After a long road riddled with delays due to COVID-19 and state regulations, Dent County will open its first dispensary today (Tuesday). A grand opening is set for Friday.
Nature’s Health and Wellness, LLC is a Missouri company formed by Missouri residents, according to a press release dated Feb. 4. The business is named Trinity and will operate at 803 West Scenic Rivers Blvd Suite A. Hours of operation are 11 am. until 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
“Our company consists of a unique combination of Missouri residents with deep ties to the communities where we plan to operate, and experienced medical marijuana experts, all with a shared passion for medical marijuana and patient care,” the press release shared.
Local partners of the business are Wayna Woolman and Cathy Simpson.
Simpson shared her desire to help members of the community where she was raised.
“We were at the dinner table after the legislation passed. I said ‘I want to help people,’ and I feel I am blessed to be able to do it,” she shared.
With the opioid epidemic sweeping the country, opioid overdose deaths in Missouri were up more than 30 percent in 2020. Many people see medical marijuana as a safer alternative to prescription drugs that can often fall into the wrong hands.
“There is a physical and psychological dependency that can occur after prescription drugs are used for chronic pain or PTSD, or other illnesses or ailments,” said Simpson. The group bringing medical marijuana to Dent and Phelps counties hopes to see the opioid dependency decrease.
Local contractors and construction companies have provided work on all three locations of Trinity, which include Salem, Rolla and St. James.
The press release detailed plans for its licensed dispensary locations. The company was initially the lone entity to receive dispensary licenses in either Dent County or Phelps County.
Missouri voters approved Amendment 2 by 65.5 percent in November of 2018. Medical marijuana dispensary sales began Oct. 16, 2020. As of late April, sales totaled $35,679,927.
Data available through the Department of Health and Senior Services show through April 2021, 136,000 patient applications have been submitted. DHSS lists the number of patient applications approved in a range, by county. Dent and Texas counties total 250-499 approved; Phelps and Crawford, 500-1,999; Iron and Reynolds, 249 and under.
Statewide applications have grown exponentially over the past few months, according to data provided by DHSS. In February, about 7,500 applications were approved; in the month April, 13,477 were approved.
The medical marijuana-related licenses, including dispensaries, were awarded by DHSS following an extensive application process and blind scoring for applicants.
Nature’s Health and Wellness General Manager Adam Stacey resides in Springfield. The LLC will do business as Trinity in each of the three locations.
In spring of 2019 the application began for the group, who will partner to bring the dispensaries to the area. A lot of groundwork had to be completed before the application could commence. Plans for security at the facility, financial reviews and planned locations are just part of the extensive work. Proposed location was one of the trickiest obstacles as cities can set regulations for distance away from city parks, existing elementary or secondary schools, daycares, or churches.
Other obstacles were presented due to COVID-19 in mid-spring of 2020. As entities were awarded licensing, delays in construction and materials for remodeled or new structures began to occur. Cultivation facilities saw delays with growth. DHSS saw delays in manpower due to quarantines and shutdowns.
This ultimately led to a delay from the top, down. Before a product comes to a dispensary for the sale to patients, it follows a comprehensive testing schedule.
Referred to as seed-to-sale tracking, all products in Missouri dispensaries must be 100 percent produced in Missouri. The tracking is under the directive of Missouri’s Medical Marijuana Regulatory Program (MMRP).
Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting & Compliance (METRC) will assist with this progression. According to www.metrc.com/Missouri, Metrc is an integrated system that allows for real-time tracking and tracing of marijuana plants and products. Licensees attach unique, serialized tags to every plant or wholesale package. These tags feature readable text, barcodes, and RFID chips to uniquely identify each plant and package physically and in the online platform. Cultivators, manufacturers, and dispensaries then enter information related to those plants and packages, including weight, transfer of custody, and test results in an online software platform. That information is available to the individual licensee and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
A product is grown by a licensed cultivator, then sent to a licensed testing facility. There are under a dozen testing facilities in the state who have obtained a license, approximately five are operational at this time, according to Stacey.
From the testing facility, a licensed transporter will deliver products to the dispensary.
When a patient enters one of the Trinity dispensaries, they must present a government-issued ID and a medical marijuana card. From there, they are allowed to enter the sales floor. Sales associates referred to as budtenders will assist the patients with a purchase. The only products available on the floor are non-regulated products. Budtenders will pull regulated products from inventory, as they are ordered by patients from a kiosk or personally through the associate.
Budtenders can offer consultation on products to patients who are new to medical marijuana.
Metrc tracks the amount purchased by each patient, and is shared on the state-wide database to ensure patients cannot obtain more than the recommended dosages per month.
Around 30 jobs in Rolla, St. James and Salem are expected to be created in the first year, as around 10 employees will be hired at each of the facilities.
One of the driving forces behind the original amendment passed in 2018 was the funding going to veteran organizations. In addition to sales tax, a four percent tax on retail sales at each dispensary in Missouri is earmarked for veterans organizations.
Stacey is a U.S. Marine veteran and all of those involved with Trinity hope to assist veterans, both with jobs and by the sales funding additional programming for veterans.