When Missouri’s medical marijuana program is fully underway, there may be more of the drug produced than consumed. That’s according to researchers at the University of Missouri, who provided the state with an economic analysis of the program Monday.
Medical marijuana could be available to patients as soon as January 2020. About 26,000 Missouri residents could be a part of the program by its third year — roughly 0.3%. By that time, it could bring in close to $7 million in tax revenue to the state.
But the economists from the school’s Economic and Policy Analysis Research Center conceded there’s a chance the number of patients could exceed or fall short of their projections. They factored in other states with medical marijuana programs, including Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts and Washington, in coming up with these projections.
Jack Cardetti, spokesman for the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association, said the report’s findings are based on projections that are too low.
“Oklahoma is a state that's obviously only two-thirds the size of Missouri and they passed their medical marijuana law last summer,” Cardetti said. “They are already have more than 78,000 certified patients in the state of Oklahoma. So the fact that Missouri would only have 26,000 patients after a three-year period it doesn't make any sense.”
The state’s Department of Health and Senior Services has posted a draft of the program’s rules, which must be finalized by June 4. After that date, patients and caregivers can begin formally applying for identification cards.
More than 400 applications have been pre-filed for dispensaries or cultivation facilities, but those won’t be formally accepted until Aug. 4. But researchers also found there there may not be enough demand to keep open the minimum number of licensed dispensaries, particularly in rural areas.
It’s a concern officials with the department are hoping to address.
“We have that obligation to do the 24 per congressional district,” said Lyndall Fraker, DHSS’ head of the medical marijuana unit. “We also know that the amendment was clear about making sure that all Missourians had access to medical marijuana And so with that in mind, we certainly feel like we should spread those licenses out best we can.”
Fraker said the department was also working to implement plans to track the product from seed to sale to keep marijuana from being sold on the black market. Recreational use of marijuana is still illegal in Missouri.
Samuel King is the Missouri government and politics reporter at KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter: @SamuelKingNews