a result, both aspiring and experienced dispensary owners are flocking in to cash in on the investment opportunity.
However, opening a marijuana dispensary in Missouri comes with a few challenges. For starters, you have to deal with the legal requirements, taxes, and tons of competition.
But don't get discouraged just yet. By the end of this guide, you'll have everything you need to know. This will increase your chances of getting a medical marijuana dispensary license in Missouri.
When was Medical Marijuana Legalized in Missouri?
The legalization of medical marijuana in Missouri was put into motion in 2014. The SB 491 Bill sought to lower penalties for the processing of medical marijuana. Despite being proposed in 2014, the bill took effect in 2017.
In November 2018, the residents of Missouri voted yes to Amendment 2. The amendment legalized medical marijuana for registered patients who have serious medical issues. Around two years after the bill was passed, the state of Missouri started awarding dispensary licenses in January 2020. Out of over 1200 applicants, only 192 licenses were issued. This saw the first dispensaries opening their doors in October 2020.
There are over 31,000 people certified for medical marijuana cards in the state. However, the state government has limited the number of dispensary faculty licenses to 192. This number may increase if the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) decides that the limit is too small to meet the demand for medical marijuana.
Missouri Cannabis Laws for Dispensaries
To operate a legal cannabis dispensary in Missouri, you must adhere to all local state regulations and cannabis laws. Failure to do so might leave you vulnerable to fines, investigation, raids, and confiscation of your inventory. In the worst-case scenario, you may lose your business license or at the least have it suspended. Here are some of the laws that you should adhere to if you own a dispensary in Missouri:
Businesses dealing with cannabis cultivation, testing, and infused products manufacturing should implement the following inventory control systems and procedures:
- Each facility should have a dedicated facility agent responsible for all inventory control systems and procedures.
- All weights and measurements of medical marijuana should be done with a National Type Evaluation Program. It should be capable of taking measurements accurately. The system should also be calibrated at least once a year to ensure continued consistency in results.
- Each facility should use a department-certified seed-to-sale tracking system. The facility should track medical marijuana from seed until it’s purchased by a qualified medical marijuana patient or caregiver. The records entered into the system should include each day’s beginning inventory, sales, acquisitions, remediations, and disbursements. Transfers, disposals, the day’s ending inventory, and other data required for inventory control should be recorded as well.
- Each facility should ensure that every amount of medical marijuana sold to qualifying patients is recorded in the seed-to-sale tracking system and that purchasing limits are not exceeded.
As mentioned earlier, the number of dispensary licenses issued in Missouri is limited to 192. The number of licenses issued will also be limited to 24 licenses in each of the eight state congregational districts. Also, only one license can be issued per location.
If you are awarded a certification license, your dispensary must pass the commencement inspection within one year. Otherwise, your license will be revoked.
Penalties and Fines
If you’re planning to open a dispensary in Missouri, it’s good to know the potential penalties and fines you may incur. The DHSS may invoke penalties as follows:
- A $5,000 fine for improperly packaged products. Products could also be recalled for repackaging at your expense.
- If your facility does not have a MIP license, you could be fined $10,000 for extracting resins using gases or other combustible materials.
You can use the pizza truck model to deliver medical marijuana in Missouri. This is as long as you adhere to the following stipulations:
- All payments must be received before the medical marijuana leaves the store.
- You must have a manifest at all times in the vehicle when transporting marijuana.
- All transport vehicles must be secure.
- The transport vehicles cannot be marked in any way that indicates that they’re transporting medical marijuana.
Packaging and Labels
You must adhere to the following packaging requirements to operate a legal cannabis dispensary in Missouri.
- Your packaging shouldn't be appealing to a minor.
- All marijuana products must be clearly labeled as ‘marijuana’ or ‘marijuana infused product’ in a font that is larger than any other font on the package label.
- The packaging should not boast of any health benefits claims. It should also outline any required warnings.
- The package must include the warning ”Cognitive and physical impairment may result from the use of Marijuana” in 7-point font.
- The package must be tagged with the statewide track and trace system information.
Track and Trace Systems
You can use only state-certified track and trace systems to manage your inventory. All sales should also be reported immediately after the transaction occurs. Failure to abide by these laws might lead to your license being revoked.
Dispensary Design Requirements in Missouri
All medical marijuana dispensaries in Missouri must be designed according to the following guidelines.
- All customers may access the dispensary only through one access point leading to an area where facility agents screen them for qualifying patient or caregiver status.
- Only qualifying patients and people supporting the qualifying patients, such as caregivers, may enter areas beyond this point.
- The number of patients allowed in areas where medical marijuana is accessible should be limited to the number of staff available.
How Much Does It Cost to Open a Marijuana Dispensary in Missouri?
