Medical marijuana dispensaries open at the Lake
Almost two years after Missouri voters approved the use of medical marijuana, dispensaries in Osage Beach and Eldon are now open.
The first dispensary to open in the Lake of the Ozarks area was Latitude Dispensary. The store, located in Osage Beach, opened in June.
In Eldon, Heya Wellness opened last week. The business was approved by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services last year and was delayed from their targeted opening date of January 21 for various reasons. The Eldon location is one of five in the Heya Wellness chain of dispensaries which filed for organization in 2019. The other locations are in Kirksville, St. Charles, Park Hills, and St. Ann, all located in Missouri.
Heya Wellness is supplied by their own cultivation facility, Heya St. Ann Cultivation, in St. Ann. In addition, Heya Wellness operates three infused production facilities in the St. Louis area.
Budtenders are trained to assist customers with cannabis knowledge in order to meet their particular needs, according to Heya Wellness Spokesperson Mandy Lehnbeuter. But before you make plans to visit a dispensery, certain requirements need to be met.
“Missouri has one of the tightest regulated programs in the country with security especially,” Lehnbeuter said. “For example, you don't just walk into the dispensary, there is a controlled access where you walk in and present your ID, your medical card and any other necessary information. Access to the actual dispensary is controlled electronically, products are stored in a vault. Detailed security procedures are submitted and approved by the state, obviously we would not disclose all security details as it could compromise the system.”
Medical marijuana patients have experienced setbacks on product due to a delay in approval of testing facilities within the state. Heya Wellness had their product cultivated and ready last fall as they had begun growing their crop as soon as approval was completed. Then inspections and testing by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services were delayed statewide due to COVID-19. Essentially, patients paid for a year of medical marijuana cards but were not able to purchase due to laws restricting product sold in the state to only have been cultivated within Missouri.
In May 2020, the Eldon Board of Aldermen put into place city codes that restricted dispensaries to operating within C-1 commercial and I-1 Industrial zones. They are also restricted from operating within 200 feet of schools, churches, or child care facilities. They are restricted to only operate within 1,000 feet of Business Highway 54, keeping dispensaries out of residential neighborhoods, much like the same coding that the city of Osage Beach put in place before any facilities opened.
Late last week, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reported total sales of $70.33 million for medical marijuana products. That includes more than $15.5 million in cannabis sales for May and $16.4 million in June. As more dispensaries open across the state, that number is expected to increase significantly.
According to the Missouri Medical Cannabas Trade Association nearly 121,000 Missourians had been approved as patients, while almost 3,700 Missourians have been issued state agent ID cards to work in medical cannabis facilities. The industry is expected to generate nearly twice that many jobs, more than $800 million in direct spending and another $570 million in indirect spending over the course of its first full year of sales and operation. The state plans to approve 192 dispensaries.
By comparison, the state of Illinois —which with 12.67 million residents has a population more than double that of Missouri — currently has only 55 licensed retail outlets open.
The state Department of Health and Senior Services has licensed a total of 375 facilities to cultivate, manufacture, test, transport and dispense medical marijuana to Missouri patients.
Medical use of marijuana was approved by voters in 2018.
* Vicki Wood contributed to this story.