How to Start a Medical Marijuana Business in Missouri

Published on June 5, 2019 · Last updated July 28, 2020
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After Missouri voters enacted Amendment 2 last November—which legalized medical marijuana—the state’s health department took public input from patients, medical professionals, entrepreneurs, and industry professionals about how to structure the new system.

But the department doesn’t seem to have equity in mind when it comes to granting cannabis business licenses. Although some questions for applicants will call for diversity to be considered during the hiring process—including hiring for dispensaries, cultivation operations, or cannabis-infused manufacturing facilities—there will be no affirmative action for who gets to grow or sell medical marijuana in Missouri. In fact, all identifying demographic information—like race and gender—will be stripped from applications during the review process.

This blind review process is reportedly meant to ensure fairness, according to Lyndall Fraker, Director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (MDHSS) section for Medical Marijuana Regulation.

One thing’s for sure: Cannabis licensing in Missouri is shaping up to be quite competitive. The state is required by law to grant licenses to at least 60 commercial growers, 86 facilities that manufacture cannabis-infused products, and 192 dispensaries—that’s 24 dispensaries for each of Missouri’s eight congressional districts.

As of May 2, 2019, a whopping 481 pre-filed application forms and fees totaling $3,470,000 has already been received by the MDHSS.

From application fees to the general criteria for obtaining a cannabis license in Missouri, here’s everything you need to know if you’re interested in growing or selling medical marijuana for profit in the Show Me State.

Timeline for Applications

All facility license application forms and instructions are available online at the MDHSS website, and this handy timeline will show you when all the deadlines are.

Here are the key dates:

  • August 3, 2019: The MDHSS will begin accepting facility license applications
  • August 17, 2019: applicants will have until “close of business” to submit applications
  • December 31, 2019: The MDHSS and contracted partners will review and score completed applications prior to licensing

If your application is approved, you’ll receive your license within 150 days of applying.

Application Fees

Anyone hoping to obtain a cannabis business license in the state of Missouri is going to need a lot of cash upfront, and banks typically don’t provide loans or financing to cannabis businesses because marijuana is still a federally prohibited substance.

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With that in mind, here are both the non-refundable application fees and the annual fees that prospective cannabis business owners should expect to pay:

  • Cultivation facilities: $10,000 non-refundable application fee and a $25,000 annual fee
  • Dispensary facilities: $6,000 non-refundable application fee and a $10,000 annual fee
  • Medical cannabis-infused manufacturing facilities: $6,000 non-refundable application fee and a $10,000 annual fee.

If you’re interested in pre-filing a cannabis license, you can find the form and instructions here.

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General Criteria for Obtaining a Cannabis Business License

To be eligible for a license to grow, manufacture, or sell cannabis and cannabis-infused products in the state of Missouri, 51% of a business must be owned by someone who has lived in Missouri for at least one year.

And whether you’re applying for a license to grow, dispense, or manufacture cannabis products, all applicants will have to detail exactly how they intend to reduce odor caused by the growing, handling, or processing of cannabis.

As of 2019, legal cannabis has created 211,000 full-time jobs in America

Below are 10 other general criteria for obtaining a medical marijuana business license in the state of Missouri. For the specifics of these criteria, visit here.

  1. Character, veracity, background, qualifications, and relevant experience: According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, applicants will need to provide their top three managers’ resumes and proof of their experience in the legal cannabis industry, as well as submitting two letters of recommendation on their behalf.
  2. A detailed business plan: More specifically, applicants will be evaluated on their ability to maintain an adequate supply of medical marijuana.
  3. Site security: Prospective cannabis business owners will have to show the MDHSS how they’ll ensure the safety of both cannabis patients and Missourians living in the surrounding community.
  4. Experience in a legal cannabis market.
  5. For testing licenses only: Experience with healthcare and with testing marijuana, food, or drugs for toxins and/or potency.
  6. Potential positive economic impact on the community surrounding a marijuana business location: Applicants will need to detail how many full-time jobs their businesses will create, what their hourly wages will average, how their managers reflect the community in which their businesses will be located, and their plan to address diversity in their management.
  7. For grow operation licenses only: Capacity or experience in agriculture, horticulture, and healthcare.
  8. For dispensary licenses only: Capacity or experience in healthcare, plus the suitability of the proposed dispensary location and how accessible it will be for patients.
  9. For manufacturing facilities: Capacity or experience with food/beverage manufacturing—additionally, applicants seeking manufacturing licenses will have to detail their plans for waste storage and handling flammable materials, plus whether they’ll consult or hire a chemist, pharmacist, or food scientist.
  10. Maintain competitiveness in the medical marijuana marketplace.

For more information, visit the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, or reach out to the state department directly via email at

Good luck!

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Elizabeth Enochs
Elizabeth Enochs
Liz Enochs is a writer and journalist from a small town in Missouri that you've probably never heard of. In addition to Leafly, her work has been published by Bustle, Narratively, USA Today, HelloGiggles, POPSUGAR, and many others. More often than not, you'll find her in the woods.
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