Missouri selects applicants by lottery for first round of marijuana micro-license program

Missouri has randomly selected applicants for its first round of a licensing program aimed at helping small and minority-owned businesses break into the lucrative marijuana market, the state announced Monday.

The selection, however, doesn’t guarantee the applicant a facility license, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said in a news release. Rather, their applications will be reviewed for eligibility.

By early October, the state will award six micro-licenses in each of the state’s eight congressional districts for a total of 48 licenses. Of the six licenses in each district, two will be licenses for dispensaries, while the other four will be for wholesale facilities.

More than 1,600 applicants applied for the micro-license program between July 27 and Aug. 10.

Applicants not selected in the first round will be eligible to reapply during future rounds of licensing, the news release said. An additional 48 licenses will be awarded in 2024 and another 48 in 2025.

The program, which has drawn controversy, is overseen by the state health department, and is geared towards minority groups, lower income individuals and those who have been previously arrested for nonviolent marijuana offenses.

The program was intended to give marijuana licenses to owners who live in areas that have faced high rates of marijuana decriminalization, predominantly Black or other marginalized communities.

Groups such as the Missouri NAACP have criticized the program because some of the ZIP codes listed for areas with high rates of marijuana incarceration are heavily skewed towards rural parts of the state, away from the state’s two most diverse cities in Kansas City and St. Louis.

Marijuana crimes typically are pursued more aggressively in more conservative and rural parts of the state, which are less diverse.

In response to the criticism, the state health department tweaked the program allowing prospective applications to provide documents showing that while they may not meet the requirements, they should still qualify for a micro-license.

The Missouri Lottery conducted the drawing without reference to the identities of the applicants. They were listed in the order drawn. The lottery results, which are identifiable by the applicants, can be found at Cannabis.Mo.Gov.

The Star’s Kacen Bayless provided some information for this story.