The two-year wait to purchase medical marijuana flower ends today in Missouri.
After passing Amendment 2 back in 2018 by nearly a 2-1 margin, state officials worked to deliberately (and for some, too slowly) construct medical cannabis regulations and a marketplace from the ground up. After plenty of delays and months of patients calling dispensaries to ask for an opening date, the wait is finally over as N'Bliss opens dispensaries in Manchester and Ellisville today.
We spoke to Bradford Goette, CEO and managing partner of Nirvana Investments, owners and operators of N'Bliss dispensaries, to ask what patients can expect and the next steps for cannabis is Missouri.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Weedmaps: How are you preparing for the first day of sales?
Bradford Goette: We're fortunate because we opened as a CBD store, so we actually have a front-end retail environment in these two particular locations that have been open to the general public since June and August. And then our medical marijuana facility will be open only to medical marijuana cardholders in Missouri once we have flower.
Part of our preparation was having the retail open, being able to engage customers that are coming in, answer their questions, learn how to scan items, and work in a cash environment. We're fortunate to have been out in front.
WM: What are you expecting on opening day? What's the temperature of the staff and patients?
BG: The temperature is running really hot. People are extremely excited. It starts with our wellness specialist and all the people who have been with us on this journey for so long. We know that those medical [marijuana] cardholders have been waiting for over a year and a half for their opportunity to purchase legalized flower in the state of Missouri.
Based on our web traffic, as we've drawn closer, we've seen almost 2,000 people sign up to find out when we'll have flower. Between that [web traffic] and the general in-store traffic that we've had from being open for so long, people are ready and excited. We're expecting lines and energy to be strong.
WM: What can patients in Missouri expect in the first days and weeks of legal sales?
It's going to be a very slow roll, like many states that have gone before us experienced, until the supply chain catches up with demand. Because the number of cultivators through commencement, processing, and harvest is very low, but increasing everyday. There's two testing labs, one in St. Louis and one in Kansas City. Obviously patient safety in the roll out is paramount and tied to [testing labs]. It delays some things a bit, but for all the right reasons.
So what patients will see in Missouri is that we'll start out with flower. And then over time, as we get into the new year, you'll start to see different product lines develop. We have a manufacturing lab, so we'll be doing vape carts, tinctures, edibles, and gummies. But that's going to be a little down the road.
Specific to us, patients can expect that we'll be maintaining everybodys' health and wellness. We have a full protocol based on the pandemic. We'll put people through with masks and temperature taking and sanitation of everything. We have one-on-one experiences with our wellness specialists and patients based on capacity. We don't want people to feel rushed, they should really take their time. It's new to so many people, they should have the ultimate experience.
WM: What are Missouri's ambitions for medical cannabis? Or cannabis at large?
I think the best summary of the state's ambitions is when the voters in Missouri, over a year and a half ago, voted in Amendment 2 with more than 65% of the vote. The people want cannabis. That's where it all really begins, in my mind. There's an energy for the medicine, for the plant to make people's lives better. If you look at Missouri as a whole, our opioid epidemic, like much of the country, is high. Higher than it needs to be. I think what this medicine and this plant will be able to provide for so many is what drives the willingness to support it.
As you look longer term, it's the natural evolution. Once [medical cannabis] is successful and off the ground, people will have the energy for what's next for cannabis. And that's a complete adult use market like the 11 states that are currently in that position. We'll see that probably sooner than later.
Featured image by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps