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Missouri rakes in $2 million in fees from companies seeking to grow and sell medical pot

JEFFERSON CITY • Missouri health officials have received more than $2 million in application fees this month from companies that want to participate in Missouri’s fledgling medical marijuana program.

Along with the money, the Department of Health and Senior Services received more than 250 forms from entities seeking to join the state’s program since the department began accepting the filing fees this week, according to a news release Thursday.

Missouri in November became the 33rd state to legalize medical marijuana after 65 percent of voters approved Amendment 2, the most popular of three medical marijuana ballot initiatives. Shops are expected to open early next year.

“Those numbers reflect the huge interest that’s out there in Missouri’s medical marijuana program,” said Jack Cardetti, the spokesman for the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association.

“Missouri’s medical marijuana program is going to be hugely beneficial to patients and veterans. But it’s also clearly going to give Missouri an economic boost.”

Sales tax revenue generated and fees collected under the new program will go toward regulating the industry and the newly created Missouri Veterans’ Health and Care Fund.

Applicants must possess a separate license for each facility they operate.

No one company can operate more than three cultivation facilities, five dispensaries or three medical marijuana-infused manufacturing facilities.

Companies must pay a non-refundable $10,000 application fee for each cultivation center license. The application fee per license for dispensaries and manufacturing facilities is $6,000.

Application forms will not be available until August, but those interested in opening a medical marijuana business are allowed to prepay application fees to the DHSS.

The state says it will not give preference to companies that prepay the nonrefundable fees.

The identity of those who have paid the fees is a secret. Officials have denied two Post-Dispatch requests for copies of forms that accompany the checks.

At issue is a provision in the constitutional amendment voters approved on Nov. 6 that the DHSS officials say bars access to such documents.

John Payne, the campaign manager for the group that successfully pushed for legalization, raised questions Wednesday about the department’s policy, which essentially blocks the public from finding out who is seeking to sell medicinal marijuana.

“The language was included in Amendment 2 to keep the medical information of patients confidential, as well as sensitive information from applicants, such as security plans and financials, private,” he said in a statement.

But, he said, “We wouldn’t necessarily expect all of the application to be closed. For instance, we don’t see any reason the name of the applicants wouldn’t be public.”

The department added in a news release that it is in the process of crafting the regulations that will govern the program. Drafts of its rules an updates on the program will be available on the DHSS website.

“We have a responsibility as public servants of Missouri to implement this process for qualified patients according to the Constitution, and we are pleased that the initial phase has been executed on schedule and with great success thanks to the tireless work of an adaptable staff,” Dr. Randall Williams, the director of the DHSS, said in a statement.

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