Mike Cunningham

In November, voters went to the polls and approved Amendment 2, making Missouri the 32nd state to legalize the sale of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Last week, the state began accepting applications from Missourians who want to be in the business of cultivating, dispensing or manufacturing medical marijuana or marijuana-infused products. Previously, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services began processing applications from physicians and patients. More than 5,000 Missourians signed up.

In less than one year, the state of Missouri is on track to grow an entirely new industry. The constitutional amendment approved by the voters demands the state license, at minimum, 192 dispensaries, 60 cultivation facilities and 80 manufacturers.

The measure also called for two testing labs, but state officials want 10 to ensure the health and safety of Missourians. More than 600 potential applicants have already prefiled and paid a nonrefundable application fee, which ranges from $5,000 to $10,000 each.

Personally, I was not in favor of any of the three medical marijuana proposals on the ballot. I believed we needed more time to allow true medical professionals to research the effectiveness and possible ill effects of marijuana. The voters had a different idea, and Amendment 2 passed by a 2-1 margin.

My concerns were alleviated somewhat when the governor appointed Marshfield native Lyndall Fraker to oversee Missouri’s medical marijuana industry.

Fraker is familiar to many of us in south-central Missouri. He served four terms in the Missouri House of Representatives, from 2011 through 2019. He also managed Walmart stores, including the Marshfield location. His family has lived on the same farm for five decades. He’s active in his church and has served on a number of community boards.

Fraker might seem like an unlikely selection as Missouri’s marijuana czar. Known as a traditional conservative, Fraker says he’s never smoked marijuana. He certainly doesn’t look like many of the people who visited the Capitol to lobby for medical marijuana in the past. But the efficient and orderly way he’s shepherded the state’s adoption of medical marijuana suggests that the governor made a good choice.

Some observers expected Missouri authorities to drag their feet and delay adoption of medical marijuana. That has not been the case. The Department of Health and Senior Services begin distributing applications for medical marijuana cards ahead of schedule and has already begun issuing ID cards.

Fraker has also taken great strides to ensure that the process for granting licenses is fair and free of controversy. Applicants for licenses will be reviewed by an independent panel who will not be provided the names of the applicants. This blind scoring guarantees that favoritism plays no part in the selection process.

Fraker understands organizations, management and business. It appears he is just what the doctor ordered to get medical marijuana off the ground in Missouri. In a relatively short period of time, we could see hundreds of small businesses spring up around the state, each involved in providing a product that has long been illegal to possess.

Some estimates suggest that medical marijuana will eventually be a $100 million-per-year industry in Missouri. Careful oversight will be required to make sure that Missouri’s medical marijuana industry remains true to the purpose the voters approved. 

Missouri voters overwhelmingly endorsed medical marijuana, and my friend Lyndall seems committed to honoring their choice. He has spent much of 2019 driving around the state, speaking to groups and educating Missourians about medical marijuana.

He routinely appears at community meetings, Chamber functions and other public gatherings to explain how medical marijuana will work in Missouri and guide people in taking part, either as a patient or a provider. If you would like him to speak to your group, reach out to his office. I’m confident he will accommodate your request.

Just a few short years ago I would not have believed that Missouri would embrace medical marijuana, but the voters have spoken. If we’re going to allow it, we need to make sure it’s done right. I’m glad we have a good man like Lyndall Fraker watching over the process. 

For more information about medical marijuana in Missouri, or to register as a patient or caregiver, call 866-219-0165, or visit www.health.mo.gov/safety/medical-marijuana. The website includes a list of qualifying conditions and sections of frequently asked questions directed at producers, providers and patients.

It is my great honor to represent the citizens of the 33rd Senatorial District. Although the Legislature has adjourned for 2019, I remain your senator throughout the year. If there’s anything that I can do to assist you, please feel free to contact my Capitol office at 573-751-1882.

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