Legal recreational marijuana sales begin in Missouri

Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 3:46 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 3, 2023 at 11:33 AM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP/KY3) - Recreational marijuana sales in Missouri officially began Friday after the state health department unexpectedly began issuing dispensary permits early.

Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since a ballot measure passed in 2018, but voters went a step further this November by approving a constitutional amendment legalizing the drug for anyone 21 or older. The new law makes Missouri the 21st state to allow recreational use.

Under the amendment, non-medicinal pot use became legal in the state in December. But sales were stalled because the health department had until Monday, February 6 to issue business licenses.

Department of Health and Senior Services spokeswoman Lisa Cox on Thursday said the agency would begin approving licenses Friday. She said almost all of the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries applied to sell recreational pot.

”I’m ready to buy some weed and not go to jail!” exclaimed Jeremiah Shipman as he walked into the Flora Farms dispensary on South Glenstone in Springfield on Friday.

Shipman was one of the many customers, but one of the few willing to be interviewed, on the first day recreational marijuana sales became legal in Missouri. That’s because it’s still hard for many people to believe that buying pot in all its different forms is now just like buying cigarettes or alcohol.

“Well my dealer’s a little bit upset but I think he’s going to be fine,” Shipman said with a laugh. “No, actually it feels great. That pressure has been taken off everybody and now I think as a community it’s going to bring people together. People were in the closet hiding while doing it. Now we can be open about it. You can be at the market and talk with each other about the new strain of marijuana that’s out without fear of who’s listening to you. I think that freedom is going to empower people to come together. This is the way it should have been.”

Mark Hendren, the owner of Springfield’s Flora Farms as well as other facilities in Ozark and Humansville, said that medical marijuana facilities had little notice that the state was granting recreational licenses three days earlier than the deadline.

“I’m excited and exhausted. They both go together,” he said of the work to make the quick transition for his dispensaries. “Everybody could make their own decisions but they were authorized as of this morning. We decided to go ahead and get open today.”

If you’re planning on testing this new market be aware that prices will fluctuate depending on supply and demand and make sure you consider the potency of the product you’re buying.

“The potency is all over the place,” Hendren explained. “It’s just like any other food product or alcohol product for that matter. It varies by product and by strain. We have potencies as low as six-or-seven percent and as high as 30 percent.”

“Marijuana is not what marijuana used to be,” Christian County Sheriff Brad Cole said in a recent interview “The level of THC in what is produced now is so much greater than it used to be. It’s unfortunate but I think we’ll see a lot of overdose deaths at the beginning of this.”

The CDC states it is unlikely to have a fatal overdose solely by marijuana and that marijuana is not harmless. The signs of using too much marijuana are similar to the typical effects of using marijuana but more severe. And according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), there have been no reported deaths from overdose of marijuana.

Some other things to keep in mind?

“You cannot consume marijuana in public places,” said Cox.

“The city of Springfield has a smoke-free act that details where you cannot smoke cigarettes,” said Cora Scott, the City of Springfield’s Director of Public Information and Civic Engagement. “So essentially anywhere you cannot smoke a cigarette you will not be able to smoke marijuana in Springfield.”

“This doesn’t give you a free ticket to drive down the road and smoke marijuana,” Cole said. “You do that and you’re going to get arrested. I think there’s a lot of people who are going to be in court who thought it was O.K. just to stand on the street corner and smoke marijuana.”

“This product can be easily mistaken for candy or other foods by kids so we want to make sure they’re kept safe and these products aren’t accessible to them,” Cox added. “The main thing is that we want consumers, especially first-time users who don’t know how their body will react, to understand the health effects both positive and negative it can have on them and the people around them.”

The amendment also calls for the expungement of records of past arrests and convictions for nonviolent marijuana offenses, except for selling to minors or driving under the influence.

Cox also announced that Friday was the first day those 21-and-older can apply to the DHSS to grow their own marijuana.

“Those applications still have to be reviewed and approved before they can grow from home,” Cox said.

See the list of approvals, including 12 dispensaries in Springfield.

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