In a surprising twist, legal cannabis sales went live in Missouri on Friday, with state regulators issuing retail licenses days earlier than expected. 

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that industry expectations “had been that the licenses required to sell non-medical cannabis would not be issued by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services until Monday … the department threw a curve Thursday afternoon, announcing that it would issue licenses on Friday to the dispensaries that qualified for them.”

And receipt of a license means that a dispensary can begin selling to customers right away.

“Recreational-use marijuana will initially be sold only at already-existing medical-use dispensaries. State health department spokeswoman Lisa Cox said at least 170 of these dispensaries statewide are eligible for licenses Friday, which will be given to any store in good standing with the department,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

“Good standing means the license is not suspended, revoked, or otherwise inactive at the time the request is made,” Cox said, as quoted by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Voters in Missouri legalized recreational cannabis for adults when they approved Amendment 3 in last year’s election by a vote of 53% to 47%. 

The amendment changed the state constitution to permit the sale, possession, consumption, delivery, and manufacturing of marijuana. As in other states that have ended the prohibition on pot, Missouri’s new cannabis law also includes a social justice component enabling individuals who have been previously convicted of a pot-related offense to have their records expunged. 

The amendment was formally added to the Missouri constitution in December

Since its passage by voters in November, regulators with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services have been finalizing rules for the new legal cannabis market. 

Last month, the department said that rules “were filed today for Missouri’s adult-use cannabis program with the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office, making program rules effective on Feb. 3.”

“Per Missouri voter-approved Amendment 3, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) is the agency assigned with regulatory authority over the program just as it has led the state’s medical marijuana program since 2018. The Division of Cannabis Regulation within DHSS has published three sets of draft rules to gather public feedback since the amendment passed in November 2022,” the department said in a bulletin last month

“Once rules are effective, DHSS will begin approving or denying requests from licensed medical marijuana facilities to convert to comprehensive facilities, which can serve both medical and adult-use consumers. After conversion, sales to adult-use consumers may begin as soon as comprehensive dispensary facilities are ready to commence operating under their new authority. Also per Amendment 3 to Article XIV, DHSS will begin accepting applications for consumer personal cultivation by Feb. 6. Once approved, this will allow authorized persons, who are at least 21 years of age, to grow plants for personal, non-commercial use within an enclosed locked facility at their residence.”

In some ways, getting Amendment 3 on last November’s ballot represented an achievement. As the deadline approached for signatures, there were growing doubts that the group pushing the amendment, Legal Missouri 2022, would meet the threshold. 

But in August, much to the relief of advocates, Missouri’s secretary of state announced that Amendment 3 had indeed qualified for the ballot.

“Our statewide coalition of activists, business owners, medical marijuana patients and criminal justice reform advocates has worked tirelessly to reach this point, and deserves all the credit,” John Payne, campaign manager of Legal Missouri 2022, said after the amendment qualified. “Our campaign volunteers collected 100,000 signatures, on top of paid signature collection. That outpouring of grassroots support among Missourians who want to legalize, tax and regulate cannabis made all the difference. We look forward to engaging with voters across the state in the coming weeks and months. Missourians are more than ready to end the senseless and costly prohibition of marijuana.”

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