LAURIE, Mo. — A family with marijuana-growing experience in Colorado hopes to open an operation at the Lake of the Ozarks, now that medicinal marijuana is legal in Missouri.
Tracey Smith, Four Seasons, Mo., addressed the Laurie Board of Alderman at both the December and January board meetings about a proposal to open a marijuana cultivation facility in Laurie.
“I wanted to see if they would be receptive,” Smith said. “The idea seemed to be positively received by the board, the mayor and the police chief.” The board did not comment on their opinion of the proposal in the open board meeting.
Smith said the purpose of his business plan was to “cultivate and provide high-quality marijuana, for approved Missouri residents in need, through legal, safe and secure methods, in concert with state and local community efforts.” The final product would be sold and transported to different locations around the state.
Missouri voters passed Amendment 2, by a margin of 66 to 34 percent, changing the Missouri Constitution, in November 2019, to allow the purchase, cultivation, dispensing, manufacturing, transporting and testing of medicinal marijuana in Missouri. Each activity requires a different license and will only be sold to a limited number of applicants. Amendment 2 became effective on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018. One thing is for sure, medical marijuana will be expensive because of the number of licensed operators it will take to bring it from licensure to purchase.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services allowed persons interested in obtaining a license to begin paying a $10,000 non-refundable prepaid license application fee on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019. If Smith is approved to receive a license, he will also be required to pay a $25,000 annual fee. “The state needs the money to fund a new department to regulate this and hire employees,” Smith said. There will be a four percent tax on medical cannabis sales, with revenue being earmarked for services for military veterans, once implementation and regulation costs are covered. The applications for licensure will begin being accepted by the state, on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019. The state then has until Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019 to approve or deny the applications.
Americans are divided on the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes, though the issue has been gaining supporters, as evidenced by its legalization in Missouri and other states in recent elections. Opponents of medical marijuana say legalizing marijuana has the potential to harm through chronic use because of easier access, especially in children and teens. They also have concerns that the legalization of marijuana could change public opinion of harm potential.
“Today, we have discovered there are many positives with medical marijuana," Smith said. “Medical marijuana has been demonstrated to reduce and combat opioid addiction and we have major opioid crisis. It also is a safer way to control pain. When pain is controlled by opioids, you are limited, because over a period of time your body gets used to it, and you have to take more, and opioids are three times as addictive as marijuana. I’m not saying marijuana doesn’t have problems, but overall if you look at the choices, it is a pretty good compound for fighting pain.”
Persons with approved medical conditions, who want to purchase marijuana, will be required to apply for $25 annual identification card from the state. Those persons will be required to buy from dispensaries, since pharmacies cannot touch marijuana, because it is not been approved federally.
A Major Investment
Smith has already invested $10,000 in the application fee and approximately $600,000 on a 12,500 sq. ft. building, on 4.5 acres, on Sherman Ridge Road, off Highway 5 in Laurie, for the cultivation facility. If approved, he plans to add another 20,000 ft. canopy and a state-of-the-art security system. Once it’s all said and done, Smith said his family and investors will have approximately $2.5 million in the business. “You can’t get bank financing for this type of business because it is not federally recognized,” Smith said. He believes there is a potential to earn up to $10 million annually, minus expenses, which he estimates could result in an approximate $6 million net annual income.
“We chose Laurie because it is an economically underserved area,” Smith said. “If you look through the amendment, you will find 20 specifications, and a big part is how it will impact the community,” Smith said. “Laurie has lost a lot of businesses and this has the potential to bring in millions of dollars in product sales, creating a financial stimulus for the city, as well as a couple of dozen jobs.” He added that having a local cultivation facility would better position product availability to Laurie dispensaries, again boosting sales tax revenues.
The location of the building in a rural area was a big factor. “Marijuana has a strong odor and we don’t want to bother our neighbors, so the building being on the edge of town was a plus,” Smith said.
“Power is a big deal too,” Smith said. “I have already spoken with Co Mo Electric Cooperative and they have what we need. You can’t just put a three-phase growing process in without the right power availability.”
Marijuana plants go through a three-phase growing process and each one requires a different environment. “We have to have the best HVAC for a perfectly regulated climate,” Smith said. In the first phase, seedlings grow in a “grow room” using florescent lighting. This phase is the least expensive, Smith explained. In phase 2, the plants are moved to a “vegetative room” that requires different lighting. In phase three, the plants are moved to a “flowering room” which is a larger room, used for final growth and harvesting. There will be a variety of plants grown for different uses.
According to state statute, if the state approves the cultivation facility license, the city of Laurie has the prerogative to enact ordinances governing the time, place and manner of operation, as well as the civil monetary penalties for violations of said ordinances.
A Family Operation
Smith’s family has marijuana operations in both Oklahoma and Colorado. The Missouri facility is planned to be set up in the same way. “My wife and son have been operating the facility in Oklahoma for a year,” Smith said. Smith reported that his family that will be involved in the endeavor include his wife, who is a teacher, three sons, who are a urologist, a dentist and an attorney, as well as a niece who is a master grower. Smith’s part in the business will be that of a landlord.
Smith also has relatives that operate nine facilities in Colorado, and he has hired two separate Colorado marijuana consulting firms. “We have a professional team in place and we can do this the right way, according to the law,” he said.
“Yes, we are taking a gamble and it is a long shot,” Smith said. “I’ve heard the state has received more than $2 million in application fees already.” The Amendment will only allow one cultivation center in Missouri per 100,000 people. Missouri has 6.2 million people, so they could allow approximately 62 cultivation facility licenses. “There is so much money being poured into this in the big cities, like St. Louis and Kansas City, they are sucking up all the licenses. Getting it in Laurie is a gamble and if it kicks off in 2020, it will be a slow start.
“It’s all up to the state now.” Smith said citizens can call or write their legislators and put in a good word for the business. “Whatever support we can rally would be great. I’ve done my part, now let’s see what happens at the state level.” Smith said he would be willing to speak at a town hall meeting to answer any questions or concerns the public might have.