Week In Review: Missouri Cannabis Sales Exceed $1B; SAFE Banking Act in the Senate

In this week’s cannabis news round-up, SAFE Baking Act read in the Senate; Missouri cannabis sales pass $2 billion; iconic NorCal event the Emerald Cup announces its 2023 honorary award winners and the EU continues to stall on legalization.

Missouri Capitol building. PHOTO Henryk Sadura

Missouri’s Combined Cannabis Sales Exceed $1 Billion

The combined sales of legally regulated medical and adult-use cannabis in Missouri have exceeded $1 billion since the state legalized both medical and recreational markets. This significant sales milestone was achieved on May 2, according to the Missouri Division of Cannabis Regulation.

State government records show that April witnessed $30.1 million in medical marijuana sales and $91 million in adult-use cannabis sales, amounting to a total of $121.1 million. Comparatively, March recorded $126.2 million in legal cannabis sales. Projections indicate that Missouri’s cannabis market could reach a value of up to $505 million in 2023.

Since the launch of the state’s regulated adult-use market in February 2023, it has encountered some expected early challenges seen in other new recreational markets, such as supply shortages and high prices. Missouri’s medical marijuana market, on the other hand, commenced in October 2020 and has been in operation for a longer duration.

PHOTO rrodrickbeiler

SAFE Banking Act Read to Senate Banking Committee

The US Senate Banking Committee met on May 11 to discuss the SAFE Banking Act, a crucial legislation that would make it easier for the cannabis industry to access banking services.

The meeting, “Examining Cannabis Banking Challenges of Small Businesses and Workers,” heard testimony from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-OR., and Steve Daines, R-MT., who reintroduced the standalone bill last week. The committee will also hear from witnesses, including the Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition, Drug Policy Alliance and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

Morgan Paxhia, managing partner at Poseidon Investment Management, called the day “historic” and an “important step” towards banking access. “The industry was well represented with a professional and honest discussion about the need for SAFE Banking to be done and done promptly,” he said. “The various groups have inputs that may help to further clarify the bill with a focus on a clean initiative. Opposition seems to continue with the same drug war era rhetoric that was largely refuted by members of the Senate along with industry representation. Anarchy doesn’t reign when cannabis is legalized, obvious to the majority of Americans currently living in legal cannabis states. Today was an important step and we look to the Senate to run, not walk, with the additional steps needed to get to a vote.”

If the bill advances through the committee stage, it would be voted by the Senate for the first time. The bill has been passed by the House of Representatives seven times in the past four years since it was first introduced. Industry insiders are cautiously optimistic that the bill, which has bipartisan support, will be signed into law this time.

Mila the Hash Queen
Mila Jansen, winner of the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award. PHOTO Maria Cavali

Emerald Cup Announces 2023 Honorary Awards

The 19th Annual Emerald Cup Awards are being held on Saturday, May 13, lighting up the Bay Area in a celebration of this year’s winners and tomorrow’s tastemakers. The annual event celebrates and recognizes excellence in the cannabis industry, specifically focusing on organic and sun-grown cannabis, while honoring the heritage of Northern California’s cannabis culture.

The Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award: Mila Jansen

Visionary Award: Amber E. Senter

Social Justice Award: Weldon Angelos

Trailblazer Award: Alex Aquino

Additionally, renowned cannabis breeder Soma, creator of such beloved cultivars as NYC Diesel and Amnesia Haze, will be inducted into the Breeder’s Hall of Fame.

PHOTO Andrey Kuzmin

EU Continues to Push Back on Legalization

Europe is witnessing a mounting wave of calls for cannabis legalization, as an increasing number of countries aim to emulate the progressive steps taken by Canada and certain parts of the US. However, resistance from the European Union (EU) has resulted in many governments grappling with the challenge of formulating legislation that aligns with EU laws, international drug treaties and public health considerations. The sticking point is that the commercial legalization of cannabis contradicts international treaties, including the United Nations’ 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

Among the countries spearheading cannabis legalization reform in Europe reforms is the Czech Republic, who revealed its commitment to drafting a bill last year, with the aim of legalizing cannabis for adult use. This significant move represents the country’s most notable stride since the decriminalization of personal possession in 2010.

Germany has also joined the ranks by presenting proposals in October to legalize the consumption and sale of cannabis, a development that, if approved, would establish the world’s largest regulated national marijuana market.

Luxembourg has taken a step forward by enacting a law permitting residents to cultivate for personal use. Similarly, Malta has authorized private “cannabis clubs,” while Switzerland, despite not being an EU member, has granted approval for a trial period involving the sale and consumption of the drug in Zurich.

Even the Netherlands, where the cultivation and sale of cannabis remain technically criminalized but tolerated, has plans to initiate a pilot program by the end of this year to explore the legal sale of cannabis.

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Missouri Cannabis Sales Top $1 Billion

Missouri has a new billion-dollar industry. 

Cumulative sales for marijuana reportedly topped that lofty threshold in the Show Me State earlier this month, just three months after the adult-use marijuana market launched there, and nearly three years after medical cannabis was made legal in Missouri.

Local news station KOMU reports that “Missouri surpassed $1 billion in legal cannabis sales on May 2,” an impressive milestone driven by strong recreational pot sales.

According to the station, in the three months since the state’s recreational cannabis market launched on February 3, “Missouri has sold $350.2 million, including $256.2 million of adult-use cannabis and $94 million in medical marijuana.”

Medical cannabis sales in Missouri began in October of 2020.

“For comparison, Illinois, which has twice Missouri’s population, sold a total of $188.1 million in the first three months of adult use sales in January through March 2020,” the station reported.

