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Green Lights: Local medical marijuana industry takes shape

Fourteen area dispensary licenses are announced

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The state has given the nod to 192 medical marijuana entrepreneurial groups, and with the Jan. 24 dispensary license announcements, the industry players are emerging.

Given the green light in the immediate Springfield area are 14 dispensaries, two infused-product manufacturers, one testing facility and one transportation facility. Across southwest Missouri, that number reaches nearly 40 businesses.

Owners say the next step is to build out their facilities – a process that includes design requirements set by the state, acquiring equipment for marijuana testing or creation and finalizing security details, depending on the facility.

But a common concern among the entrepreneurs is that they don’t know when they’ll see the product.

“The dispensaries and processors all have to wait until the growers are up and running. That’s a really big unknown,” said Paula Givens, co-owner and in-house counsel of Happy Days LLC, which is opening an infused-product manufacturing facility in north Springfield. “It’s a slow start. It’s realistic that the program is supplying the market with a healthy range of product by Jan. 1, 2021.”

No cultivation facility licenses were awarded in Springfield, and the nearest approved facility is in Humansville.

Lisa Cox, director of communications for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said the state department is expecting some product to become available by the end of the summer but added that it depends on how quickly the businesses are established.

“The licensed facilities have one year from the day they received their licenses to be operational, otherwise they forfeit their license,” Cox said. “We’re expecting them to get their business up and running to the point they can pass a commencement inspection, starting with cultivation in mid-March.”

Springfield’s industry
In the coming months, the Springfield area will begin to see the presence of 18 medical marijuana facilities.

In the Plaza Shopping Center at Glenstone Avenue and Sunshine Street, an ownership group comprising local health professionals, attorneys and other businesspeople is opening a dispensary called Shango under the Mo Retail Products Group Inc. license, said co-owner and counsel of record on appeal Nancy Price.

Price declined to disclose the names of the other local owners but said the group is partnering with the Las Vegas-based Shango Premium Cannabis, which has a 15% stake in the company. Shango is a vertically integrated company with operations in Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Michigan, New Jersey and California, according to its website.

Julie Belk, co-owner and local nurse anesthetist, said the company will send its local employees to Las Vegas for training with the Shango company.

The local group also had applied for an infused-product manufacturing facility and a cultivation license under Mo Agricultural Group LLC and Mo Manufactured Products LLC, which were intended to be operated as Shango facilities as well. The state denied those licenses, and Price said the company is appealing the decision with hopes to still open a cultivation site.

Price, a Springfield attorney, said the interior of the 4,000-square-foot space on Glenstone Avenue will mirror Shango’s store layouts and could cost up to $450,000 at build-out. Mo Retail Products Group is also opening a dispensary off Campbell Avenue next to Harbor Freight and in Joplin.

On Springfield’s west side, Ozarx Botanicals I LLC will be opening a medical marijuana dispensary in Springfield Plaza at West Sunshine and West Bypass. Co-owner Kim Andrews said the business is still in talks with potential architects and general contractors to build out the 2,500-square-foot space.

“We’re excited to get out on the ground floor,” Andrews said. “You don’t get the opportunity very often to be at the start of a brand-new industry.”

An owner with a stake in two types of marijuana business is Grant Wistrom of Revival 98 LLC.

Wistrom, a former NFL player and co-owner of CrossFit Springfield, will be opening a dispensary and an infused-product manufacturing facility in south Springfield. However, the site is up in the air since Revival 98 was denied a cultivation license in late December.

Wistrom originally planned to open a vertically integrated company with cultivating, selling and manufacturing under one roof.

“I’m seeing the bright side of having the manufacturing without the liability and huge overhead of cultivation,” he said. “As long as we can have product to put through our machines, I think we’re set up for success.”

Wistrom said he’s anticipating build-out of his locations to be a combined investment of almost $2 million. He’s currently looking for financing options and building out his team, which will be around a dozen people.

Wistrom and Givens are the only two infused-product manufacturers approved in Springfield. Givens is planning the Happy Days facility at 2900 E. Pythian St., where about 15 employees are expected to be hired.

Among other local dispensaries planned are Bloom Medicinals of MO LLC, at 751 S. Glenstone Ave., and Old Route 66 Wellness LLC, in Ozark and Springfield. Grassroots OpCo MO LLC also was approved at 1306 N. Stewart Ave. and in Branson.

Waiting game
Price and Givens both said their focus until getting their hands on product will be brand awareness and consumer education.

“We anticipate we will open before we have any medical marijuana product to sell. … We’re going to educate them and sell other types of products that compliment medical cannabis,” Price said, adding CBD oil and T-shirts will be included in the product line.

“Patient education is really an important piece, and that will be an ongoing issue ... helping people understand where this medicine can be useful in their lives,” Givens said.

Cox said the state had approved 30,260 patients by press time – a figure that far exceeds state expectations by 2021, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.

Jeffrey Altmann, spokesman for Springfield’s only testing facility, Botannis Labs Mo. Corp., said the company is using this time to make connections with other businesses in the industry.

“We have had an influx of interest with people that want to do business with us,” Altmann said, noting the interest spans the state. “Our commitment was always to operate within southwest Missouri, but our business will be done across the state.”

Altmann said general contractor Morelock Builders & Associates Inc. already is working on build-out for the company’s downtown warehouse, 215 N. Grant Ave.

“We need to pull the trigger on spending hundreds of thousands on testing equipment and security,” Altmann said. “We hope to be operational in the next six months.”

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