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Missouri Medical Cannabis Sales Rise To New Heights As More Dispensaries Open

Cannabis plants grow inside Ascend Illinois indoor facility in Barry, Illinois. Ascend owns two existing medical dispensaries and plans to open two additional recreational dispensaries early next year.
File Photo / Eric Schmid
St. Louis Public Radio
There are now more than 125 medical marijuana dispensaries open across Missouri, with up to 80 more expected before the end of the summer. State officials say that's boosting sales.

Sales of medical marijuana in Missouri are rising sharply this summer. Last month, the industry generated nearly $16.5 million, up from $15.5 million the month before.

In less than a year in operation, dispensaries and other cannabis companies have raked in more than $70 million, according to recent data collected by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, which oversees the new industry.

Lyndall Fraker, who heads the state cannabis program, says those numbers are good but expected.

“We’ve put so many dispensaries online, and we’ve broadened the patient base by adding more facilities, so you’re automatically going to have new patients that are going to be in areas where there wasn’t a dispensary that were kind of waiting,” he said. “I think that’s the biggest reason.”

He said cumulative sales are on track with his goals to hit the $100 million milestone by the end of the summer and $200 million by the end of the year.

There are now about 125 medical cannabis dispensaries open across the state. Fraker anticipates that up to 80 more will open by the end of August before things slow down.

The number of patients consuming cannabis is growing too. Now, more than 125,000 Missourians have a medical marijuana card.

That includes about 3,700 people who work in the industry. Andrew Mullins, executive director of the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association, said in a statement that he expects the number of jobs to double over the course of the industry’s first full year in operation.

“This remains a summer of lofty expectations, with thousands of new patients each week obtaining their cannabis cards, business owners creating a steady flow of new jobs and our industry generating millions in new tax revenue for the state thanks to an additional 4% sales tax dedicated to the health and care of veterans,” Mullins said.

Many dispensaries opened around the industry’s unofficial holiday on April 20, known as 4/20.

That includes Root 66 in St. Peters. District Manager Rachel Shenk said the store in St. Charles County is already seeing greater demand than the brand’s other two locations in St. Louis, with lots of patients coming from cities even farther west, such as O’Fallon and Wentzville.

“The customer base in that area has been looking for something closer. There haven’t been a lot of dispensaries open,” she said.

Shenk previously worked at dispensaries in Colorado when the cannabis industry there expanded from medical to recreational use in 2014. She said the growth in new customers and sales in Missouri’s market is rising as expected at this stage.

But she said the challenge for dispensaries in Missouri is keeping enough inventory on hand with only a few cultivators currently growing cannabis. The state handed out about 60 licenses for cultivators, but only 23 have opened so far.

“There’s a lot of dispensaries open right now so everyone is vying for the same products from the same few vendors that are out there,” Shenk said.

She’s hoping to see more vendors open up over the next six months.

Follow Corinne on Twitter: @corinnesusan

Corinne is the economic development reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.