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Medical marijuana retailers inch closer to opening

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The starting flag is about to be waved in Springfield for medical marijuana dispensaries, and one shop plans to roll Nov. 2.

Old Route 66 Wellness LLC, 2823 N. Glenstone Ave., is on pace to debut for VIP customers that afternoon prior to opening to the public Nov. 3. The shop will initially only sell cannabis flower, as the owners say it’s the lone product currently available.

“I don’t think anything will stop us from opening,” said co-owner John Lopez. “We will be starting out with only 30 pounds, but we hope to get more every 12 days.”

In an attempt to stretch out product sales over several days, the store will operate limited hours and restrict each purchase to an eighth of an ounce. Still, Lopez acknowledges those measures might not be enough to prevent running out of the first shipment before the next arrives.

“We think we can spread it out to five or six days. Our next round should come in a couple days after that,” he said. “So, we’ll do a few training days with the employees if we have to shut down.”

While Old Route 66 Wellness is on pace to be the initial medical marijuana dispensary to launch in the Springfield area, it’s not the first such business in the state to open its doors.

Two dispensaries run by N’Bliss opened Oct. 17 in suburban St. Louis. Fresh Green outside of Kansas City began operations Oct. 19 and sold out of product in two days, according to media reports.

Both N’Bliss and Fresh Green are charging around $60 per one-eighth ounce of marijuana, according to their websites. Lopez declined to disclose the planned pricing at Old Route 66 Wellness, but he said it would be less than $60 an eighth.

Under inspection
Missouri Department of Health and Human Services officials previously said the state has been inspecting facilities for cultivation, testing and dispensaries in a staggered approach over the past few months. The process is designed to ensure product can flow seamlessly throughout the state.

However, local entrepreneurs say the budding industry has a low supply of product due to the gradual inspection process.

According to DHSS, 371 active licensed or certified facilities require a commencement inspection. At press time, only 21 dispensary, testing, cultivation and infused-product manufacturing sites were approved to operate, according to DHSS data. Over three dozen had filed an inspection request and 16 were in progress.

Until marijuana products are verified by a testing facility, they can’t be sold in a dispensary, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.

One local medical marijuana dispensary awaiting state inspection is Ozarx Botanicals I LLC. Co-owner Kim Andrews said Stinson Building Co. is finishing up infill on the company’s 2,500-square-foot shop at 3800 W. Sunshine St. in Springfield Plaza. She said a soft opening is being targeted for late November, pending inspection. The store plans to employ up to 15.

“From that point, it will simply be a matter of waiting on product,” she said. “We may have edibles before we have flower available.”

Ozarx Botanicals is working with suppliers Clovr Cannabis in Kansas City and Flora Farms in Humansville, but Andrews said contract discussions are ongoing with others.

“Everything is kind of in a hurry-up-and-wait mode,” she said.

Lopez also is hopeful product availability for Old Route 66 Wellness will expand in the next month or so, as more cultivation and infused-product manufacturing facilities come online. The manufacturers produce items such as edibles, concentrates and tinctures. A product boost will allow the company to open its planned second store at 1421 W. Highway J in Ozark.

“Once December hits, there is a real possibility that manufactured products will be available,” he said.

Old Route 66 Wellness is working with Carrolton-based cultivator Carroll County Cannabis Co. for undisclosed terms. A prior plan to work with Archimedes Medical Holding LLC in Perryville fell through after the companies failed to agree on a price, Lopez said.

Developing plans
In Republic, a medical marijuana dispensary is under construction at 7827 W. Farm Road 174 with a targeted December opening. Alex Paulson, co-owner of Easy Mountain Investments LLC, dba Easy Mountain Cannabis Co., said H.C. Rogers Construction Group LLC is building the 2,500-square-foot shop.

“Basically, every way you can imagine ingesting it, we will carry them,” Paulson said of the planned product line, declining to disclose companies they plan to use. “We don’t know who’s going to produce the best stuff yet.”

A trio of dispensaries is in progress for a local ownership group, which expects to open the shops dubbed Shango in December or early 2021. Two of the shops are in Springfield, with a third in Joplin, and they’ll operate under the Mo Retail Products Group Inc. license, said Nancy Price, a co-owner and counsel of record on appeal.

Base Construction & Management LLC is working on all three stores. She said buildout for the shops in Joplin and Springfield, at 3903 S. Campbell Ave., likely will run $450,000, and slightly more for the 1868 S. Glenstone Ave. store.

“The real issue, as opposed to construction, is more just availability of product,” she said. “There’s so little out there.”

Opening on a limited basis to start is a possibility, Price said.

“I just don’t know if we want to do anything like that,” she said. “That’s such an inconsistent way to operate.”

Price said Mo Retail Products Group Inc. is appealing the denial by DHSS of several of its applications for dispensary, cultivation and manufacturing facilities. However, she said the case isn’t likely to be determined until next year at the earliest.

It’s among hundreds of appeals stacking up against the state, as denied applicants are critical of perceived scoring inconsistencies. The scoring process was contracted to a third-party company to avoid conflicts of interest and favoritism. DHSS received over 2,200 applications last year for 348 available licenses, according to past SBJ reporting.

DHSS spokesperson Lisa Cox said there originally were 853 appeals filed, but as of Oct. 19, the total was down to 753.

“The reduction in cases was primarily due to cases being dismissed or otherwise resolved in favor of DHSS,” she said via email.

Cox declined comment about an ongoing lawsuit the state faces from a Sarcoxie company about its denied application for a cultivation facility. The Callicoat family filed the suit near the start of the year. As of press time, the case was set for a two-day trial starting Oct. 29.

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