ST. LOUIS — Medical marijuana was legalized in Missouri in 2018. Since then, the cannabis industry has quickly established itself to meet the needs of patients who have been approved to use medical marijuana. As of July 31, at least 33,000 patients in St. Louis were granted medical marijuana licenses.
Sales of the product officially started in October 2020. In the span of 10 months, sales statewide have grown from about $350,000 to $91.36 million, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services, a 26,000% growth.
Cultivating facilities, manufacturing facilities and dispensaries are scrambling to cash in on the huge demand. As of July, 59 cultivation facilities have been licensed in Missouri, with 13 in the St. Louis area.
We sat down with John Pennington, CEO of cannabis cultivation, manufacturing and retail company Proper Brands, to understand the industry as it stands today.
For readers who may not be familiar with the cannabis industry, give us a primer. You’ve got cultivators, (which are) the farmers that are growing the actual plant flower. Manufacturers are taking that plant byproduct and converting that into different SKUs of medicine or products. And then you've got retail.
How competitive is the industry? (The industry is) new and it's fast-paced and it's growing. You have more and more people who are getting educated and comfortable consuming cannabis every day. That's the beauty and the excitement of this. It really is a magical medicine that can help in dozens and dozens and dozens of ways. And the patient base is growing every day. Missouri has showcased that it's a real market. At one point we were seeing 3,000 to 4,000 new patients a day. It's still growing every week, and it should continue to have that trajectory. Naturally, this all starts with the plant — you can't create medicine and products without cultivators who are producing cannabis. And the demand is going to continue to grow, and ultimately the cultivators and the manufacturers will continue to support this growth.
What are some challenges in the industry? Right now, what we are seeing are global supply chain issues that impact day-to-day operations, and it impacts when things are ordered, and when ingredients get here and when packaging gets here. But the big piece right now is patient education. Whether or not you call it a challenge, it's a push. It’s our desire to make sure we keep giving back to the community, and we keep giving back to the patients. The patients of Missouri deserve quality product. So getting out in front and connecting with patients takes time.
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