The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) released proposed regulations to govern adult-use cannabis in the state on Thursday, only two days after voters approved a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana.
Missouri voters ended the prohibition on cannabis with the adoption of Constitutional Amendment 3 on November 8, which appeared on the ballot for last week’s midterm elections. More than one million voters decided in favor of the amendment, which received more than 53% of the vote as of Monday morning, with 99% of the vote counted.
The successful amendment to the state’s constitution legalizes the possession, use, sale, and delivery of cannabis for personal use for adults aged 21 and older and sets a 6% tax on commercial cannabis sales. The amendment also includes provisions for the expungement of certain marijuana-related convictions.
Only two days after voters went to the polls, the DHSS released its draft adult-use cannabis regulations and opened up a public comment period to receive feedback on the proposal from interested parties. The public comment period is scheduled to run through Friday, November 25.
The text of Constitutional Amendment 3 stipulates that the measure goes into effect 30 days after passage, which will be December 8. Lyndall Fraker, the director of the medical marijuana section of DHSS, said the agency began preparing the proposed regulations before election day in order to meet the deadline in the event that the ballot measure passed.
“Our legal team has been working on the rules for a few weeks now, so we actually have those ready — the rough draft ready for public display — and I think you’re going to see those in the next day or two and that’s important to get those out there,” Fraker told local media.
License Applications To Be Accepted Starting Next Month
Under the proposal, the health department’s Division of Cannabis Regulation will begin accepting recreational cannabis retailer license applications from the state’s existing medical marijuana dispensaries beginning on December 8. Regulators will then have 60 days to approve license applications, meaning that sales of adult-use cannabis should begin no later than February 2023.
Legal recreational weed sales could begin in Missouri even sooner than that, however. DHSS spokeswoman Lisa Cox told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that officials expect to convert licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries “before the 60-day deadline, as soon as we have rules for comprehensive facilities filed.”
“We anticipate comprehensive dispensaries will be able to begin selling to adult use consumers as soon as their license is approved for conversion,” Cox said.
Cox noted that the amendment bars the DHSS from issuing any new “comprehensive” licenses to stand-alone recreational marijuana dispensaries “for 548 days after December 8, 2022.”
Jack Cardetti, a spokesman for the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association, said the timing of the proposed rollout “likely means that Missouri will have one of the quickest and smoothest transitions to adult use sales in the nation.”
The regulations call for a total of 192 licenses for combined medical marijuana and “comprehensive” adult-use dispensaries, to be evenly divided among the state’s eight districts. The proposed rules also set a limit of 62 cannabis cultivation facilities and 88 product manufacturers.
Beginning in June 2023, the DHSS would begin to accept applications for up to 144 cannabis microbusinesses. A limit of 48 microbusiness licenses distributed among the state’s eight districts could be approved within the first 270 days, according to the regulations.
Constitutional Amendment 3 also legalizes the home cultivation of cannabis for personal use for adults who obtain a permit from the Division of Cannabis Regulation. Cox said the state “will begin accepting applications for adult use personal cultivation during or before the first week of January.”
Public comments on the proposed regulations for adult-use cannabis regulations in Missouri can be submitted through the DHSS website.