Government & Politics

Who wants to sell marijuana in Kansas City? Lots of folks, according to state records

Ripples of medical marijuana good for local business

Missouri’s new medical marijuana program is projected to be a $100 million-per-year industry by 2025. Bennie Palmentere of River Market Hydro has hired a web designer, increased advertising and is looking for a warehouse for his growing business.
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Missouri’s new medical marijuana program is projected to be a $100 million-per-year industry by 2025. Bennie Palmentere of River Market Hydro has hired a web designer, increased advertising and is looking for a warehouse for his growing business.

More than 140 applicants—from out-of-state corporations to the governor’s niece—are vying for licenses to grow, manufacture or dispense medical marijuana in the Kansas City area, according to a list released by the state health department Tuesday.

The names of more than 550 applicants who pre-filed license fees with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) were made available only after a prolonged legal battle with The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which sued the agency after its Sunshine request was denied. A Cole County Circuit Court judge sided with the newspaper Tuesday. After deciding against an appeal, DHSS released a spreadsheet of applicants’ names, addresses and anticipated facility location Tuesday.

DHSS, which is charged with regulating the burgeoning industry, will begin to process applications Aug. 3. Not all applicants will obtain a license. The agency has until Dec. 31 to sign off on 192 dispensaries, 86 infused-product manufacturing facilities and 60 cultivation facilities for the entire state.

In order to be considered, applicants for cultivation facilities had to hand over a nonrefundable fee of $10,000. For a manufacturing or dispensary license, the fee is $6,000. As of June 20, the state has collected $3.9 million in fees.

Licensees are expected spend thousands more in the coming months to get their businesses off the ground.

The applicants’ experience in the marijuana industry varies. Curaleaf, a Massachusetts-based behemoth active in 11 states, is looking to open six Missouri dispensaries, as well as a manufacturing and cultivation facility in Independence.

However, applicants also include lawyers, businessmen, pharmacists, doctors and public relations professionals.

Steve Mitchem, an evangelist turned luxury jeweler, pre-filed for 9 marijuana-related business licenses in the Kansas City area. His company, Clovr Cannabis, is headquartered in Kansas City, according to its website.

Mitchem and his son have been accused of charging illegally high rates and dodging usury laws in other states through their online payday lending businesses.

Having invested in dispensaries in Colorado, Mitchem has long been involved in trying to bring marijuana to Missouri. Questions to Clovr, including whether Mitchem was still involved in the payday lending industry, were not answered Tuesday.

At least 65 applicants have stated that they hope to open up shop within the Kansas City limits. The Kansas City Council is in the midst of working out an ordinance that would dictate the size of buffer zones around schools, churches and daycare facilities.

Todd Smidt, along with partner Adam Fichman, are trying for all three types of marijuana-related businesses and hope to locate them near record store 7th Heaven on Troost Ave, which is run by Fichman’s father.

The two, who met through Fichman’s website design company Lifted Logic, do not have experience in the marijuana industry, but jumped at the opportunity.

“It’s a nontraditional path to help people,” Smidt said.

Among the applicants to open a dispensary in Kansas City is Lesa Parson, Gov. Mike Parson’s niece. A blind scoring system, operated by an outside contractor, keeps any applicant from receiving preferential treatment, according to the Office of Administration, which is tasked with procuring the independent scorer.

Parson, who runs an embalming service, said she didn’t want to comment on family when asked about her relationship with Parson. She said she is still working on finalizing her application for the dispensary.

“It’s very expensive and I’m not a wealthy person,” Parson said, with a chuckle, before declining to answer further questions.

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Crystal Thomas covers Missouri politics for The Kansas City Star. An Illinois native and a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, she has experience covering state and local government.
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