The early returns were promising after the state’s recreational cannabis industry launched in early February. 

In that first month, Missouri dispensaries raked in more than $100 million in marijuana sales, with $72 million coming from recreational cannabis sales and $31 million coming from medical cannabis.

Andrew Mullins, executive director of the Missouri Cannabis Trade Association (MOCann), said that the opening month of regulated sales of adult-use cannabis in the state eclipsed the launch of recreational pot sales in neighboring Illinois in 2020.

“That’s more than double what Illinois did in a state with twice the population,” Andrew Mullins, the executive director of the Missouri Cannabis Trade Association, said at the time. “So it really shows the interest and excitement for the new adult-use industry in Missouri.”

“Canna-tourism folks that may decide to come to Missouri to access and utilize cannabis,” Mullins added. “That seems to also be having an impact on the amount of sales that Missouri’s experiencing.”

Mullins sang a similar tune in comments to KOMU this week.

“Missouri’s newest billion-dollar industry is experiencing significant job growth, providing great products and services to Missourians, and becoming an integral part to the local economy throughout the state,” Mullins said, as quoted by the news station. “Missouri has avoided so many of the early hiccups that other states have experienced transitioning from a medical cannabis program focusing on quality, affordability, access and selection. Missouri’s cannabis program could not have gotten off to a better start. A sincere thank you to all the patients, customers, and small business owners that helped Missouri reach this impressive milestone.” 

Voters in Missouri last year approved Amendment 3, which legalized recreational cannabis for adults aged 21 and older in the state.

The amendment passed by a vote of 53% to 47%.

According to KOMU, the state “has now surpassed 14,800 direct jobs in the [cannabis] industry, and early indications are that these jobs pay higher than cannabis jobs in many other states.”

The new law has also resulted in the expungement of thousands of prior pot-related convictions in the state. 

The Riverfront Times reported in March that the “majority of expunged convictions so far [were] misdemeanors.” At that time, the paper reported, courts in the state had “granted 6,121 expungements for misdemeanors related to nonviolent cannabis offenses that did not involve selling to minors or driving under the influence of cannabis,” while more than 1,200 “felony convictions have also been expunged.”

Local news station FOX4 reports that, as of this week, “more than 31,000 past marijuana convictions have been expunged.”

“Part of the 6% sales tax buyers pay on adult use marijuana sales funds automatic expungements. The state believes the number of expunged cases will increase quickly in coming months,” the station reports.

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Missouri House Approves Psilocybin Research Bill

The Missouri House of Representatives this week gave initial approval to a bill directing the state to conduct research on the therapeutic potential of psilocybin, the primary psychoactive component found in magic mushrooms. The measure, House Bill 1154 from Republican state Representative Dan Houx, received overwhelming support in the House on Wednesday after gaining the approval of two House committees since the proposal was introduced last month. The legislation faces one more vote in the House before it can be sent to the Missouri state Senate for consideration.

While speaking in support of the bill during debate in the House on Wednesday, state Representative Aaron McMullen, a veteran who served in a combat unit in Afghanistan, noted that the suicide rate among veterans is nearly twice as high as the state rate, making it among the highest in the nation.

“Substance abuse and suicide are escalating in the veterans community,” McCullen said, reading from a letter from the Grunt Style Foundation, a nonprofit organization that serves military veterans. “While psilocybin is not a panacea for every issue, it represents a first true scientifically-validated hope that we have to address this crisis.”

$2 Million In Research Grants

If passed by the full legislature and signed into law, the bill would require the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to provide up to $2 million in grants, subject to appropriation by the legislature, to conduct research into psilocybin during end-of-life care and as a treatment for depression, substance misuse disorders and other serious mental health conditions. The state agency would collaborate on the research, which would be conducted by a Missouri university or by a medical center operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in the state.  

The research would focus on the medical use of psilocybin to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and substance misuse disorders, or as a treatment for patients in end-of-life care. Earlier versions of the bill also included the psychedelics MDMA, also known as ecstasy, and ketamine, but those drugs were eliminated from the measure in committee.

The legislation received the unanimous support of the House Veterans Committee at a hearing held earlier this month. Representative Dave Griffith, the chair of the panel, told his colleagues that while the bill is out of his “comfort zone,” according to a report from the Missouri Independent,  it nonetheless has his support.

“If you would have told me five years ago that I’d be chairing a committee and hearing a bill where we’re going to be talking about psychedelics for veterans, I would have told you, ‘You’re crazy,’” Griffith said during the committee hearing.

Before Wednesday’s vote in the House, Griffith encouraged skeptics of psychedelics policy reform to review the “extensive” research into the therapeutic potential of the drugs coming from the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research.

“I’ve done hours and hours of research from Johns Hopkins,” he said. “The data that comes out of these studies that they’ve done is remarkable.”

Studies conducted by Johns Hopkins and other researchers have shown that psilocybin has the potential to be an effective treatment for several serious mental health conditions, including PTSD, major depressive disorder, anxiety and substance misuse disorders. A study published in 2020 in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Psychiatry found that psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy was a quick-acting and effective treatment for a group of 24 participants with major depressive disorder. And separate research published in 2016 determined that psilocybin treatment produced substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety in patients with life-threatening cancer.

Federal agencies including the Food and Drug Administration are currently reviewing the potential for psychedelics to treat serious mental health conditions. In June, the head of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration wrote to U.S. Representative Madeleine Dean, a Pennsylvania Democrat, that FDA approval of psilocybin to treat depression was likely within the next two years. 

As the nation faces rising rates of substance use and mental health issues “we must explore the potential of psychedelic-assisted therapies to address this crisis,” Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use, wrote to Dean.

