A medical marijuana dispensary will be the highest regulated business in Rolla; the regular sales tax of 7.6 percent for the city will apply with the addition of a 1 percent increase in sales tax if shopping in the Move Rolla Transportation Development District or shopping in the Forum Plaza Community Improvement District, so money generated from the sale of medical marijuana will come back into the city's government.

In November 2018 voters passed Missouri Constitutional Amendment 2 at the state-level, and the state defines to a greater or lesser extent the regulations as to anything associated with Amendment 2, however local communities have input on the time, place and manner of the disposition of medical marijuana without the local jurisdiction creating a burden.

 

Mayor of Rolla, Louis Magdits, opened Monday's city council meeting, which marked the initiation of the formal process for implementing Amendment 2 and amending Chapter 42 Article III of the Rolla City Code pertaining to medical marijuana, and the location of future dispensaries, as well as signage and hours of operation that are among the items decided on the local level.  

 

Along that vein, Magdits introduced, Jack Cardetti, who set forth in explaining what the city will be preparing for in the upcoming months in relation to what falls under Amendment 2.

 

Cardetti grew up in St. James, and was the general consultant and the spokesman for Amendment 2 last year, and currently works for the organization, Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association. The association is going throughout the state talking with different localities and working with the Missouri Municipal League.

 

The Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association is an association of business owners, health care providers, professionals and patients responsible for helping put in place a successful, safe and compliant medical marijuana program in Missouri, and represents its members and the industry by working with state government, including the Department of Health and Senior Services, to develop and implement policies, rules and regulations.

 

Cardetti explained the law, how it came to be and what the responsibility of Rolla’s governing board will be as the city prepares for its part of the implementation of medical marijuana. 

 

In November Missourians went to the polls and voted by a large majority — 66 percent — for Amendment 2 to make Missouri the 33rd state to have a medical marijuana program.

 

Thirty-two other states have a medical marijuana program. They are not all the same, but successful implementation depends on the state and local level being able to look at this issue and decide what’s best for their communities, Cardetti said.

 

Cardetti explained the importance of what Amendment 2 does, and what Amendment 2 doesn’t do, since the amendment isn’t for recreational use of marijuana or adult use of marijuana, but the amendment is for medical marijuana.

 

Only people who have a medical marijuana card, which has to be certified by a state licensed physician will be able to participate in the program. Amendment 2 allows qualified patients with debilitating medical conditions to use medical marijuana under the supervision of their doctors.

 

Amendment 2 lays out 10 qualifying conditions including cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, intractable migraines unresponsive to other treatment, a chronic medical condition that causes severe persistent muscle spasms, including those associated with multiple sclerosis, seizures, Parkinson’s disease and Tourette syndrome; debilitating psychiatric disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder, if diagnosed by a state licensed psychiatrist, HIV and other conditions that allow someone to qualify as a patient for Missouri’s program.

 

The amendment creates licensing for facilities at the state-level for cultivation, manufacturing and dispensing medical marijuana regulated by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

 

There are essentially three types of licenses, Cardetti said. There is the cultivation license, which there will be 60 of the licenses statewide that allow medical marijuana to be grown in the state. There will be 86 infused-product licenses, which is where one will take the medical marijuana and form it into an edible, oil or vapor.

 

Then you have what the local level will deal with the most —  the dispensaries, that will actually be the only retail location where someone with a medical marijuana card will physically be able to gain access to medical marijuana. According to Cardetti, there will be 192 dispensaries throughout the state — 24 dispensaries will be in the 8th Congressional District that goes all the way from Rolla up to suburban St. Louis, down to Cape Girardeau and down to the Arkansas border.

 

“If I had to sit here and predict today, I would say likely Rolla would have one or two dispensaries here, so what you guys are going to embark on here is a process defined by ordinance,” Cardetti said. “Where do you want those in the city, where does it make sense, where does it make sense for patients to access those, where does it fit in with the community, and a lot of communities are going through this process right now.”

 

Amendment 2 on the local level carries a lot of weight, since this will be the most highly regulated business in the city. No one is allowed to open a dispensary in Rolla unless the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services approves the person’s application.

 

“There will be four or five applications for every license, and they actually are selected on that highly competitive basis,” Cardetti said. “They will have a license from the state, then the city will tell the person where in the community the city would essentially like them to operate.”

 

The additional tension of medical marijuana being legal in 33 states but still illegal on the federal level creates the requirements that the dispensaries must stay within the borders of Missouri, and there can’t be any interstate commerce because on the federal level marijuana remains illegal.

 

On the other hand, an independently owned pharmacy in Rolla could be a dispensary, along with any business owners, Cardetti said.

 

Rigorous testing and labeling of medical marijuana products is required under Amendment 2, and the constitutional amendment further generates millions of dollars in new tax revenues for programs to benefit Missouri veterans, according to Cardetti — the regular sales tax in Rolla applies when it comes to the sale of medical marijuana.

