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Does a marijuana dispensary want to locate near you? St. Louis area sees nearly 400 would-be pot shops

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ST. LOUIS — Nearly 400 license applications have been submitted for marijuana dispensaries across the St. Louis metropolitan area, according to state records released Tuesday. Those records for the first time reveal the exact addresses where marijuana businesses would operate — if the state grants them a license.

Despite the large number of applications, only about 50 such dispensaries will be licensed in the metro area.

The fierce competition is representative of statewide interest in the industry, which is expected to top $100 million in sales by 2025. Missouri has raked in more than $13 million in fees from 2,184 applications statewide to grow marijuana, make marijuana-infused products, test them, transport them and sell them.

Including growers, testing labs and other marijuana-based businesses, at least 667 applications were submitted for brick-and-mortar locations in the St. Louis area, from Elsberry to De Soto and from Washington to the city of St. Louis, according to a Post-Dispatch analysis.

State law prohibits municipalities from forbidding state-approved marijuana businesses, but allows them to set zoning laws and certain operating conditions.

But not all business applicants will win a state license.

Under the medical marijuana law passed by Missouri voters last year, the state 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. Officials have said they will keep licensing to the minimum.

Two congressional districts cover St. Louis and St. Louis County and parts of St. Charles and Jefferson counties. Other Missouri counties in the metro area will likely get some of the dispensaries allocated to two congressional districts that stretch west to Jefferson City and south to the state border.

The records released Tuesday do not include 109 applicants the state allowed to submit paperwork after the Aug. 19 deadline. Those groups had tried to file on time but encountered technical issues with the state website in the final hours of the application period as hundreds of applicants filed their paperwork.

The state expects to start licensing businesses in December. In the St. Louis area, applicants include first-time entrepreneurs and family-owned businesses from a wide array of backgrounds. They also include executives with ties to state politics, the only two companies licensed in Missouri to sell to grow hemp — marijuana’s botanical cousin — to make CBD oils, and marijuana companies from other states.

Missouri has contracted a newly formed company to score marijuana business applicants for the state’s medical marijuana industry in a blind process. The group, which will be based in Missouri, is a joint venture between a California cannabis education institute and a Nevada regulatory company that oversaw marijuana business licenses there.

Filing to become a legal marijuana user opened in late June; Missouri has approved at least 9,722 patients with qualifying conditions to legally buy or use marijuana, and in some cases grow it at home.

Missouri became the 33rd state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes after 65% of voters in November approved Amendment 2, starting a stampede of business owners looking to capitalize on the new market. Sales of the various forms of the products are to start early next year. Tax proceeds and licensing fees are supposed to go into a new veterans health care fund, and are expected to generate about $20 million a year.

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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.

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