Separate Legalization Bill Pending in Missouri

A separate bill introduced by Republican state Representative Tony Lovasco in January would legalize the therapeutic use of psilocybin for people with serious mental health conditions. Under the bill, patients would be able to use psilocybin to treat severe depression, PTSD or the mental health effects of a diagnosis of a terminal illness. Psilocybin-assisted therapy would also be available to patients with other conditions for which traditional therapies have not been effective, with the approval of regulators.

Although the bill does not legalize psilocybin, it provides an affirmative defense against criminal prosecution for patients who possess up to four grams of the drug for therapeutic use. The measure also provides similar protection for mental health professionals who are administering psilocybin for therapeutic purposes.

More than 1,000 people die by suicide every year in Missouri, a rate 25% higher than the national average. And nationwide, suicide rates among veterans are also elevated.

“The folks that are coming back from war, that are in desperate need of care, a lot of them aren’t going to be around in three years,” Lovasco told the Missouri Independent earlier this year. “We’ve got, what 20-something veterans per day committing suicide? That’s a tremendous amount of loss while we wait for the government to do some paperwork.”

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100 Gecs Are On A Vibe

Dylan Brady and Laura Les are on the same wavelength. Despite existing in separate envi­ronments for most of their musical journeys, the experimental duo comprising 100 Gecs is able to stay connected through their music. As is the case for their second studio album 10,000 Gecs due out later this year, Brady and Les remain locked into a successful creative process that transcends space and distance.

When we connect over Zoom, Brady and Les are stationed in their own respective loca­tions, but it’s clear even through the screen that their rapport, humor, and ability to flow togeth­er remains as strong as ever. Their collaboration is a great joy and a key element to what fuels their musical partnership’s success.

High Times Magazine, September 2022 / Photo by Chris Maggio

High Times Magazine: Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, did you always know music was the path for each of you?

Laura Les: I always wanted it to be the path. I knew that it was going to be what I was going to do, but maybe not what I was going to be able to do, if that makes sense. I didn’t think I’d ever make any money doing it, so I was like, “Oh, well I’ll have to get a fucking job. A different thing. A job-type job.”

Dylan Brady: I found music a bit later. I was probably 18 when I was like, “I want to do this all the time forever.” I didn’t ever really think things that far down the line. Was just trying to make a bunch of tunes.

So you both enjoyed making music first and foremost and weren’t necessarily concerned with what would happen from that.

Brady: Definitely.

Les: We both enjoy making music for sure.

Was there a point then where the enjoyment of making music started to coalesce with the idea that, “this might be something more”?

Les: Well, there’s nothing more. It’s just somebody one day is like, “We’ll give you enough dollars to survive.” And you’re like, “Thank you. I guess I’m gonna quit my other job.” But there’s no more it can be if it’s already what you love, right?

So financial element aside, music is what you’d be doing despite another job in the periphery.

Les: I’d probably be working at the same fucking coffee shop, yeah [laughs]. I might be a manager by now.

Once music started to provide you with financial sustenance, was there a moment where you realized your music was in demand? As in, you realized perhaps what you were creating was becoming larger than what you initially set out to do?

Brady: It felt more gradual I suppose.

Les: I talk about this meeting all the time, when I met our manager now— Cody. Cody was only Dylan’s manager at the time, and after our album dropped, I went in to meet him. He was talking about all this stuff and getting going and whatnot because it was starting to get some steam, and I was like, “Do you think I can quit my other job from this?” And he was like, “Yeah, you can definitely quit your job.”

In terms of creative process, how do you go from ideating, to song, to printed track?

Les: One of us starts a song—Dylan mostly—and he’ll be like, “Yo, what do you think of this?”, and send a bounce. And I’ll be like, “Wow, would love to fuck with that a bit.” One of us will send it to the other, and the other one will work on it for a little bit. We have a Dropbox and we just kind of go back and forth.

Thankfully on our upcoming album, we’ve been able to be in the same place a lot, so that’s been nice. For the last album, we were in two different cities, and now we’re in the same city, so we can actually do stuff together, though usually when we link up to work, we end up fucking around anyway.

Is it a different experience when you are linking up versus sending files back and forth?

Les: Yeah, it’s way more fun. We watch stupid YouTube videos and listen to music mostly. We’ll hang out for like five hours and get one hour of work done.

Brady: Pretty good ratio.

Les: It’s a great ratio.

Does part of that ratio include cannabis consumption?

Brady: Cannabis is involved for me for sure.

Les: Well, there’s no weed in the Dropbox.

But is it part of your creative process?

Brady: Sometimes, yeah.

Les: Yeah, there’s definitely times where some weed smoking is happening.

Does it help you facilitate ideas? How does it aid?

Brady: Ehhhhhh, it does something. It makes me go crazy.

Les: [Laughs]

Crazy in what way?

Brady: You know, it’s different every time.

Les: Like really, really high.

Brady: [Laughs] It’s different every time.

Crazy thought spirals, crazy energy, crazy paranoia?

Brady: All three, a lot of it.

Les: I usually just get sleepy and paranoid and need to go to bed. Thankfully that hasn’t happened in a while.

Brady: Stuff like this: [holds up phone with art images]. Just doing some drawings over here. We’ll just sit in the studio and draw variations of this stuff.

Art by Dylan Brady

Les: We smoked weed on tour that one time and then we stole a bunch of snacks from the hotel we were staying at. They had that little convenience store by the front desk and we wanted to buy the snacks, but nobody was down there. It was so late at night and we were so fucking hungry and just wanted to go back to the room and eat and go to bed. We were waiting around being like, “Yoooo, is anyone here?” And were just like, “Fuck it.” I don’t remember the full grocery list, but I remember Pop-Tarts and chips and Diet Coke.

