Missouri entrepreneurs hoping to roll into the multi-million dollar medical marijuana industry first must jump a number of hurdles. Step one: Obtaining a license.
“Missouri is very competitive,” said Dre Taylor, founder of Nile Valley Aquaponics. “So you know, if you’re trying to win the application, you need to have your ducks in a row.”
A company rooted in urban farming, Nile Valley Aquaponics has filed a pre-application to become a licensed grower and seller of medical marijuana in Kansas City under new medical marijuana guidelines approved in November 2018.
Though 526 applications for licenses have already been pre-filed with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, only 338 licenses are expected to be approved for cultivators, manufacturers and dispensaries of medical marijuana, according to the agency.
Click here to read about medical marijuana regulations.
Entrepreneurs of colors don’t have it easy, Taylor said. The Missouri state legislature rejected bills that would have awarded bonus points to businesses majority owned by minorities and women in the scoring process for license applications, according to the agency.
“I wish they had put something in there. … Some progressive states have equity programs,” Taylor said.
Click here to read more about the effort to empower minority entrepreneurs through medical marijuana ventures.
The application does offer two open-ended questions related to diversity in employment and company ownership, but they only account for a few points toward scoring, said Jon Gold, lawyer and founder of Reynolds and Gold, a Springfield-based medical marijuana business law and consulting firm.
The stakes for businesses applying for costly licenses are high, Gold said, prompting his firm to pair up with his sister marketing team at Campaignium to publish a comprehensive guide to help entrepreneurs obtain licenses for their business.
Click here to check out the guide.
Reynolds and Gold hits two birds with one stone: The guide not only helps the entrepreneurial community grasp the constantly wavering rules in the industry, but also helps market the law firm.
The comprehensive guide includes information about the types of facilities included in the newly legalized industry, the cost of starting a business, important dates and rules and on what basis a license may be awarded.
“The intention really is just to pull in all of the information about license applications in Missouri into one place,” said Austin Wakeman, search engine operation specialist at Campaignium.
Applications can only be filed during a short window — Aug. 3-17 — Wakeman said. Once the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services begins issuing licenses, it might be too late for those who had not already applied.
About 25 percent of Missouri’s applications have been filed in Kansas City’s congressional district — the highest in the state, according to the guide.
“I think the biggest good thing that can come out of this guide for an entrepreneur is being able to find information in a convenient manner,” said Payton Stringer, content creator for Reynolds and Gold.
Many entrepreneurs don’t completely understand the legal and financial requirements to step into the medical marijuana industry, Stringer said. The state is still adding and changing amendments, which can make the information further convoluted for a novice, she added.
Missouri is expected to filter applications based on whether the applicant has enough property, money and in-depth knowledge of the application process, Gold said.
“They have to focus a lot of time and effort on creating their answers to the application questions,” Gold said. “And the highest point totals will then receive the licenses.”
This story was produced through a a collaboration between Missouri Business Alert and Startland News.