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First recreational marijuana sales begin Friday morning in Missouri

Chile Verde Cannabis Flower on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, at Good Day Farm Dispensary in the Central West End.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Chile Verde Cannabis Flower on Thursday at Good Day Farm Dispensary in St. Louis' Central West End.

Updated at 2:25 p.m. Feb. 3 with comments from customers and store officials

Recreational marijuana is now legally available in Missouri.

The Department of Health and Senior Services approved dispensaries on Friday for comprehensive licenses, which allow the sale of both recreational and medical cannabis to those 21 and older.

“It’s exciting,” said Andrea, a St. Louis resident who only wanted to be identified by her first name. “You don’t have to go all the way to Illinois anymore. It’s super exciting and very convenient.”

Over the past three years, St. Louisans have been able to buy recreational cannabis in the Metro East, but some Missouri residents say that they’re excited to avoid the longer drive and Illinois’ higher taxes and that they want to support the state where they live.

Andrea shopped in the morning at Greenlight Marijuana Dispensary near Bancroft Avenue and Watson Road in south St. Louis.

Greenlight general manager Charles Unger got word early Friday that the state approved his medical marijuana shop for recreational use as well. He said 45 people were lined up at 10 a.m. for the store’s opening.

“We're a little bit packed to the gills, but we're just so happy to have all the fresh faces and get new people on board.”

Greenlight currently has two other locations in Ferguson and near Lambert International Airport. Soon, Unger said, a Rock Hill location will be added.

“Honestly, the reception has been just fantastic,” he said.

A dispensary employee loads a bag of cannabis for a customer.
Will Bauer
St. Louis Public Radio
Charles Unger, general manager at Greenlight Marijuana Dispensary in south St. Louis, said his shop had 45 people waiting at the door at 10 a.m. Friday.

Health department spokeswoman Lisa Cox said 97% of Missouri's businesses approved to sell medical marijuana applied for the comprehensive license.

The department approved 335 of the state’s licensed medical facilities for the comprehensive license. In the St. Louis area, nearly 70 dispensaries were approved to operate, as of Friday.

Missouri voters approved constitutional Amendment 3, known as Legal Missouri 2022, in November. The measure earned 53% support.

Recreational cannabis sales have begun in Missouri. Here's how we got to this point and how it might affect Illinois' economy

Good Day Farms, which has five area locations approved for recreational sales, planned to open as early as 10 a.m. Friday.

“We're honored to be part of this historical moment in time — and just what an amazing period of time this is for the entire state,” CEO Ryan Herget said.

Good Day Farms owns stores in Arkansas, Missouri and Mississippi. The Missouri locations will be the first recreational business for the Little Rock-based company.

“Overall, we expect the market in the first year to probably increase two or three times,” Herget said. “There's multiple factors involved in that number. It could be more; it could be less. But whatever the increase is, we are ready to serve everybody.”

Another St. Louis resident, Adam, who also requested to be identified by just his first name, purchased cannabis at Good Day’s location in the Central West End just after 10 a.m.

“I never thought I’d be standing in this line,” he said.

Recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the 39-year-old didn’t want to apply for a medical card and has been taking marijuana low-dose gummies to help him sleep at night.

“With the tumor pushing on some nerves, this is definitely helping me,” he said.

Over time, Adam said he wants society to change its perspective on marijuana.

St. Louis plumber Ronnell William shares that sentiment. Given that William has seen friends and family end up in jail for small marijuana violations, Friday’s recreational sales were welcome news.

“I don’t need to worry about being arrested or people looking at me like I’m a drug dealer,” he said. “I’m just a normal person that works their jobs and just likes to be high now and again.”

Will Bauer is the Metro East reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.