The first company growing medical marijuana and treating patients in the state of Missouri is now open for business.
BeLeaf, operating out of a facility in Earth City, has been open for about two months. The non-profit grows industrial hemp and dispenses cannabidiol, or CBD. It was one of the first two organizations the state granted a licenses to cultivate the plant in Missouri.
“We have patients from 8 months old to 33 years old,” said BeLeaf’s CEO, Mitch Meyers. “I would say 80 percent of our patients are kids.”
The state requires patients seeking CBD oil treatment to have “intractable epilepsy,” meaning the patient has not responded to three or more treatment options while overseen by a neurologist. The patient must have a written recommendation from their neurologist for CBD oil treatment, as well as a registration card granted by the state.
BeLeaf has about 20 patients statewide so far, and Meyers said the success rate is about 85 percent.
“If you think about somebody who's just managing seizures all day long – you don’t take them to the grocery store, you don’t go on vacation,” she said.
“To see families that have struggled and understand how debilitating this really is for them -- It’s not just the patient that gets their life back – the whole family gets their life back.”
BeLeaf grows a strain of industrial hemp from California, called “Noah’s Releaf.” It’s named after a young boy named Noah who battled seizures from an epilepsy diagnosis, too.
Missouri law mandates the strain have a high level of CBD but a low level of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the component that causes a psychoactive effect. In short, BeLeaf’s product will not cause the consumer to get “high.”
“This will not get you high,” explained Director of Production, John Curtis. “There’s so little THC here that you could, in theory, consume all of this and it would not give you an psychoactive effect-- it would probably give you a headache.”
Curtis oversees cultivation of the plant inside BeLeaf’s 5,000 square-foot facility. The process starts by cloning the strain of hemp, then managing the plant through its vegetative and flowering phases. The process takes about 12 weeks, before they start to extract the CBD oil.
BeLeaf extracts its product from the entire plant, not just the flower.
“Yes, most of the essential oils are in these flowers,” Curtis explained. “But there are important compounds in the rest of the plant.”
Patients who are approved for treatment come to BeLeaf to purchase their oil, where Meyers also serves as a patient advocate.
She is also trying to educate lawmakers and others on medical cannabis issues across the state.
The state also granted a license to Noah’s Arc Foundation to grow hemp and cultivate CBD oil in Missouri. President Dr. Jason Strotheide said their plants will be arriving very soon, and the non-profit expects to be dispensing out to patients by the end of the summer.