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Marijuana growers in Cuba, Missouri look at the industry on 420

Advocates look to expand legalization into recreational adult use.

CUBA, Mo. — Inside a new, bright white, nondescript facility in Cuba, Missouri you'll find workers harvesting Robust's first-ever crop of medical marijuana this April 20, the day celebrated by marijuana advocates every year.

"Yeah, with being about to harvest these plants we're just doing a little bit of late-cycle de-leafing,' co-owner Brad Rhodes said, plucking small green leaves from enormous buds. 

Rhodes says these plants are the biggest they'll likely ever produce due to a couple of delays during construction which pushed back picking. But this state-of-the-art marijuana cultivation operation, using organic processes, is expected to be the first of many in a growing industry.

"Our team here is obviously situated very well," Rhodes' business partner, Tyler Hannegan, said of the possibility of expanded legalization.

Hannegan says Missouri retailers already meet the needs of a medical-only customer base. Naturally, everyone is now looking at what would if recreational use came online.

When Illinois began recreational marijuana purchases on Jan. 1, 2020, stores were inundated with lines of hundreds of customers. Supplies ran low. Dispensaries sold out of some varieties and capped the amounts available per customer on other items.

"With the current allotment and looking into adult-use, there are 60+ cultivators in the state of Missouri. Right now, there is actually an oversupply of the 'flower' in the marketplace. I don't foresee any concerns that I'm moving forward into adult-use about a supply shortage," Hannegan said.

In a city known to outsiders for float trips, camping, tourism and its many murals, Cuba's leaders see something else: opportunity.

"If you're talking millions of dollars in sales, that's absolutely a noticeable difference right off the bat," Mayor Cody Leathers said of the marijuana industry.

Leathers says he hasn't taken a position on the potential passage of legal recreational marijuana, but he is expecting the city's two marijuana companies to expand. To accommodate the need for additional square footage, Leathers says Cuba's already annexing another 75 acres into city limits.

"We want to try to capture all of those jobs, we want to try to capture all those families that grow our schools," Leather said. "That grows our existing businesses. It'll all just kind of that trickle-down effect to help our communities thrive."

When it comes to the possibility of recreational use in Missouri, there are two strategies moving that forward in the Show-Me State: through the legislature and through a ballot initiative.

Republican Rep. Ron Hicks from Saint Charles County proposed the Cannabis Freedom Act omnibill that passed 6-4 out of a House committee Tuesday.

With a stack of signatures outside Mission Taco Joint in Kirkwood Wednesday, John Payne represents the other strategy.

"Would you like to sign a petition for the legalization of marijuana on the ballot? Are you registered to vote in Missouri?" he asks passers-by.

Campaign manager for Legal Missouri 2022, the ballot initiative that would put recreational approval in the hands of voters this November.

"We have done polling on this that shows a strong majority of Missourians want to have adult-use legalization in Missouri," he says, adding "this is really bipartisan… a non-partisan issue."

Legal MO 2022 needed to collect 180,000 signatures to be included on the ballot, reaching their minimum goal Monday. They have another 20k by Wednesday with hopes to increase their "cushion" should some of the signatures not meet the state's standards.

"We feel good about making the ballot, but it is still a lot of work to go. And a short time to do it. So we can't take any day for granted. We need to be out there collecting dozens of signatures every single day."

Legal M0 2022 must turn in their signatures to the state by May 8. Hicks' bill has not been scheduled for the next step yet, a process called perfection.

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