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JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri officials have released the names of seven businesses that are competing for a contract to score the applications of hundreds of medical marijuana ventures.

The state has chosen to hire a so-called "blind scorer" that will grade medical marijuana applications when companies begin submitting them on Aug. 3. Officials in the Office of Administration stopped accepting bids for the contract at 2 p.m. Friday.

The scorer will not be allowed to see the name of the business it is scoring, theoretically removing bias from the process of awarding a limited number of licenses to test, grow, sell and manufacture medical marijuana.

Two Missouri companies applied for the blind-scoring contract: RT Facility Management of Bridgeton, and ARW Equity Advisors of Columbia.

The other five applicants: Extra Step Assurance of Bellefontaine, Ohio; Foundations Business Solutions of Overland Park, Kan.; Gonnell Law of Denver; Nimdzi Insights of Seattle; and Wise Health Solutions of Carson City, Nev.

The bids will not be made public until after the contract is awarded, a Missouri Office of Administration spokeswoman said.

The Department of Health and Senior Services, which is regulating the industry, said applications for medical marijuana licenses will be submitted between Aug. 3 and 17. The state has 150 days to approve or deny an application, meaning licenses will most likely be awarded in December.

The state must license at least 24 dispensaries for each of Missouri’s eight congressional districts, according to the text of the constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2018.

Dr. Randall Williams, director of the state Department of Health and Senior Services, said the state would license the minimum number of dispensaries this year, meaning many entreprenuers will likely lose out on winning a dispensary license.

He said that if the dispensaries are unable to meet demand, the state would consider licensing more dispensaries next year.

In the 1st Congressional District, which includes St. Louis and parts of St. Louis County, the state has received 37 pre-filed application forms.

In the 2nd Congressional District, covering parts of St. Louis, Jefferson and St. Charles counties, the state received 27 applications; and in the 3rd District, which includes parts of Jefferson and St. Charles counties, as well as parts of mid-Missouri, the state has received 44 applications.

The state is also awarding 10 licenses for testing facilities, 60 cultivation facility licenses, and 86 marijuana manufacturing facility licenses. 

Sales are supposed to start early next year.

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