Brady: We were ringing that bell.

Les: Believe me we were ringing the bell.

Brady: Ding-ding-ding-da-ding-ding-da-ding-ding.

Les: That’s exactly what it sounded like.

Let’s go back to those renderings. Do you find that drawing helps create music?

Art by Dylan Brady

Brady: Yes. I would say anything can inform any kind of thing.

Les: Everything is everything.

Brady: You’re in the kitchen cooking pasta…

Les: And you see a frog on the floor.

Brady: You see a frog on the floor and you’re like [snaps fingers], “That’s a song.”

Les: You get a tooth removed, that’s a song.

Brady: You smoke the poison weed at the music festival in Germany. That’s a song.

So for you guys, song creation is being observant to what’s around you every single day.

Brady: That’s part of it I think.

Les: Yes, in a way. What’s around you, what’s happening. How you feel about it. The life you’re living. It’s true, I wouldn’t have thought of it that way.

When it comes to writing songs and making music, has that creative process typically always been conducted with you both in separate locations?

Les: We’re just two different people. When we were literally in two different cities we were living two different lives. We still do live two different lives I guess, but we’re much more connected now.

Brady: Also for the first go around, a lot of those songs were made in batches for the Minecraft shows. So it was like, “Let’s make a few songs.” We just know each other and trust each other so it’s pretty easy and good.

Les: We’re on a wavelength.

Brady: We’re on a vibe.

Les: We’re definitely on a vibe.

Brady: We’re vibing.

Les: Hard.

To the point where it’s more instinctual and you can creatively infer what the other is trying to do on certain things?

Les: Yeah, and also we’re working towards a pretty common goal. The things we’re writing about might be different but we’re both working towards the same thing. We have a common goal in mind.

Conceptually or in general?

Les: All of it.

Brady: I’d say we’re pretty tapped in on all the vibes.

Les: We speak a language that we can both understand that might not make sense to some people, but we both speak it very fluently.

Did it take time for that language to develop or was it present from the beginning?

Brady: It progressed naturally over our friendship. We’ve known each other 12 to 15 years.

Les: Before we were working on music, we were sharing music all of the time and talking about what we were feeling. We found a lot of common ground in stuff.

Being friends first and fostering the love of music together—how important is that in terms of creating a cool, safe space, and letting that wavelength develop into a cool, creative partnership?

Les: I feel like it’s necessary for an enjoyable creative partnership. And having an enjoyable creative partnership… I probably wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t. There’s an element of trust that comes with that that’s really important to what we do.

Brady: Trust and understanding.

One would then think your output is better than if that wasn’t the case.

Les: Totally. There’s no way it couldn’t be that.

Brady: I heard that Fleetwood Mac album was pretty tough to make though.

Les: Which one?

Brady: Rumors. They all had that love triangle and all hated each other or something.

Les: And they did smash that glass. Maybe that should be our thing for the next album. We have to get really mad at each other.

Brady: Super toxic.

Les: I don’t usually like to work with other people most of the time. I wouldn’t want to be in a band/ partnership or whatever with anyone but Dylan because of that. It just sounds so fucking excruciating to have to balance those dynamics, especially when shit goes south.

Unless you were to take “when shit goes south” and put it back into the music.

Brady: The music might be good, but you still wouldn’t be having fun.

Les: I feel like the whole “pain into music” thing is great except for when you’re actually doing it. Then you’re like, “Wow, this fucking sucks. I wish I wasn’t doing it like this. I wish there was another way I could be making this music.”

Brady: Like having a great time.

Les: Right, I would rather be having a great time with my friend Dylan Brady.

When I’m working by myself a lot of the times, I get so in my head and fucked up about, “The words are just not fucking right, they’re not coming,” and “This just isn’t working, like these chords don’t sound right.” Then I’ll talk to Dylan and in like 20 minutes he has me totally calmed down and I’m feeling great about it. Then I’m like, “OK, cool. We’re going to get this shit done no problem.” If I didn’t have that dynamic with him, I would never get anything done. I barely get anything done even with the dynamic.

What does he say or do that helps you rein it in and move forward?

Les: Something about the goatee [laughs]…

Brady: It’s definitely a great two-way street on that front of supporting each other’s ideas and avoiding the second-guessing rigmarole.

Second guessing brought on by our good friend cannabis?

Brady: Can’t be.

Les: Definitely not.

Brady: That’s happening either way for sure.

Art by Dylan Brady

Essentially you’re saying that creatively, you guys have a really cool yin and yang to each other’s processes.

Brady: Yeah, very fortunate for the situation that we’re in.

In terms of output from that situation, you have the new album coming out this fall?

Brady: It’s coming out this year for sure. Someone will know when it is and that isn’t us.

Les: It’s coming out. I swear to God we’re working on an album. [Laughs] I swear to God we’re working on one. Please don’t give up. I swear there’s an album.

Can you talk about the inspiration behind the upcoming record and what people can expect to experience with it?

Les: When you’re working on the songs, you don’t really think about it, but as we’ve been in the finishing process, it’s funny to look at it and see this is a bunch of different takes on different shit that’s happened since we put out the last album, just with our lives and shit.

Brady: Reflection.

Les: Yeah, it’s a lot of reflection on everything since the last album came out.

Tonally are there any “risks” you took? Or from a sound perspective, experimented with?

Brady: I got an eight-string guitar. Two banjos. Clarinet.

Les: Ukulele bass.

Brady: Massive speakers. All kinds of risks happening.

Les: I dunno if it’s “risks” so much as it’s us listening to different music and experimenting. You change over time, and so I feel like music has to change over time with you. You don’t think the same way about stuff forever and you also think about different things.

