Government & Politics

Hundreds in KC area vie for marijuana licenses. Here’s where they are hoping to open.

After months of research and preparation, then more than 18 hours spent uploading documents to the state’s medical marijuana application portal, Stacy Glazer is anxiously waiting.

The company the 52-year-old Kansas City native formed with her older brother — Mandala Corp. — is now in the running for four of the coveted licenses Missouri will hand out for medical marijuana-related businesses.

A third-party blind scorer, hired by the state, will soon begin evaluating more than 2,100 bids submitted by applicants. Winners will be announced at the end of the year. The hopefuls range from marijuana behemoths already operating in other states to entrepreneurs trying to launch new ventures.

In the two congressional districts that cover most of Kansas City, there are 626 applicants for licenses that span all five categories, according to a list provided by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Those categories include cultivation facilities where marijuana will be grown; manufacturing sites where marijuana-infused products will be made; testers to examine the product for abnormalities, and transporters to deliver the goods. The state is required to approve at least 10 testing facilities, 60 commercial growers and 86 manufacturers.

The public, namely those deemed eligible by a physician to qualify for a medical marijuana card, will most likely only interact with the fifth category: dispensaries where the products will be sold.

About 150 applications for dispensary licenses have been submitted for locations in Kansas City-proper.

Glazer is one of the applicants. She is contending for three more licenses at locations in Northmoor, Blue Springs and Liberty, respectively.

She first learned about marijuana and its medical effects from her father, who had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from serving in the Korean War.

From Missouri, Glazer worked with a dispensary in Nevada (where her father lived) to order products online for delivery to his home. She said she saw his appetite increase and anxiety lift.

“I saw it happen to a man that was struggling both mentally and physically and that’s when I decided this was something I wanted to pursue,” Glazer said.

The brother-sister duo don’t have a background in running a dispensary. Glazer, who has worked for multiple corporations, is a business consultant and her brother Chad Glazer, 54, owns Rudy’s Pizzeria in Lawrence, Kan.

“We are totally the smallest of the Davids versus the Goliaths,” she said.

Dispensary applicants

Competition for dispensary licenses—limited to 24 per congressional district—is fierce.

There are 350 dispensary applicants for the two districts that include the Kansas City area, and a wide swath of northern and western Missouri. That means at least 300 hopefuls will lose out.

In the 5th congressional district there are 188 dispensary applications. The district covers five counties, but applications have only been submitted for locations in Jackson and Clay counties. Most applicants are looking to open in those parts of the counties that are in Kansas City proper.

The 6th congressional district covers the entire northern stretch of Missouri. However, almost half of the 162 applicants want to open in Jackson, Clay and Platte counties.

Glazer said she purposely applied for only one license in 5th, knowing it would be the most competitive. Her other three dispensary applications are in the 6th.

Getting ready to open a dispensary is a “backwards” process, Glazer said. Aspirants have to tee up an entire business plan and pay some upfront costs without the assurance of a license.

Glazer chose to rent three commercial storefronts and purchased land for one of the dispensaries.

In trying to find the perfect location, Glazer hurdled over obstacles specific to the marijuana industry. Landlords were leery of renting out space and banks needed extra paperwork for the land purchase. The search was limited to towns that had zoning ordinances clearly covering medical marijuana businesses.

“I could be the first dispensary on the moon,” Glazer said, with a chuckle. “I could make that happen, I feel, at this point.”

Glazer is hoping her plans check enough of the boxes to give Mandala a competitive edge: dispensary equipment bids, 24-hour security, well-lit parking, open houses for community outreach, odor abatement measures and large signage for rules and regulations.

She has also pulled together a team with experience at dispensaries in other states.

“We are all about the patient experience and safety,” Glazer said.

Instead of raising the recommended $125,000 per dispensary license, Glazer said each of the proposed locations has at least $800,000 pledged. Investment came from private individuals, since venture capitalists were “tapped out” on marijuana start-ups and Glazer couldn’t approach banks for a business that is still illegal at the federal level.

“You don’t realize it until you get things going,” Glazer said, adding the biggest expense is holding costs for real estate.

Glazer said she realized that winning a license is only the beginning. She’s afraid that lawsuits filed by unsuccessful applicants will further delay the process, wracking up costs.

She’s hoping that Missouri’s rollout, which she said has been better than other states, will lessen the amount of litigation, if not the likelihood.

“It’s been a wild, wild ride,” Glazer said.

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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.