Missouri has become one of the most successful states in the US in terms of cannabis sales, reaching over $1.2 billion in the first 11 months of legalized recreational use. The state’s cannabis trade association expects the total sales to surpass $1.3 billion by the end of the year, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the illegal market.
A Billion-Dollar Industry in the Making
Missouri voters approved Amendment 3 in November 2022, which legalized the possession, cultivation, and sale of cannabis for adults 21 and older. The first recreational dispensaries opened their doors on February 3, 2023, and since then, the demand for cannabis products has been soaring. According to the Missouri Division of Cannabis Regulations, licensed dispensaries have sold more than $1.2 billion worth of cannabis in 2023, with $285 million coming from medical cannabis sales. The state collects a 6% sales tax on adult-use cannabis, which is allocated to various programs, including the expungement of past nonviolent cannabis offenses, public education, and veterans’ services.
Missouri is not the only state that has seen a surge in cannabis sales in 2023. Four other states – Maryland, New York, Connecticut, and South Dakota – also launched their recreational cannabis markets this year, following the wave of legalization that swept across the country in 2022. However, Missouri has outperformed all of them in terms of sales, according to MJBizDaily, a leading cannabis industry news source. Missouri’s cannabis industry is also one of the fastest-growing in the nation, with more than 2,000 licensed businesses and over 30,000 employees, according to MoCannTrade, the state’s cannabis trade association.
The Holiday Season and Beyond
The cannabis industry in Missouri is expected to see a boost in sales during the holiday season, as consumers look for alternative ways to celebrate and cope with stress. Robin Goldstein, director of the Cannabis Economics Group at the University of California, told the Missouri Business Alert that licensed dispensaries have an edge over the illegal market in offering attractive packaging and products for the festive occasion. “That’s their (dispensaries’) competitive advantage in the holiday season, nice looking stuff and nice looking products,” Goldstein said.
However, Goldstein also cautioned that cannabis sales are unpredictable from year to year, and that the industry faces several challenges, such as regulatory uncertainty, banking restrictions, and competition from neighboring states. Sales in the state declined after the summer months and totaled about $112 million in November, according to the Division of Cannabis Regulations. Dan Freund, a co-owner of a dispensary in Farmington, Missouri, said that the industry is not as new and exciting as it was a couple of years ago. “We’re still growing quite a bit, but the penny is not as shiny as it was a couple of years ago,” Freund said.
Still, some dispensary owners are optimistic about the future of the industry, and expect to see increases in sales in January, when people choose cannabis over alcohol as part of their New Year’s resolutions, and in April, around the unofficial cannabis holiday of 4/20. Missouri is also preparing to host the Cannabis Science Conference Spring 2024, which will take place on May 7-9 in Kansas City, and showcase the latest research and innovations in the field of cannabis science.
A Model for Other States
Missouri’s success in legalizing and regulating cannabis has been praised by advocates and experts as a model for other states to follow. Missouri was the first state in the country to automatically expunge past nonviolent cannabis charges, without requiring individuals to file petitions or pay fees. More than 100,000 past offenses in the state have been automatically expunged in 2023, according to the Division of Cannabis Regulations. Missouri also has one of the most inclusive and diverse cannabis industries in the nation, with a 10% ownership requirement for minority- and women-owned businesses, and a 5% ownership requirement for veteran-owned businesses.
Missouri’s cannabis industry has also been praised for its resilience and adaptability in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted many sectors of the economy. The industry implemented safety measures, such as curbside pickup, delivery, and online ordering, to protect the health of customers and employees. The industry also donated money, masks, and hand sanitizer to local communities and frontline workers, and supported the efforts to vaccinate the population against the virus.
Missouri’s cannabis industry has proven to be a boon for the state’s economy, public health, and social justice, and has set an example for other states that are considering legalizing cannabis for recreational use. As the industry enters its second year of legalization, it hopes to continue to grow, innovate, and serve the needs and preferences of Missouri’s cannabis consumers.