I think the music reflects different ways we were thinking about stuff and different music we were listening to. Some of it’s a little more raw in a way. Like we’re not Adele or anything, but you know what I mean? Raw. Sometimes you’re feeling raw. Sometimes you’re feeling like not like singing stupid words. So not all the songs are stupid words.

Brady: Some are frogs on the floor.

Les: There’s been a lot going on in the world and in our lives personally. It was a very natural thing, not like “We’re going to go for this thing this time.” It’s not like placing a bet or anything. It’s not that. It’s not like, “We’re going to put it all on red.”

Brady: We’re putting it all on banjo.

So it’s more where you’re both at individually in your lives and a product of the times.

Les: I mean, they’re connected, obviously. We live in the world, so [laughs]… We live in a society, you know? Sometimes you feel goofy and you write a song that’s a little bit goofy, and sometimes you’re feeling not goofy and you write a song that’s not so goofy. It all just makes sense.

And how do you decide what makes it to the album and what doesn’t?

Les: The best songs. I feel like it’s easy to be like one of those people who’s like, “This isn’t teeing the line with this ideal vibe or something. This isn’t ‘something’ enough.” Like, “This isn’t ‘sad’ enough to throw on my album.” We try to kill that as much as possible in the process, and a lot of that comes from how comfortable we are at reinforcing each other’s ideas.

Like that’s how I am by myself. When I’m by myself, I’m like, “Ahh, this line, it doesn’t fit right,” But when you have somebody there to counterbalance that, it’s much easier to just let whatever you’re feeling just be that. So it ends up a much more natural process in that way.

Art by Dylan Brady


Interview originally appeared in High Times September 2022 issue.

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Missouri’s First Month of Legal Recreational Pot Sales Tops $100 Million

Cannabis retailers in Missouri rang up more than $100 million in sales in February, the first month of legal recreational marijuana sales in the state. According to information from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services released on Friday, total cannabis sales came to $102.9 million last month. The figure includes nearly $72 million in adult-use cannabis retail purchases, while sales of medical marijuana in Missouri topped $31 million for the month.

Missouri voters legalized the recreational use of cannabis in last year’s midterm elections with the passage of Amendment 3, a ballot measure that was approved with more than 53% of the vote. Sales of recreational marijuana began at existing medical marijuana on February 3, less than three months after voters approved the adult-use cannabis legalization measure.

Andrew Mullins, executive director of the Missouri Cannabis Trade Association (MOCann), said that the opening month of regulated sales of adult-use cannabis in the state eclipsed the launch of recreational pot sales in neighboring Illinois in 2020.

“That’s more than double what Illinois did in a state with twice the population,” Mullins said about Missouri’s $71.7 million in adult-use cannabis sales last month. “So it really shows the interest and excitement for the new adult-use industry in Missouri.”

Mullins noted that if the pace of sales during the first month continues, Missouri cannabis retailers will sell more than a billion dollars worth of weed this year. He attributed a portion of February’s sales to visitors from adjoining states. Out of Missouri’s eight neighboring states, only Illinois has legalized recreational marijuana to date.

“Canna-tourism folks that may decide to come to Missouri to access and utilize cannabis,” Mullins told St. Louis Public Radio. “That seems to also be having an impact on the amount of sales that Missouri’s experiencing.”

Laurie Gregory, the chief marketing officer for Good Day Farm, said that the company’s dispensaries in cities such as Kansas City and Independence located near the borders with other states saw significant traffic from out-of-state customers.

“Opening weekend we had patients who drove from Texas and Illinois,” Gregory said. “There are states around Missouri that don’t have a program. Anecdotally, what we hear is that the border town dispensaries are having significant sales because of that.”

Regulated Weed Prices Lower Than Neighboring Illinois

Prices compared to cannabis retailers in the one neighboring state with regulated recreational marijuana sales were also cited as a factor behind the strong numbers in Missouri.

“At the different stores, we have flower strains priced from $25 to $40,” said Gregory. “In Illinois, it’s anywhere from $30 to $60.”

Jack Cardetti, a spokesman for MOCann, said that better access for consumers is largely behind Missouri’s strong sales numbers, noting that the state has 196 dispensaries to serve a population of 6 million, while Illinois has only 113 retailers but a population of 12 million. He also noted that taxation exacerbates the price difference between the two states.

“Not only are the retail prices lower in Missouri than Illinois, but when you actually factor in the higher taxes in Illinois, the take-home price is significantly lower,” Cardetti says. “We’ve seen time and time again, if you tax marijuana too much, people will continue to access the illicit market, which is exactly what legalization is meant to prevent.”

Former NBA star Al Harrington’s company Viola is backing two cannabis dispensaries that opened in St. Louis over the weekend, making the shops the only Black-owned retailers in the city, according to Daniel Pettigrew, the CEO of Viola STL. He said that the city has given the company a warm welcome and noted that the company’s dispensary on Iowa Street in St. Louis is the only cannabis retailer in the city with a drive-thru.

“We want people to be able to come into a safe, secure place, get their product and then get out, so that’s the main thing. It will really allow us to serve more customers,” Pettigrew told KSDK television news. “This neighborhood is in the community, so it was important to them, as we met with them, that they didn’t want a lot of people standing around and lingering in the area. It just allows us to complete the transaction in a safe secure environment, facilitate it, get everyone what they need and let them get on their way as quickly as possible.”

Bryce Chapman, a consumer who previously purchased marijuana from the unregulated market, said that buying from dispensaries is easier than buying from underground dealers. He added that he appreciates the consistent quality and clear pricing at regulated dispensaries, factors he said make him a repeat customer of the new shops.

