Chart: Missouri’s medical marijuana market draws thousands of applications

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A rush of applicants – including several prominent multistate operators – are vying for plant-touching licenses in Missouri’s highly anticipated medical marijuana market.

More than 2,200 applications were submitted for only 338 cultivation, manufacturing and dispensary licenses in the state, where annual sales could eventually reach $300 million.

That translates to roughly one license for every seven applications.

However, businesses were not restricted to submitting a single application. On average across all plant-touching sectors, applications submitted per applicant was 1.5.

This was slightly higher for dispensary applicants, which stood at 1.7 applications per applicant.

But these averages are driven by a small number of businesses submitting a large number of applications in an apparent bid to secure additional licenses and a larger footprint.

For example, only 17% of businesses accounted for 45% of dispensary license applications, having submitted three or more applications.

While Missouri requires at least 51% of any marijuana business be owned by a resident of the state, that hasn’t stopped several well-known out-of-state businesses from submitting multiple applications.

Chicago-based Cresco Labs – a publicly traded, vertically integrated business that operates in 12 states – applied for 30 licenses in Missouri.

Verano Holdings – also based in Chicago, though it is in the process of being acquired by Arizona-based Harvest Health & Recreation – submitted 18 applications. Once the Verano acquisition is complete, Harvest Health will hold licenses in 16 states – not counting Missouri.

Reasonable licensing fees, a liberal list of qualifying conditions and relatively high caps on the number of licensed businesses all contributed to the deluge of applications submitted to the state.

Missouri closed the application window at the end of August, and regulators are required to approve or deny an application within 150 days of the submission date. That means by mid-January 2020 all license winners likely will be announced.

If that timeline holds, medical marijuana sales in Missouri could begin by summer 2020.

Eli McVey can be reached at