While legal weed is coming to Missouri, medical marijuana program lawsuits are still pending ” Missouri

JEFFERSON CITY — As Missouri regulators work to launch a recreational marijuana program, hundreds of lawsuits related to the introduction of medicinal cannabis in 2019 remain in legal limbo.

Of the more than 880 lawsuits filed by companies that failed to obtain a limited number of licenses to grow, transport, and sell medical marijuana, 430 are still weaving through the state Administrative Hearings Commission process.

Mary Erickson, a spokeswoman for AHC, said the remaining cases are at various stages of litigation.

“In some cases, decisions are pending after hearings, while some cases have been scheduled for hearings,” Erickson said.

Due to the volume of cases, the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services has had to hire private, outside attorneys for more than $10.2 million, including more than $700,000 since July 1.

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And AHC has a job opening to fill an attorney position that will focus primarily on medical marijuana cases. The temporary position, which can be performed remotely, pays up to $60,000.

“Ideal opportunity for experienced lawyers to continue working as a lawyer in the short term and to receive state benefits,” says the job advertisement.

As part of the licensing process to launch the state’s legalized medical marijuana program, the state received 2,266 marijuana business applications submitted by at least 700 different groups. It issued 60 licenses to grow marijuana, 86 to manufacture marijuana-infused products, and 192 to open dispensaries.

Many of the companies that did not obtain licenses indicate that the government’s rating system for awarding permits was flawed.

A review of the Hearings Commission list shows it will be well into next year before they are likely to be resolved.

For example, a March 2020 case involving Dream Leaf LLC, which failed to obtain a license, shows the parties may not meet in court until March or April.

Dream Leaf had applied to open a facility in Clay County near Kansas City, but DHSS said local regulations prohibit a pharmacy from operating. In addition, the company claims that the scoring system used to determine winners and losers was wrong.

Now those who received medical licenses are lining up for the new recreational licenses approved as part of a constitutional amendment in the Nov. 8 vote.

The amendment, approved by 53% of voters, gives current medical marijuana licensees the right to “convert” their medical licenses to recreational licenses.

Companies can apply for “broad” sales permits on December 8th.

The state then has 60 days to respond to those requests, making February 6th the date by which the state would have to approve conversion requests filed on December 8th.

DHSS spokeswoman Lisa Cox previously told the Post-Dispatch that officials expect to convert licenses “before the 60-day deadline once we have submitted comprehensive facility rules.”

Missouri is now among 21 states that have legalized recreational cannabis. Maryland voters also approved legalization on Election Day. Voters in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota opposed similar measures.

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