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A Guide to Buying Cannabis in Missouri

While neither the Department of Health and Senior Services or any of the dispensaries they’ve licensed have confirmed opening dates, online sources speculate a mid-2020 launch of Missouri’s legal cannabis industry. Keep an eye on the DHSS website for the latest updates and regulatory news.

In the meantime, here’s what you should know about buying cannabis in Missouri.

What are the legal limits?

Patients and caregivers with a valid medical marijuana ID card issued by the DHSS may purchase and possess up to 4 ounces of flower and up to 8 grams of concentrates at a time, roughly a 60-day supply.

Patients can also cultivate their own plants in their home. They can grow up to six flowering plants each, in addition to six male plants (that don’t flower) and six clones grown from clippings, up to 18 total. To home-cultivate, patients must apply and pay for a separate cultivation ID card.

Individuals can obtain a medical marijuana ID card by receiving an official recommendation from a licensed, Missouri-based physician. This recommendation certifies that the patient has a qualifying condition that would be aided by medical cannabis use. Full details of qualifying conditions can be found on the DHSS website.

Patients must send the recommendation and completed application to the DHSS via its online application portal within 30 days of receipt. The application fee costs $25. A cultivation ID card costs an additional $100 and must be requested in the original application.

Patients may also designate a caregiver, who applies for a registered medical marijuana ID card separately. A caregiver is an individual the patient designates to purchase, possess, and administer medical marijuana on his or her behalf. A patient can assign up to two caregivers, and a caregiver can have up to three patients.

Parents must provide consent for patients under age 18 to apply for a registration card.

In a caregiver/patient relationship, only one person may have a cultivator license.

How do I buy cannabis in Missouri?

Patients and caregivers with a valid ID card can purchase medical marijuana from licensed Missouri dispensaries. As such, qualifying patients in other states will be unable to buy medical cannabis in Missouri though possession is allowed with an out-of-state medical marijuana card or equivalent.

Dispensaries will likely feature a limited supply of cannabis initially, as producers and cultivators received their licenses in January 2020 and need time to develop products for thousands of Missouri patients.

Patients can buy flower (the smokable part of the plant), edibles, concentrates, vaporizers, tinctures, and topicals at their local dispensaries.

Per Missouri law, dispensaries are required to charge a 4% sales tax on the sale of all cannabis products, in addition to any applicable state or local taxes.

Where can I consume cannabis?

Patients are prohibited from consuming cannabis in public and may only use medical marijuana in private. Public places include parks, bridges, sidewalks and streets, businesses, and schools.

Driving under the influence of cannabis is illegal and qualifies for similar impairment standards and punishments as other driving while intoxicated infractions.

What to expect my first time smoking?

The experience of a first-time cannabis consumer varies greatly. It depends on body chemistry, plant chemistry, and the consumption method used.

When smoking cannabis for the first time, you may or may not experience a high depending on whether you’re breathing correctly. Inhale the smoke into your lungs, but don’t hold it for long. Start slowly, with one or two hits, and wait about 15 minutes to observe cannabis’ effects on your system. You can always smoke more if your symptoms remain.

If you get too high, remember to stay hydrated. Orange juice or foods with black pepper work well to temper the effects of THC, as do CBD products. The feelings will pass in a few hours.

How do I find my dose?

There’s no one-size-fits-all method to cannabis dosing — every individual’s physiology and tolerance varies and responds to cannabis differently. Dosing also depends on the consumption method in questions, as smoking and eating edibles can produce different responses, even with the same amount of THC.

Some physician sources suggest that the correct dose is the lowest dose that works for an individual patient in the current moment. The common best practice is “less is more.”

Start with a small amount, such as one or two hits of a joint or a 5-milligram edible, and allow an appropriate amount of time to observe the effects. You’ll know if a dose is enough or whether you should consume more based on how you feel. The trick is to wait and carefully observe. Edibles take up to two hours to affect your system while some people report feeling effects within minutes of hitting a joint.

Knowledge is power. Dispensaries are required to provide and display lab-test results for every cannabis product they carry. These labels will show precisely how much THC and CBD is in each product. You can also ask your physician or budtender for advice.

Different cannabis consumption methods

Missouri medical marijuana patients enjoy a wealth of options when it comes to cannabis consumption.

Flower

Flower is the smokable part of cannabis that has undergone a drying/curing process. Also called “bud,” flower is most commonly smoked via a smoking accessory such as a pipe, bubbler, or bong. Flower comes in a variety of strains typically described as sativa, indica, or hybrid.

Strain classifications aren’t exact, as there’s no universal naming or effect-labeling convention in the cannabis industry. Ask your budtender, who can help you make an informed choice. Cannabis smoke often stimulates hunger, or gives you “the munchies”, depending on the plant and your body chemistry. You can usually control munchies by eating before smoking, distracting your appetite, or sampling different cannabis strains.

Prerolls

Flower can also be packed into prerolled joints, by far one of the most well-known methods of smoking cannabis. Many dispensaries have prerolls ready to purchase, saving patients the trouble of messing with papers and grinders. Joints are an easy-to-use choice for first-time cannabis consumers.

Edibles

Cannabis-infused foods are an effective and inconspicuous way to consume medical marijuana. Many dispensaries sell pre-packaged edibles like cookies, brownies, and many more food and drink options. Some producers create gluten-free, allergen-free, and vegan options.

