With the green light given for a cannabis testing laboratory to begin operations, Missouri’s medical marijuana program supply chain is now complete and will soon be serving patients. Last week’s approval of EKG Labs in St. Louis comes nearly two years after voters legalized the medicinal use of cannabis with the passage of a constitutional amendment in November 2018.
On Saturday, officials with the Section for Medical Marijuana Regulation at the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) announced that a testing laboratory had passed its commencement inspection, later clarifying in a tweet that the business was EKG Labs. With medical marijuana cultivators and dispensaries already licensed to operate, the approval of the analytic laboratory marks the final link in the creation of Missouri’s nascent cannabis industry.
“We appreciate how hard these businesses have worked to become operational,” said Lyndall Fraker, director of the Section for Medical Marijuana Regulation. “These facilities have made it through a demanding review, and we look forward to their success in providing safe access to medical marijuana in Missouri.”
MMJ Program Launch Comes Relatively Quickly
The agency noted that Article XIV, the legalization amendment approved by voters, “established that implementation of a medical marijuana program should be accomplished efficiently, requiring that DHSS publicly report each year on the efficient discharge of its duties. Missouri’s implementation of its medical marijuana program has been one of the most efficient implementations in the nation, with implementation time coming in well below average, despite a pandemic.”
Despite delays in the availability of lab testing for cannabis, the completion of Missouri’s medical marijuana supply chain comes just 22 months after legalization became effective in December 2018. That’s the fifth-quickest launch of a program among the 21 states that have approved the medicinal use of cannabis since 2005. The average time is 29 months, and only Oklahoma, Minnesota, Utah, and Pennsylvania have rolled out their programs quicker than Missouri.
“The implementation of this program has been efficient yet thorough,” said Dr. Randall Williams, director of DHSS. “Much has been said in recent months of how rigorous our compliance processes are, and Missourians should be assured that this industry will be well-regulated, just as Article XIV and Missouri voters envisioned.”
Product Should Hit Dispensary Shelves In October
EKG Labs joins five commercial cannabis cultivators and six medical marijuana dispensaries that have been cleared to open by state regulators. Natalie Brown, the director of operations at EKG Labs, said that the business will be ready to start testing samples by next week.
“We’re hopeful that there will be product on the shelves and dispensaries by early to mid October for the patients,” Brown said.
But Greg Gossett of Missouri Health and Wellness, the owner of medical marijuana dispensaries, believes it will take a bit longer than that.
“The hope is to have product in November,” he said.
So far, Missouri has issued 60 licenses for commercial cultivators, 86 for cannabis processors, and 192 for medical marijuana dispensaries. However, James Cummins, who was denied a license to operate a dispensary, believes that the state’s cap on licenses should be eliminated. He’s predicting product shortages when Missouri’s nearly 70,000 registered medical marijuana patients can begin shopping.
“There is not going to be enough product when the market comes online and the prices will be high,” Cummins said, “and it’s just going to drive more people to the black market.”