In June 2019, 1,044 Missourians became the first to fill out applications for medical marijuana licenses. In the 18 months since the program, the industry, and its patient count has grown. While Missouri hasn’t seen an explosion of patients immediately after the first dispensaries opened, as some assumed, what Missouri has seen is consistent sustained growth.
Despite COVID-19, Missouri’s Medical Marijuana Patients Count Trends Upward
In a year marred by delays, pandemics, financial and civil disruption, and uncertainty , the growth of Missouri’s medical marijuana program and its patients has been remarkably steady. In August 2019, 4,578 Missourians submitted applications to become legal medical marijuana patients. Since that month no fewer than 4,436 and no more than 6,776 citizens have applied in a single month.
From August 2019 through December 2019, application numbers approached but never rose above 5,000. From January 2020 to September 2020 applications were continually above 5,000, less the month of April, but never hit 6,000.
Missouri’s first dispensaries opened in October 2020. Closing out the calendar year, the Department received 19,739 applications over the last three months of 2020.
While an often predicted “boom” never occurred in 2020, what did occur bodes well, and possibly better, for Missouri’s cannabis businesses. In a year where businesses were delayed, access was limited, and supply was inconsistent, the patient numbers were consistent, reliable, and steady.
Recreational and Medical Marijuana Movement in Missouri
Nearly 75,000 Missourians have already committed to finding safe, legal access to medicine – continued growth at this pace would see Missouri reach nearly 190,000 patients by the end of 2021.
With the addition of more facilities, more options, and more sprawl, it is likely that those numbers climb at a faster pace. And could reasonably surpass 225,000 by years’ end. It is encouraging to see consistency in inconsistent times. While many restaurants, bars, hotels, and other familiar businesses shuttered in 2020, medical marijuana businesses in other states were deemed “essential.” But Missouri’s newest businesses hit repeated obstacles.
A subsection of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the Section for Medical Marijuana Regulation was in the midst of hiring, training, and defining as the first waves of the pandemic hit. Questions of how to handle tasks suddenly had a new and unexpected element of the pandemic to accompany. While the stock market waned and waxed, some operators saw their investors and funds wither and fall away.
Marijuana Activists and Enthusiasts in Missouri
Other entities sat, waiting for municipal governing bodies to determine how to operate in new and frightening times. Offices were closed, municipalities and authorities were unsure of how to handle inspections. And applications, permits, and licenses sat stagnant in trays while projects hemorrhaged. Tasks that should have taken weeks took months.
Construction hit multiple delays, projects in the midst of design had new hurdles. 8 hour days or Zoom meetings and teleconferencing became the norm for project planning. Construction and fabrication that was already underway hit logistical snags with delays in steel and raw materials from overseas.
As the protocols and policies for safety and interaction were defined and rewritten, the community and industry adjusted. While the world has, for the most part, come to grips with the “new face of business,” it shows a depth of promise that our patient numbers grew, and continue to grow. With one quarter of our cultivation facilities approved to operate and 26 of 192 dispensaries, supply issues will soon be uncommon for operational dispensaries.
As more dispensary facilities come online expect patient numbers to rise. There are entire sections of the state that are currently un or underserved, and with the new expansion comes new awareness and enthusiasm.
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