Medical marijuana advocates across Missouri anxiously awaited midnight Friday, with one of the leading trade groups expecting more than 1,000 applications for licenses to grow, test and sell the newly legal substance.

Some, however, felt it was better to wait a bit — but not too long — to submit medical marijuana facilities applications.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services will begin accepting medical marijuana facilities applications Saturday through midnight Aug. 17. Through July 30, the health department received 592 pre-filed medical marijuana facilities applications.

Jack Cardetti, a spokesman for the trade group MoCannTrade, said he expects more than 1,000 facilities applications to be filed by the time the health department closes the application window. Just 338 licenses will be issued initially statewide.

“Tomorrow starts a very, very important part of implementing this medical marijuana program,” Cardetti said Friday morning on a conference call with reporters. “There is certainly no lack of interest in this program.”

Health department officials began accepting patient and qualified caregiver applications June 28. Through the close of business Thursday the health department received 5,153 patient applications and approved 4,847 applications, said health department spokeswoman Lisa Cox.

Most unapproved applications have not been denied, Cox said. Instead there’s a slight backlog. At times the health department also needed more information from patients.

“There have been some that we’ve had to push back for some additional information,” Cox said. “But it’s not really caused a delay.”

Under Amendment 2, which legalized medical marijuana, qualified patients or caregivers who apply for and receive cultivation licenses may grow up to six flowering plants. All qualifying patient cultivation must take place in an enclosed locked facility equipped with security devices that only permit access by the qualified patient or caregiver.

Steven Faber serves as the executive director of the marijuana advocacy group Mid-Missouri NORML. Faber took an interest in marijuana legalization as a sophomore in college around 1973 and compared waiting for the application window to open to waiting for bar exam or election results.

Even though the spotlight is on facility applications, Faber said qualified patients with cultivation licenses are already growing medical marijuana in Missouri

“Patient cultivation is up and going,” Faber said.

Lance Dugan and his partners plan to apply for a cultivation license. When reached around 3:45 p.m. Friday, Dugan felt relaxed.

He and his partners still need to finish some of the work on the application, finish locking down some of his financing and do some security work on the building they plan to use. Dugan wants to take his time and fill out the application properly. He, like others, knows the competition will be fierce and the odds are not in his favor.

His partners all want to be together when they send the application in, and one lives out of town. The health department gives people two weeks to turn applications in, Dugan said. So, they likely will turn it in next weekend.

“I have a feeling the system is probably going to be crashed at midnight,” Dugan said. “I know some people are going to wait right up to the end (of the window).”

Warrick Wadman and his partners plan to apply for cultivation, dispensary and medical marijuana infused-products manufacturing facility licenses. He felt uncertain around 4 p.m. Friday that the state would approve all three applications.

If the state approves all three applications, it likely will take an investment of between $1.5 and $2 million, Wadman said. Cultivation center applicants need to show the state they have access to $300,000 in cash, Wadman said. Dispensary and infusion center applicants need to show they have access to $150,000 in cash, Wadman said.

Wadman plans to wait until next Friday to turn in his group’s application.

“My thought is, if they have issues to get some of those issues tangled out,” Wadman said. “Then we’ll put it in. Then if for some reason if we want to change something it’s right in the middle of the two week window.”

Statewide, 192 dispensary licenses, 60 cultivation center and 86 infusion center licenses will be granted, the minimum required under Amendment 2.

By Dec. 31, the health department must begin approving applications filed Saturday. Cardetti said most cultivation centers, infusion centers and dispensaries will likely open next spring or summer.

Critics of the program say that minority communities who disproportionately bore the brunt of the War on Drugs will be excluded as the state legalizes marijuana, even if only for medical use at the moment.

The health department will not give minority-owned applicants an edge over others. A question on the application does ask about diverse hiring practices, Cardetti said.

“That really is the main question on the application,” Cardetti said. “There’s not really other places.”

Other states severely limit the number of medical marijuana facilities licenses. Previously Cardetti served as a spokesman for A New Approach Missouri, which put Amendment 2 on the ballot. Because 338 licenses will be issued, Cardetti hopes a diverse pool of applicants will be result in a diverse pool of licensees.

Derek Mays, a St. Louis lawyer and founder of REAL Cannabis, plans to apply for infusion center and dispensary licenses, according to the Riverfront Times. When Mays incorporated his business in 2017, he wanted to help people historically omitted from the legal-cannabis industry, he said on Friday’s conference call.

Mays said Amendment 2 did not allow special consideration to be given to minority-owned businesses. Bonus points will be given to applicants who place facilities in rural and urban areas with high levels of unemployment, Mays said.

“Those are ways that diversity can be taken into consideration, but it’s not as expressed as some applicants would desire.”