Medical cannabis association prepared to work with Missouri policymakers

EARTH CITY, Mo. – Missouri voters overwhelmingly supported the passage of Amendment 2 in the November general election and since then the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association has been receiving calls from individuals who are interested in accessing the cannabis industry.

Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association was officially founded in early 2018. The reason behind founding the organization was because Missouri, at the moment, has a very limited medical cannabis program – it’s CBD only – and there are only two licensees in the state, BeLeaf Company and Noah’s Arc Foundation-MO (NAFMO), both of which have a limited number of potential customers in Missouri due to the wording of the law.

John Curtis, director of production at BeLeaf and co-chair of Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association, and Dr. David Sciortino, member of NAFMO and co-chair of the association, decided to form the trade association in order to advocate their interests.

“And as the law changes to provide greater access for medical cannabis in Missouri, we’ll be in a good position to direct the direction of the trade association and try to bring on people that we think will be positive forces in the industry,” Curtis said.

Curtis and Sciortino formed the group with an eye toward already being a functioning organization – if and when Missouri expanded access to medical cannabis, which has now happened.

Curtis explained that BeLeaf, as a company, operates no different now than it did prior to the vote in favor of Amendment 2.

“The law is not fully implemented,” Curtis said. “Currently we are only able to do what we have always been able to do which is cultivate high CBD cannabis plants and the extract the oil to offer for intractable epilepsy patients.”

Intractable epilepsy has a specific definition that is fairly difficult to receive. Those at BeLeaf see the worst of the worst in terms of individuals who have epilepsy, often children.

Despite the success that BeLeaf has had in cultivating CBD, the company, as well as Noah’s Arc Foundation, gets phone calls every day from people who want access to their product, or other cannabis-derived products to be available.

“We’re now able to say, ‘Although we can’t help you at this time, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, we see how and when this is going to change,’” Curtis said.

BeLeaf advises the people who call to check the Department of Health and Senior Services website for the timeline as well as read Amendment 2, which answers a lot of their questions.

“That’s really the perspective of the BeLeaf Company,” Curtis said. “Which is different than the Missouri Cannabis Trade Association.”

Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association executive director, Andrew Mullins, handles the day-to-day operations. Curtis and Sciortino provide Mullins with guidance and work with him to set the agenda for the board director meetings. Through the agenda, the board can give Curtis, Sciortino and Mullins direction on what they want to be implemented and how they want it to be done.

The association had their third board meeting on Tuesday night and according to Curtis is went very well. A government affairs committee was formed and has begun working with lobbyist and former speaker of the house, Steve Tilley. The associate believes that Tilley will help them make themselves available to the state to work with and implement this program.

As of right now, the central task facing the association is for them to make themselves available to policymakers in the state, primarily health and senior services. By doing so, the policymakers, if they would like to, can avail themselves of the experience that the association has in the cannabis industry and the state of Missouri.

Curtis and his business partner at BeLeaf, Mitch Meyers, have extensive experience in the cannabis industry in other states as well as experience in the state of Missouri and complying with Missouri law. The same is true for the Noah’s Arc Foundation.

Along with the board having experience in the cannabis world, there are also the organization’s physicians, patient advocates and attorneys who are familiar with working on the regulations.

“We’re taking all of that and hoping to work closely with health and senior services on the implementation of rules and regulations and basically the rollout of the program in Missouri,” Curtis said.

In a long-term view, the association plans to develop a well-functioning medical cannabis industry in Missouri, meaning that the goals of Amendment 2 are fully implemented and will provide access to medical cannabis across the state.

“We also believe that there is a growing economic development component to that,” Curtis said. “We’ve seen that in other states and we believe that Missouri should work to implement this program in such a way as to allow for that economic development to take place here.”

Curtis and Sciortino also work with outreach and receiving phone calls from individuals who are interested in understanding the implementation of the program. Whether it is at the ownership level, being an employee, the patient perspective or licensee perspective, there is a growth of economic development. The association is looking at the likelihood of thousands of “family supporting” jobs being created.

“We really run the gambit from production to adding value in the manufacturing level to dispensing at a medical retail level. It’s there that we will see the primary job creation,” Curtis said. “Around that will be a whole other level of economic activity which includes what we refer to as allied industries.”

There have to be electricians to help with the construction and cultivation of facilities, greenhouse constructors, security, attorneys, accountants and more.

“Basically, the industries that spring up around to support the medical cannabis industry will also drive economic activity,” Curtis said. “That’s why we think that the jobs that are likely to be created from this program will number in the many, many thousands.”

Curtis thinks that there is a lot of interest from out of state; actors in the cannabis state who see Missouri as a place with 6+ million people and two thriving metropolitan areas.

“Amendment 2 requires majority Missouri resident ownership, but I think that we will see out of state actors come in and partner with Missourians to form companies here and take advantage of the law that was passed by voters.,” Curtis said.