ST. LOUIS — The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said the emergency rules legalizing recreational marijuana sales will go into effect Friday.
DHSS Communications Director Lisa Cox said the department's Division of Cannabis Regulation will begin approving conversion requests on Friday from medical dispensaries that requested the ability to sell adult-use marijuana.
Cox said nearly all of the state's medical marijuana dispensaries applied for the comprehensive license that would allow for recreational and medicinal sales. She said 90% of those dispensaries applied on Dec.8, the first day applications were accepted.
The constitutional amendment passed in November said the state had 60 days from the time they applied to either approve or deny the request. That deadline would have fallen on Feb. 6, but Cox said the state will begin ruling on requests on Friday to ensure the process is working correctly.
"Each licensee is responsible for knowing and understanding the rules that apply to their facility," Cox said in the statement. "After conversion, sales to adult-use consumers (age 21 and up) may begin as soon as comprehensive dispensary facilities are ready to commence operating under their new authority."
Thursday’s announcement comes four days before many retailers expected it.
Greenlight Dispensaries stores across the state are bringing in extra staff, expanding hours, and increasing products. Before now, only people with a medical reason to use marijuana could come through their doors. Friday, that will change.
"Double everything and if it's not enough, we'll triple it as far as people go,” Greenlight partner Thomas Bommarito said.
Greenlight Dispensaries are preparing for a demand like they haven't seen before. It means training new workers, unpacking supply, and getting ready for an influx of recreational marijuana customers.
"We've got plenty of flower. You don't want to run out of that,” Bommarito said.
Like all dispensaries in Missouri, they could only sell to customers who used pot for medical purposes. In November, voters approved legalizing marijuana for anyone over 21. Stores can now begin selling it Friday.
Greenlight says there's a strict check-in process for walk-ins. They check for a state ID or a passport as soon as you walk in. Starting Monday its stores will open 2 hours earlier and close 2 hours later because of recreational sales now taking effect.
It comes as some groups are concerned about marijuana getting into the hands of those it isn't supposed to.
"PreventEd remains concerned about the impact of high-potency cannabis products on adolescent brain development. We strongly encourage close regulation of the industry, particularly product marketing and availability as it relates to our young people. For help in talking about or addressing cannabis use with your teen, please visit talkaboutitmo.com,” the group’s Director Nichole Dawsey said.
But there are some cities that are still working to change ordinances that technically only allow for the sale of medical marijuana.
This could impact some dispensaries, but most experts say it’s kind of a gray area and legally the constitution is the deciding factor allowing them to sell as soon as they have a comprehensive license.
For weeks, Star Buds Dispensary Owner Chris Chesley has been preparing to open his doors to thousands more customers looking to buy recreational marijuana products.
“Talking with vendors, transporters, making sure everything's going to be ready, running smoothly. Definitely staffing up. We've almost doubled our staff,” Chesley told 5 On Your Side earlier this week.
Chesley owns two dispensaries one in Festus and one in University City.
He said the transition to sell both recreational and medical products also involves working with cities to change ordinances. But Missouri NORML Attorney Dan Viets said legally cities can’t stop dispensaries from selling recreational pot on Feb. 6 as long as they have a state comprehensive license.
“Article 14 specifically says that no local government can enact any ordinance which would place an undue burden on the operation of those facilities. And attempting to stop them from operating would certainly be an undue burden,” Viets said.
Some dispensaries may choose to not immediately begin selling recreational products on Feb. 6 or may not have the state license just yet so really, it’s best to check with the store directly before showing up.