It hasn't even been three months since Missouri legalized weed, but the state's adult-use dispensaries are already open for business. And not only did the Show-Me State just pull off the fastest legalization-to-sale time in the entire US, it also kicked off legal sales ahead of schedule.
Last November, a majority of Missouri voters said yes to a ballot measure that legalized adult-use cannabis in their home state. The first phase of the new law, which took effect in December, allows adults to legally possess up to 3 ounces of bud. The second phase of the law, which was slated to begin on February 6th, allows licensed retailers to sell regulated, safety-tested weed to any adult.
To accomplish this speedy rollout, regulators granted 196 of the state's existing medical cannabis dispensaries additional licenses allowing them to sell weed to any adult. Pretty much every other adult-use state has managed to miss its self-imposed sales deadline, though, so insiders were somewhat skeptical that the state could pull off this feat. But instead of missing the deadline, regulators expedited it, allowing sales to begin three days earlier than they had planned.
The early kick-off was definitely a surprise, but Missourians were more than ready to take advantage of the lucky break. Dispensary owners reported a massive spike in demand as soon as the word got out. In some locations, retailers saw about three times as much traffic as they would usually see on a weekend. By the end of the weekend, dispensaries made $12.6 million in sales, $8.5 million of which came from adult-use purchases.
"Now that recreational is happening, we're seeing even more business, and it's great," said Katie West, manager of Missouri Health and Wellness Dispensary, to 13KRCG. "We have 90-year-olds that walk in the dispensary and look at me and say, 'I've been waiting my whole life for this.' You have no idea how excited I am for this to happen so you know a lot of us are really excited; we feel like we're going to make history."
For Missourians who don't want to cough up cash at their local pot shop, there's another option. The new adult-use law allows adults to grow up to 6 flowering plants, 6 non-flowering plants, and 6 plants under 14 inches at home. Home growers must apply for a cultivation permit from the state, though, and must keep all plants in a single locked enclosure. Regulators began accepting applications for home cultivation licenses this week.
Dan Viets, Missouri NORML Coordinator and co-author of the legalization measure, said that advocates were “especially concerned that the option for personal cultivation of cannabis be included in [the adult-use law]. The option to grow for oneself is a fundamental right which has been part of legalization in the great majority of the 20 other states which have now taken the historic step of repealing the criminal prohibition of responsible adult marijuana use.”
Missouri's speedy sales rollout is a reminder that adult-use cannabis retail launches don't necessarily need to drag on for years. Rhode Island also recently allowed its medical dispensaries to sell recreational weed, kickstarting its adult-use market less than six months after legalizing. But in New York, where weed has been legal for nearly three years now, regulators have only managed to open two adult-use shops so far. And Virginia, which also legalized in 2021, isn't planning to allow retail sales to begin until 2024 at the earliest.
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