JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The state’s health department is offering a chance for Missourians to become entrepreneurs in the marijuana industry.
It’s been six months since recreational marijuana sales went live in Missouri. Since then, the state has sold roughly $4 million of legal weed a day, totaling nearly $600 million. Part of Amendment 3 that voters approved back in November 2022 included language creating microbusiness licenses, and the idea behind it is to boost opportunities in disadvantaged communities.
“It was surprising to me just how popular this program was. Just how many people were interested in access,” director of Missouri’s Division for Cannabis Regulation Amy Moore said. “The way I would describe these licenses is they are small businesses. Missourians know what a small business is. They know it can be challenging, but it can be incredibly rewarding and a great opportunity.”
Following voter approval, the state offered comprehensive licenses to facilities already open, allowing them to sell medical and recreational weed. Moore says at least 95% of the medical facilities applied for the new license.
Next month, the Missouri Lottery will pick six winners from each of the state’s eight congressional districts, for a total of 48 new small business licenses.
“As you’re walking in, you might notice that perhaps they have more of a craft presentation of who they are and what they sell,” Moore said. “They will likely be noticeably smaller, but we’re kind of in the phase where we’re waiting to see how these new small businesses develop and what they look like.”
But before throwing your name into the hat for a chance at a license, you must meet at least one eligibility requirement.
- Have a net worth of less than $250,000 and have had an income below two hundred and fifty percent of the federal poverty level; or
- Have a valid service-connected disability card issued by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs or successor agency; or
- Be a person who has been, or a person whose parent, guardian or spouse has been arrested for, prosecuted for, or convicted of a non-violent marijuana offense
- Reside in a ZIP code or census tract area where:
- 30% or more of the population lives below the federal poverty level, or
- The rate of unemployment is 50% higher than the state average rate of unemployment, or
- The historic rate of incarceration for marijuana-related offenses is 50% higher than the rate for the entire state, or
- Graduated from a school district that was unaccredited
“First, they [microbusiness licenses] are limited in the number of plants they can produce at any given time, and then they can only sell to each other, so microbusiness wholesalers can only sell to microbusiness dispensaries,” Moore said. “It will kind of be like a standalone market.”
Moore said comprehensive cultivation facilities can have up to 30,000 square feet of flowering plants inside at any given time, which is equivalent to about 2,500 plants if a facility chooses to grow outside. Microbusinesses are not limited to indoor or outdoor spaces, but they are only allowed to have up to 250 flowering plants at a time.
“Individuals, whether they go to a comprehensive dispensary or a microbusiness dispensary, they will still be authorized to purchase the same amounts they would anywhere else,” Moore said.
Under the referendum passed by voters, a “chief equity officer” would establish a program dedicated to communities that have been impacted by marijuana prohibition in the licensing process and offer resources to those interested in a license. Abigial Vivas was chosen by the state health department to ensure the social and economic equity requirements of the new marijuana law.
There is a $1,500 application fee, but it is refundable if your name is not picked. Moore said that under the microbusiness license, there is a chance to bring a business partner on board if you choose to do so.
“The majority of the ownership will be held by people who are eligible under the eligibility criteria, but they can partner with others as well, so there is opportunity there,” Moore said. “There is still 49% of ownership that could be other individuals.”
If your name is not chosen in this wave of licenses, the state will offer another round of 48 licenses in nine months and then another opportunity nine months after that.
Moore said the new law does not allow the Department of Health and Senior Services to issue any new comprehensive licenses for the first year and a half of recreational sales, but once that time is up, the department can decide if it wants to open an application process for more licenses.
“But when we do, we have to ensure that the number of licenses that we have opened up to issue new comprehensive licenses that half of them go to microbusinesses that have been operating for at least a year,” Moore said. “We’ve got to get those wholesalers up and running, growing, producing, because that’s the only place microbusiness dispensaries can source their product.”
According to MoCannTrade, the state has created 16,271 director jobs in the cannabis industry, compared to 8,571 jobs at this time last year.
Since recreational marijuana has become legal, medical products continue to be taxed at 4%, but recreational products will have a state tax of 6%. Local municipalities can add on an additional 3%.
For more information on the microbusiness license application, visit the department’s website.