“You can just go in, get what you need and leave,” said Chapman. “You don’t have to find the guy with the right kind of stuff or anything like that – you can just go get exactly what you need. I really like how scientific it is. Like, ‘Do you want this much THC or do you want a higher dose? Do you want sativa dominant?’ Before it was just like, I’ll just get what I can get.”

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Over 7,500 Pot Convictions Expunged in Missouri

More than 7,500 individuals in Missouri have had their prior marijuana-related convictions expunged with recreational cannabis now legal in the state.

The expungement is the latest byproduct of the constitutional amendment that was approved by Missouri voters last fall, which legalized pot for adults and cleared the way for Missourians to have their records cleared.

According to the Riverfront Times, passage of Amendment 3 “kick-started a process to expunge criminal records related to nonviolent marijuana offenses that otherwise would have been legal had Amendment 3 always been a part of Missouri’s constitution.”

“The majority of expunged convictions so far are misdemeanors. As of [last] Tuesday, courts have granted 6,121 expungements for misdemeanors related to nonviolent cannabis offenses that did not involve selling to minors or driving under the influence of cannabis. More than 1,200 felony convictions have also been expunged,” the publication reported.

Dan Viets, secretary of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws who helped author the state’s medical and recreational cannabis laws, told the Riverfront Times that the process is “going faster” than he expected.

That has become a recurring theme for the Show Me State’s rollout of the new marijuana law.

Legal recreational pot sales launched on February 6, which was earlier than anticipated.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported at the time that the nascent cannabis industry expected “that the licenses required to sell non-medical cannabis would not be issued by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services until [days later].” 

The launch of legal weed sales came only a month after the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said that it was finalizing rules for the new adult-use cannabis program.

“Once rules are effective, DHSS will begin approving or denying requests from licensed medical marijuana facilities to convert to comprehensive facilities, which can serve both medical and adult-use consumers. After conversion, sales to adult-use consumers may begin as soon as comprehensive dispensary facilities are ready to commence operating under their new authority. Also per Amendment 3 to Article XIV, DHSS will begin accepting applications for consumer personal cultivation by Feb. 6. Once approved, this will allow authorized persons, who are at least 21 years of age, to grow plants for personal, non-commercial use within an enclosed locked facility at their residence,” the department said in a January bulletin.

But as in other states that have lifted the prohibition on cannabis use, Missouri’s new law aims to redress previous wrongs inflicted by anti-pot laws.

According to the Riverfront Times, the newly passed amendment “established deadlines for when sentencing courts must expunge certain crimes.”

“One deadline is fast approaching — sentencing courts must complete adjudication for misdemeanors of people currently in prison or jail by March 8. But most deadlines to expunge other crimes are at least 3 1/2 months away,” the Times reported. “Circuit courts have until June 8 to order the expungement of criminal history records for all misdemeanor marijuana offenses of people no longer under the supervision of the Department of Corrections. And they have until December 8 to expunge criminal histories of people who already completed their sentences for felony marijuana offenses that are no longer crimes.”

“Questions about how Missouri’s court system could sustain the expected influx of expungement requests circulated before Amendment 3’s passage in November. In October, the Missouri Supreme Court requested almost $7 million to cover the cost of erasing eligible marijuana convictions. The Missouri Office of State Courts Administration also submitted a supplemental budget request asking for $2.5 million to cover clerks’ overtime and hire additional information technology staffers,” the publication continued

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Missouri Weed Sales Launch Earlier Than Expected

In a surprising twist, legal cannabis sales went live in Missouri on Friday, with state regulators issuing retail licenses days earlier than expected. 

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that industry expectations “had been that the licenses required to sell non-medical cannabis would not be issued by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services until Monday … the department threw a curve Thursday afternoon, announcing that it would issue licenses on Friday to the dispensaries that qualified for them.”

And receipt of a license means that a dispensary can begin selling to customers right away.

“Recreational-use marijuana will initially be sold only at already-existing medical-use dispensaries. State health department spokeswoman Lisa Cox said at least 170 of these dispensaries statewide are eligible for licenses Friday, which will be given to any store in good standing with the department,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

“Good standing means the license is not suspended, revoked, or otherwise inactive at the time the request is made,” Cox said, as quoted by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Voters in Missouri legalized recreational cannabis for adults when they approved Amendment 3 in last year’s election by a vote of 53% to 47%. 

The amendment changed the state constitution to permit the sale, possession, consumption, delivery, and manufacturing of marijuana. As in other states that have ended the prohibition on pot, Missouri’s new cannabis law also includes a social justice component enabling individuals who have been previously convicted of a pot-related offense to have their records expunged. 

The amendment was formally added to the Missouri constitution in December

Since its passage by voters in November, regulators with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services have been finalizing rules for the new legal cannabis market. 

Last month, the department said that rules “were filed today for Missouri’s adult-use cannabis program with the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office, making program rules effective on Feb. 3.”

“Per Missouri voter-approved Amendment 3, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) is the agency assigned with regulatory authority over the program just as it has led the state’s medical marijuana program since 2018. The Division of Cannabis Regulation within DHSS has published three sets of draft rules to gather public feedback since the amendment passed in November 2022,” the department said in a bulletin last month

“Once rules are effective, DHSS will begin approving or denying requests from licensed medical marijuana facilities to convert to comprehensive facilities, which can serve both medical and adult-use consumers. After conversion, sales to adult-use consumers may begin as soon as comprehensive dispensary facilities are ready to commence operating under their new authority. Also per Amendment 3 to Article XIV, DHSS will begin accepting applications for consumer personal cultivation by Feb. 6. Once approved, this will allow authorized persons, who are at least 21 years of age, to grow plants for personal, non-commercial use within an enclosed locked facility at their residence.”