 

Rolla currently has a sales tax of 7.6 percent, and additional 1 percent sales tax when shopping in the Move Rolla Transportation Development District as well as when shopping in the Forum Plaza Community Improvement District.

 

And, while it is important what Amendment 2 allows, it is important what isn’t allowed under Amendment 2.

 

Cardetti said, Amendment 2 doesn’t legalize marijuana for general use – only qualified patients, certified by physicians and registered with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services may legally use medical marijuana under the amendment. Based on patient counts from other medical marijuana states, experts expect only 2-to-3 percent of Missourians to possess a patient card with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, and even that would take some time.

 

“We predict that in the State of Missouri that after three years of implementation somewhere between 2.5 percent of Missouri will have a medical marijuana card,” Cardetti said. “Here in Rolla 98 percent of people will never be able to walk into this facility.”

 

The initial thing a person is required to do when they walk into a future medical marijuana facility in Rolla is they will have to hand in their medical marijuana card, that will then be checked to verify identification, and there will also be a check to make sure the person hasn’t purchased more than the allotted amount of medical marijuana under the amendment.

 

Amendment 2 doesn’t allow for any unregulated sales, all commercial sales will be tracked by a seed-to-sale tracking system. Patients will be limited to how much they can purchase each month.

 

“The Department of Health and Senior Services will carry out onsite inspections any time they want, so it’s a very highly regulated system, 32 other states have this system, and this is what has worked out well in them,” Cardetti said.

 

There won’t be a dispensary on every street corner in Rolla. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services can restrict the number of dispensary licenses to approximately one for every 32,000 Missouri residents.

 

Cardetti then explained the upcoming timeline for residents. On June 4, the Department of Health and Senior Services will make applications available to both patients and those who want to operate one of the facilities. A total of 499 pre-filed application forms and fees totaling $3.6 million have been received by the Department of Health and Senior Services as of April 25, 2019 – and a total of 18 dispensary application forms have been collected from the 8th Congressional District that Rolla falls under.

 

Starting Aug. 3, for two weeks, between Aug. 3 and Aug. 17, 2019, the Department of Health and Senior Services will actually accept the applications, and then score them blindly by a third party to determine who the best operators are going to be in the state and who will actually have those licenses.

 

“When people apply for these licenses Aug. 3, it’s not going to be enough to say, ‘I want to put a dispensary in Rolla.’ You will have to show the Department of Health and Senior Services that you have the real estate, the list of specific address, to show you have legal control of that real estate, and show them what your specific security plan is going to be,” Cardetti said.

 

All of that has to be completed by Aug. 3, 2019, when applications are turned in, and that is why cities across Missouri are looking at putting their local ordinances in place.

 

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has rules and regulations that they are continuing to put out, Cardetti explained, and local governments can’t ban medical marijuana dispensaries, but they can institute ordinances that heavily regulate time, place and manner.

 

Under the Missouri Constitution Article XIV Section 7 (11) no medical marijuana facility shall be initially cited within 1,000 feet of a school, church or daycare. Local cities and local municipalities may not ban these facilities, but what they can change the setback for dispensaries, since in many instances 1,000 feet would put whole chunks of the city out of reach for patients.

 

“This section allows local governments to come in and reduce the 1,000 foot setback if they want to, and it also allows the local municipality to set time, place and manner regulations, hours of operation and things pertaining to that are definitely where cities are taking a look at,” Cardetti said.

 

According to Cardetti, St. Louis has introduced their ordinance that reduces the 1,000 foot setback to no setback, since it’s an urban setting, and instead they are regulating dispensaries with land use permits.

 

“No city is ever going to allow a medical marijuana facility in a residential setting, they are going in and looking, does it make sense in retail or commercial, and that is how the city of St. Louis is regulating where these facilities are going to be,” Cardetti said.

 

St. Joseph has passed an ordinance that reduces setback to 300 feet, Creve Coeur has passed an ordinance that reduces setback to 300 feet, O’Fallon, passed an ordinance that reduces setback to 750 feet, Warrensburg passed an ordinance that keeps setback at 1,000 feet, Ellisville passed an ordinance that reduces setback to 300 feet and Kirksville passed an ordinance that has no setback for the location of medical marijuana dispensaries, Cardetti noted.

 

“Dispensaries are medical establishments like a pharmacy or health care clinic and should be treated as such for purposes of zoning. The amendment’s language and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services have consistently said patient access should be a priority for local communities,” Cardetti said.

 

And these dispensaries will bring sizable sales tax contribution and many jobs to communities. According to Cardetti, the Missouri State Auditor projects dispensaries will generate approximately $6 million annually for local governments and $18 million for the state.

 

The community will have public hearings in the upcoming weeks to consider an ordinance that will amend Rolla City Code. The Rolla Planning and Zoning Commission will conduct a public hearing at Rolla City Hall on May 14, 2019 at 5:30 p.m. and the City Council will conduct a public hearing on May 20, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. at Rolla City Hall. The public may comment on the proposal at these meetings, and official comments will be filed with Rolla’s Community Development Department.