Health Care

Most people wanting to sell medical marijuana around KC will be denied, director says

The director of Missouri’s new medical marijuana program said Tuesday that the majority of people who want to sell the product in the Kansas City area won’t be granted licenses this year.

Lyndall Fraker said it’s purely a numbers game: The state plans to license the minimum number of dispensaries allowed under the constitutional amendment voters approved in November. That’s 24 in each of the state’s congressional districts. Yet in District 5 — which includes most of Kansas City, Independence, Lee’s Summit and Blue Springs — more than triple that number, 73 people, have already pre-filed applications.

“Lot of disappointed people there,” Fraker said during a stop in Kansas City.

The state won’t start vetting applications to grow, manufacture or sell medical marijuana products until Aug. 3. But for months it has been accepting pre-filed application fees — a non-refundable $6,000 for a dispensary license — to begin funding regulatory operations.

District 5, a mostly urban district represented by Democrat Emanuel Cleaver, led the state in pre-filed dispensary applications as of last month, with no other district above 50.

District 6, a mostly rural area that includes parts of the Northland and is represented by Republican Sam Graves, only had 17 applications.

“Everyone who applied in Graves’ district might get one, if this holds true,” Fraker said.

Steve Shaver, a Kansas City businessman in District 5 who has applied for a dispensary license, said he would be disappointed if he didn’t get one because of the $6,000 fee he can’t get back.

“Well I hope they look at the people within — the residents of Missouri — first and not outside investors (partnering) with someone that is a resident,” Shaver said. “(And) people with some type of business background.”

Shaver said he took some solace in the fact that any licensing fee money the state doesn’t use is slated to go toward programs for military veterans.

“Well, that’s a plus,” Shaver said. “I’m a flag flyer.”

Nathan Duckworth, another District 5 resident who has applied for a dispensary license, said he was already anticipating that a lot of applicants would get turned down.

He declined to comment further, on the advice of his attorney.

“We trust in the process and we will be able to speak with you guys after everything has gone over in the system,” Duckworth said.

Lyndall Fraker, right, the director of Missouri’s medical marijuana program, talks to Cassidy McCrite, director of McCrite Plaza at Briarcliff, after Fraker gave a presentation to residents of the assisted living community. Andy Marso

Fraker said the state is taking a cautious approach by granting only the minimum number of licenses initially but could grant more in future years.

“We need to see first if these numbers will be sufficient,” said Fraker, who was visiting the McCrite Plaza retirement community in Kansas City, North, on Tuesday as part of a series of presentations about the program around the state.

Todd Smidt, another dispensary applicant from District 5, said he hopes he’s among the first wave of 24 to get a license, but he’ll re-apply next year if he’s not.

Smidt said it’s wise for the state to take a cautious approach.

“I trust them to pick the best 24 and obviously this is a big step for Missouri, so they probably don’t want to have a dispensary on every corner,” Smidt said.

Fraker said an independent third party with no stake in any of the license applications will be in charge of scoring them based on a number of criteria to determine who gets a license.

The scorers won’t see the names of any of the applicants, just their qualifications.

The state has until the end of December to decide who gets licenses, and the first legal marijuana in Missouri probably won’t be sold until early next year.

Some people of color in Kansas City have said that they fear the licenses will end up going disproportionately to white people, which has happened in other states. It would be a cruel irony, they say, given that their communities were disproportionately targeted during decades of marijuana prohibition.

Kansas City-area legislators had pushed for the state to add some measures to give women and people of color a slight edge in the scoring process but their bills went nowhere.

As for patients hoping to use medical marijuana, the state began accepting applications on June 28, six days ahead of the constitutional deadline. The state has 30 days to process each application. See

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Kansas City Star health reporter Andy Marso was part of a Pulitzer Prize-finalist team at The Star and previously won state and regional awards at the Topeka Capital-Journal and Kansas Health Institute News Service. He has written two books, including one about his near-fatal bout with meningitis.