In some ways, getting Amendment 3 on last November’s ballot represented an achievement. As the deadline approached for signatures, there were growing doubts that the group pushing the amendment, Legal Missouri 2022, would meet the threshold. 

But in August, much to the relief of advocates, Missouri’s secretary of state announced that Amendment 3 had indeed qualified for the ballot.

“Our statewide coalition of activists, business owners, medical marijuana patients and criminal justice reform advocates has worked tirelessly to reach this point, and deserves all the credit,” John Payne, campaign manager of Legal Missouri 2022, said after the amendment qualified. “Our campaign volunteers collected 100,000 signatures, on top of paid signature collection. That outpouring of grassroots support among Missourians who want to legalize, tax and regulate cannabis made all the difference. We look forward to engaging with voters across the state in the coming weeks and months. Missourians are more than ready to end the senseless and costly prohibition of marijuana.”

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Missouri Legislator Introduces Psilocybin Bill

Missouri Rep. Tony Lovasco introduced House Bill 869 on Jan. 18 that would allow psilocybin therapy, which is a revised version of a bill that he introduced in 2022. 

Under the current bill text, it would allow patients to use psilocybin to treat conditions such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as those who are terminally ill and suffering from mental health. It would also cover patients who have undergone treatments for other conditions that were unsuccessful.

Lovasco described his bill as “a first step to addressing pervasive mental health crises that affect every sector of our society and economy by creating access to clinically validated therapies,” Lovasco stated in a press release. “I am especially encouraged at clinical research suggesting psilocybin may be a tool to address our opiate addiction crisis.”

Under HB 869, the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) would be in charge of regulating psilocybin therapy, including opening up the treatment option to other qualifying conditions in the future. Anyone would be able to petition the DHSS to include a new condition that “benefits persons with the proposed condition in a manner equal to or greater than the benefit.”

Lovasco’s previous iteration of the bill, House Bill 2850, was introduced on March 1, 2022. It was given a hearing at the House Health and Mental Health Policy Committee on March 28, 2022, but did not move forward after that. The text originally mentioned ibogaine and mescaline, which has since been removed.

HB-869 now allows treatment options to expand if psilocybin is rescheduled under the Controlled Substances Act. If rescheduling occurs, it would allow any Missourian to become a patient as long as they are 21 or older to be eligible.

Although it’s uncertain what the fate of HB-869 will be, the topic of psilocybin has been ramping up in the U.S. and beyond.

In September 2022, the Missouri House Interim Committee on Veterans Mental Health and Suicide heard from Rahul Kapur, a physician, and numerous advocates about the potential benefits of psychedelics. “We, as fellow human beings and fellow Americans, owe our fellow countrymen and women our unqualified help to heal their mind, body and spirit—to honor their sacrifices in their family sacrifices,” Kapur said. “We have an obligation to keep exploring and providing them with any resources we have at our disposal. And, in my opinion, psychedelics are a key resource in this fight.”

Earlier this month, Missouri Rep. Michael Davis filed legislation that would amend the Right to Try Act, which was signed in 2018, so that it would allow patients to use psilocybin, ibogaine, or LSD as a treatment. “There is emerging interest and significant clinical research supporting the safety and efficacy of psychedelic drugs for PTSD, traumatic injury therapy and numerous other conditions,” Davis said in a press statement. “Because the [Food and Drug Administration] has not taken action to reschedule these drugs and make them generally available, I am working to make these drugs available through Missouri’s investigational drug access statute.”

Missouri is just one of many states seeking to open up access to psychedelic medicine. On Dec. 27, 2022, the Oregon Health Authority finalized rules for its Psilocybin Services Act, two years after voters passed the ballot in November 2020.

Researchers continued to study psilocybin as a medical treatment as well and continue to build up evidence of its effectiveness. The first take-home psilocybin trial in North America was approved in Canada in November 2022. The results of a double-blind trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine in the same month, which revealed evidence that psilocybin is effective in treating severe depression. An Australian study recently published findings on how psilocybin can ease the stress of MRIs, with one patient describing the experience as “magical.”

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Recreational Weed Now Legal in Missouri

Cannabis is now legal for adults in Missouri, although legal sales of recreational marijuana are still months away. Missouri voters legalized adult-use cannabis with the approval of Amendment 3 in the November midterm elections, joining 20 other states that have also ended the prohibition on recreational weed.

Amendment 3, which received 53% of the vote in last month’s election, amends the Missouri Constitution to legalize recreational marijuana for adults and strengthens the state’s existing medical marijuana program. The successful ballot measure officially went into effect on Thursday, making possession of up to three ounces of cannabis by adults aged 21 and older legal under state law.

In 2014, state lawmakers passed legislation to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis, and in 2018, Missouri voters approved an amendment ballot measure to legalize medical marijuana in the state. 

Missouri Rec Sales Coming Next Year

Under Amendment 3, the state’s existing medical marijuana dispensaries will be the first businesses licensed to make recreational cannabis sales, which are expected to begin early next year. John Payne, campaign manager for Legal Missouri 2022, the group behind Amendment 3, said that sales of cannabis are only permitted “within the regulated system,” but he noted that simple possession of marijuana is legal as of Thursday.

“The decriminalization aspects do not hinge on licensed sales existing,” Payne said.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is currently in the process of drafting regulations to govern the adult-use cannabis industry and will begin accepting applications for comprehensive retailers – those selling both medical marijuana and adult-use cannabis – on Saturday. The DHSS is required to begin awarding comprehensive licenses to current medical marijuana dispensaries by February 6, making that the earliest date regulated sales of adult-use cannabis can begin in Missouri. 