The total costs of opening a cannabis dispensary in Missouri vary according to several factors. Some of these factors include property acquisition, licensing, compliant POS systems, store security, and more. That being said, here is a quick breakdown of the possible costs of opening a dispensary in Missouri.
The average startup cost of opening a cannabis dispensary in Missouri is between $85,000 and $150,000. This cost includes things like licensing, product procurement, taxes, staffing, property acquisition, etc.
When applying for a medical marijuana dispensary license in Missouri, you should be prepared to part with a $6,000 non-refundable fee. You will also need to pay an annual $10,000 renewal fee.
Property and Cannabis Zoning Fees
Mortgage payments in Missouri can range anywhere from $1,500 to $6,000 a month. This depends on the area, square footage, and financing agreement. Renovations can also run anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000.
The ‘Cannabis Tax’
This isn't your regular government tax, but you’ll still have to pay it. There is a popular notion that cannabis businesses are profitable and this might attract trouble. As such, most people will generally charge you more when doing business with you. This includes your landlord, suppliers, and even financial guarantors.
Security measures like surveillance systems, security personnel, and key-card access doors are a basic necessity for any marijuana dispensary in the state. The up-front costs for these security measures might cost you anywhere between $5,000 and $20,000.
Tips for Opening a Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Missouri
If you’re planning to open a cannabis dispensary in Missouri, there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind to ensure compliance and success. Here are a few tips to get you started on your journey.
This is probably the most important factor to consider when opening a cannabis dispensary in Missouri. The cannabis business in the state is riddled with lots of compliance issues. And if you plan on holding onto your license, you need to understand all the regulations.
Prioritize on Inventory Management
Inventory management is just as important as compliance. In fact, the two are intrinsically linked. For starters, you need to hire the right people to handle your state reporting, inventory management, and cash management.
On the downside, this might end up costing you more in terms of extra manpower and time wastage. So, instead, go for a reliable point of sale system like the POSaBIT POS system and payment infrastructure. This system will not only manage your inventory. It will also handle all the state-reporting regulations for you.
Choose Your Software and Hardware Carefully
There are tons of cannabis-centered hardware and software out there. While this might sound like a good thing, it actually makes shopping for the best one a whole lot harder. Check out these tips before choosing the best software for your marijuana dispensary.
Ensure your software can handle the state's legal and compliance requirements.
When it comes to choosing the best software, there are four key areas you need to focus on.
- Live Metrc push: The POS software you choose must be able to send transaction data to Metrc immediately.
- Monthly purchase limits: Your software must be able to check how much marijuana a medical marijuana patient has available to purchase for that month. The safest way to check this is through live integration with Metrc.
- Patient cultivation cards: Only patients with a cultivation card can buy seeds or clones in the state of Missouri. However, as a cannabis dispensary owner, you still have to validate the authenticity of these cards. This way, you can avoid selling seeds to unauthorized patients.
- Label requirements: Compared to any other legal state, Missouri has the most label requirements. This might pose a bit of a problem for POS providers. So before you purchase the software, make sure you see a sample label. And make sure it conforms to all label requirements stipulated by the state.
Hire Experienced People
Missouri is still new to the cannabis industry. As such, most of your job applicants will have little to no experience in the industry. But, if you happen to come across experienced people, then you should definitely hire them.
Take Advantage of Available Resources
The state of Missouri allows you to work with vendors who support the medical marijuana industry in the state. Partnering with reliable vendors can go a long way in making your new business a success. However, the law limits your options to state-approved vendors.
Consider Your Dispensary’s Layout
There are several dispensary design layouts you can choose from. Each layout has its own inventory and customer experience considerations. Based on the state's regulations, we recommend the bank model.
In this layout, a patient checks in and waits in a waiting room. They then proceed to a secure room where they complete their transaction with the budtender.
Stand Out From the Crowd
Don't let the limited number of licenses fool you. You'll still be dealing with lots of competition even from bigger brands. As such, you need to create a unique brand and generate awareness.
First and foremost, consider your business name and logo. Go for something eye-catching and relevant. You should also increase your online presence both on your website and across social media platforms. You should also focus on what makes customers pick a favorite dispensary in the first place. This allows you to make more informed decisions.
Draw From Prior Experiences
Take all the experience you've garnered from your previous professions and put it to work. If you have prior ownership or retail management experience, it may transfer to certain areas of your business. However, don't assume all your past experience will transfer to this new endeavor. It is a fresh new industry that is still taking shape.
Know Your Customer
The biggest problem for business owners, cannabis dispensary owners included, is matching their products to their intended customers. Before stocking up your shelves, research the population base around your dispensary. This helps you get a sense of your potential customers, and get the type of products that they'd be most interested in.
The Bottom Line
Opening a cannabis dispensary in Missouri is no easy feat. But with the information above, coupled with a little determination and good luck, you’ll be well on your way to opening your dispensary in no time.