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Green Health Docs gives area residents hope of medical marijuana prescriptions

A sample application to become a legal medical marijuana patient in Missouri sits on a desk on Wednesday, June 12, 2019 at a Green Health Docs clinic in Creve Coeur. Missouri residents were able to apply to buy and use marijuana or infused products for medical purposes beginning July 4. Green Health Docs is one of a handful of companies in Missouri set up specifically to certify Missourians for marijuana use by confirming they have a qualifying condition. Photo by Brian Munoz, bmunoz@post-dispatch.com.

A Nevada group that oversaw marijuana business licenses there is opening up shop in Missouri to score applicants for Missouri's medical marijuana industry.

Missouri could pay as much as $582,061 to Wise Health Solutions to evaluate applications from hundreds of groups hoping to win a state license to produce and sell marijuana or marijuana-infused products.

Wise Health, which incorporated in Missouri in July, is a new collaboration between the Oaksterdam University of Oakland, California, which offers training for businesses entering the marijuana industry, and Veracious Investigative and Compliance Solutions, a Nevada regulatory compliance company. 

The cost of scoring the applications depends in part on the number of applications the state receives. Missouri has raked in at least $4.2 million from prepaid fees for at least 592 applications, but the total number of applications to produce or sell marijuana won’t be known until after Monday’s deadline to apply. Applicants started formally filing their paperwork this month; applications are due by 4:30 p.m. Monday.

Nearly 200 St. Louis groups prepaid application fees to open pot shops or growing operations across the St. Louis area. They hope to win state approval to enter an industry that is expected to top more than $100 million in annual sales by 2025.

Not all applicants will win a license. Missouri is required by law to approve at least 10 testing facilities, 60 commercial growers, 86 facilities that make marijuana-infused products and 192 dispensaries — 24 dispensaries for each of Missouri’s eight congressional districts.

Wise Health will not be allowed to see the names of the businesses it is scoring, theoretically removing bias from the licensing process.

The state selected Wise Health Solutions over six other bidders for the one-year contract. 

Wise Health's executive director, Chad Westom, helped establish Nevada’s regulations on its legal marijuana industry from 2013 to 2017 and oversaw licensing of all the state’s marijuana businesses. He previously managed investigations of Nevada’s health facilities.

Wise Health said it is prepared to score at least 2,000 applications. Missouri will pay the group a set price for each type of application it reviews: $1,172 for each testing facility application; $943 for each cultivation facility application; $948 for each application to make marijuana-infused products; and $940 for each dispensary application.

The company also will be paid $22,950 to meet with state officials in Jefferson City before beginning the scoring process, as well as $215 an hour for consulting and testimony services at future meetings with state officials.

Two Missouri companies had bid for the contract: RT Facility Management of Bridgeton, and ARW Equity Advisors of Columbia.

The four other applicants were Extra Step Assurance of Bellefontaine, Ohio; Foundations Business Solutions of Overland Park, Kan.; Gonnell Law of Denver; and Nimdzi Insights of Seattle.

According to the constitutional amendment voters approved in November that legalized marijuana for medical use, Missouri has 150 days to approve or deny a marijuana business application, meaning licenses will most likely be awarded in December.

The state is asking Wise Health to complete scoring for lab testing facilities by Sept. 15, for cultivation facilities by Oct. 30 and for marijuana products processing and dispensaries by Nov. 30.

Applications for each type of facility share about 66 general questions, but the applications also have several facility-specific questions. They will be graded according to a point system and rubric that state officials set up using public feedback.

Filing to become a legal marijuana user opened in late June; Missouri has approved more than 5,000 people with qualifying conditions to legally buy or use marijuana, and in some cases grow it at home.

Sales of marijuana and marijuana-infused products are supposed to start early next year.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated to clarify that Wise Health Solutions incorporated in Missouri. 

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Reporter covering breaking news and crime by night. Born in Algeria but grew up in St. Louis. Previously reported for The Associated Press in Jackson, Mississippi and at the Wichita Eagle in Wichita, Kansas.