In a statement, DHSS Spokesperson Lisa Cox reminded Missourians that legal sales of recreational marijuana will take some time to launch.

“It’s just our commitment that we regulate this program as best we can to keep people safe and healthy. That’s our goal,” Cox said in a statement, adding that consumers should familiarize themselves with Amendment 3 and its potential impact on individuals and communities.

Amendment 3 contains provisions to expunge some past cannabis-related convictions. Under the measure, those with previous convictions for nonviolent marijuana-related charges will have their records reviewed by the courts, with qualified convictions slated to be expunged by June 8, 2023.

Although Amendment 3 legalizes cannabis for all adults 21 and older, the University of Missouri System announced on Wednesday that marijuana would still be prohibited on all four of its campuses.

“Possession and use of marijuana remains subject to many limitations under both constitutional amendment and federal law,” the university system wrote in a statement. “Following a review of the federal Drug-Free Schools and Community Act and Drug-Free Workplace Act, the University of Missouri System will continue to prohibit the possession, use and distribution of marijuana on any university property, university-leased property and as part of university-sponsored or university-supervised activities.”

Amendment Enhances Medical Cannabis Program

Amendment 3 also includes provisions to enhance Missouri’s existing medical marijuana program. Patients will see an increase in the monthly amount of cannabis they can legally purchase at licensed dispensaries from four ounces to six ounces. Additionally, medical marijuana patient identification cards will now be valid for a period of three years rather than being subject to annual renewal requirements.

“Patient applications processed as of this date (Dec. 8) and forward will be valid for three years,” Cox said. “Current ID holders will retain their existing expiration dates, which will not change due to Amendment 3 passing.”

Dan Viets, a co-author of Amendment 3 and coordinator for the Missouri chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), noted the significance of cannabis becoming legal in a statement from the cannabis advocacy group.

“December 8th is a historic date for Missourians,” said Viets. “Most of the 20,000 annual marijuana arrests in our state will end on that date. Instead, adults will be able to legally possess up to three ounces of cannabis, and soon will also have the option to grow up to 18 plants or purchase cannabis products tested for purity and potency from licensed retailers.”

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Legalization Amendment To Be Added to Missouri Constitution

Missouri’s state constitution will have a new entry this week, with the voter-approved recreational cannabis amendment slated to be added on Thursday. 

The Springfield News-Leader reports that while Amendment 3, which was approved by Missouri voters in last month’s election, will be added to the state constitution this week, “Missourians won’t be impacted by the majority of its legislation until next year.”

“At the earliest, recreational marijuana will be available for purchase in February. And though some non-violent marijuana offenses will be automatically expunged this week, this isn’t the case for all,” according to the News-Leader.

Voters in Missouri approved Amendment 3 last month by a vote of 53% to 47%. 

The leadup to the vote was shrouded in uncertainty for supporters of the amendment. It wasn’t until August that Missouri’s secretary of state confirmed that Amendment 3 had qualified for the ballot. 

There were questions in the summer surrounding the petitions submitted by Legal Missouri 2022, the group behind the amendment. 

State law requires a petition to include signatures from 8% of registered voters in six of Missouri’s eight congressional districts.

The state’s secretary of state, Jay Ashcroft, confirmed in August that Legal Missouri had easily cleared the signature threshold. 

“Our statewide coalition of activists, business owners, medical marijuana patients and criminal justice reform advocates has worked tirelessly to reach this point, and deserves all the credit,” John Payne, campaign manager of Legal Missouri 2022, said in a statement at the time. “Our campaign volunteers collected 100,000 signatures, on top of paid signature collection. That outpouring of grassroots support among Missourians who want to legalize, tax and regulate cannabis made all the difference. We look forward to engaging with voters across the state in the coming weeks and months. Missourians are more than ready to end the senseless and costly prohibition of marijuana.”

But even after the amendment qualified, it appeared far from a sure thing that it would pass in November. Polls in the weeks leading up to Election Day painted a messy picture. One survey conducted in September found 48% of voters in Missouri supported Amendment 3, while 35% of voters in the state were opposed, and another 17% were unsure.

But another poll conducted around the same period showed that 43% of respondents were in support of Amendment 3, while 47% were opposed, and 10% were unsure.

In the end, however, the amendment prevailed, and now Missouri is slated to become the latest in a growing number of states to legalize recreational pot use for adults and establish a regulated retail market.

The Springfield News-Leader provided a rundown of what the amendment will accomplish: “Remove state prohibitions on purchasing, possessing, consuming, using, delivering, manufacturing and selling marijuana for personal use for adults over 21; Require a registration card for personal cultivation with prescribed limits; Allow persons with certain marijuana-related non-violent offenses to petition for release from incarceration or parole and probation and have records cleared; Establish a lottery selection process to award licenses and certificates; Issue equally distributed licenses to each congressional district; and Impose a 6% tax on the retail price of marijuana to benefit various programs.”

The newspaper said that the “earliest recreational marijuana will be available to Missourians who are 21 and up is February 2023.”

“Pre-established medical marijuana facilities will have the opportunity to convert their licenses to comprehensive marijuana facility licenses, meaning they can cultivate or sell both medical and recreational marijuana. The Department of Health and Senior Services must begin awarding these license conversions by Feb. 6, 2023,” the News-Leader reported. “Aside from medical marijuana facilities that are converted to comprehensive marijuana facilities, DHSS must license at least two comprehensive marijuana dispensaries in each of the state’s eight congressional districts, initially. These dispensaries will begin receiving licenses to sell recreational marijuana on Sept. 4, 2023.”

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