While easier to consume, edibles are processed in the body somewhat differently than smoked cannabis. THC is processed in the liver, creating a much more potent and longer-lasting experience. It’s essential to start with a low dose, wait approximately 90 minutes to two hours, and then determine whether you need more. Edibles packages display THC doses in milligrams, allowing patients to choose doses effectively.

Concentrates

Concentrates or extracts are a highly potent method of cannabis consumption. Concentrates are cannabinoids extracted directly from cannabis flowers, resulting in a pure material that’s vaporized and inhaled. These forms of cannabis produce powerful effects and aren’t recommended for beginning users.

Some dispensaries sell vaporizers, handheld devices that contain cannabis oil, a heating element, and a battery. Missouri patients can vaporize cannabis oil and inhale the vapor discreetly, which makes vapes a good choice for patients who want to be unobtrusive. Vaping is also less harsh than smoking, which may better suit some patients’ needs.

Tinctures

Tinctures, sometimes called sublinguals, are concentrated extracts of THC in a carrier liquid like alcohol or oil that are placed under the tongue and absorbed in the mouth. They take approximately 15 to 30 minutes to kick in and are an excellent choice for discreet use and efficient self-dosing.

Topicals

Topicals are infused lotions, oils, salves, or creams designed to be applied directly to the skin. Topicals with lower levels of THC minimize the psychoactive effects.

Featured image by Tommy Brison/Shutterstock

Although the Department of Health hasn't confirmed opening dates, it's still a good idea to learn the ins and outs of buying cannabis in Missouri.

This Missouri Mom Fought Hard For Medical Marijuana. Now She’s Fighting To Pay Its High Price.

It took years for advocates to get medical marijuana legalized in Missouri, but when it’s finally available in 2020, they may face an even tougher challenge: paying for it.

Ashley Markum of Rogersville, Missouri, the mother of a young son who takes CBD to control seizures, was heavily involved in the legalization push. This year, she helped start a charity called Ayden’s Alliance to help families like hers take on what’s likely to be the high costs of treatment.

When her son Ayden was born 14 weeks early, he suffered a brain hemorrhage that left him with brain damage. Doctors discovered he had cerebral palsy.

Today, he’s 5 years old, mostly nonverbal and unable to move from his special chair.

Ayden has had low-level seizures since he was an infant, and they’ve been getting worse. Ashley and her husband Chris tried several anti-seizure drugs, but Chris said those made Ayden’s life miserable.

“Yes, it is incredibly important to control those seizures and stop that damaging brain activity, but at what expense?” Chris asked. “Some of the pharmaceuticals were just making him sedated, drool on himself, sleep all day long. You gotta look at quality of life.”

Chris and Ashley found that CBD oil reduced Ayden’s seizures with minimal side effects, and the family recently discovered a THC inhaler that they say can stop a seizure while it’s happening.

When Missouri voters approved a medical legalization measure last year, it was pitched not only as a way to help patients, but also as a huge business opportunity. Experts think that it will live up to expectations — at least on the business side.

“In Missouri, it does seem like there’s going to be significant demand for medical marijuana,” said Eli McVey, research editor for Marijuana Business Daily, based in Denver.

McVey said that Missouri’s flexible rules for businesses and patients may eventually lead to relatively low prices, similar to those in Colorado, where an ounce of flower, which patients smoke, can cost as little as $75 to $100.

But in the first year or two, prices may start at three times that.

“In the early days of a market, growers might lose a crop to mold or mildew, or it might fail testing,” McVey said. “There’s kinks that have to be worked out in the supply chain when it’s first coming off the ground.”

Insurance doesn’t cover medical marijuana, and patients will need annual doctors’ exams to review their green cards. Plus there will be the $25 annual cost for the card itself.

And unlike prescription drugs, medical marijuana in Missouri will come with a 4 percent sales tax attached.

Adding up the costs

For patients like Ayden, who will probably use cannabis every day, that will add up to big out-of-pocket expenses.

“It is a huge burden on patients,” said Debbie Churgai, interim director of Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana patient advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.

A survey conducted by Americans for Safe Access found that nearly a third of patients across the country pay more than $500 a month for cannabis.

For many, the costs are simply too much. Churgai said that, after getting a green card, some patients end up buying marijuana on the black market, where it’s cheaper than in dispensaries. But it doesn’t undergo the careful testing that medical marijuana receives.

In some places that have legalized recreational marijuana, prices have dropped further and many of those states have gotten rid of the sales tax for medical marijuana.

But that hasn’t always benefited medical users.

Churgai is concerned that growers and sellers might abandon medical users to pursue the recreational market. They could, for example, stop producing the lower-THC levels of cannabis that are often preferred by medical users.

“When they have adult-use (recreational) programs come in, we don’t want that to end the medical cannabis program,” Churgui said. “We want to make patients the priority.”

She added that the only real way to make medical marijuana affordable is for insurance companies to start covering it.

Ayden’s Alliance recently raised about $6,000 to help 26 families pay for medical cannabis.

Ashley said the charity’s rules prevent her family from accepting donations, so she’s looking for other ways to pay an additional $500 per month – the cost she estimated they will incur for CBD and THC products, which she said has given her son a better quality of life.

“I don’t think we would have had the handful of words that he has said or the interaction or the purposeful things that he has done without cannabis,” Markum said.

It took years for advocates to get medical marijuana legalized in Missouri, but when it’s finally available in 2020, they may face an even tougher…