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What to expect from early days of Missouri cannabis as first stores open their doors

Missouri's first medical marijuana shops opened in the St. Louis region on Saturday to long lines and a chorus of celebration from an industry that had long waited for the day to come.

N'Bliss Cannabis stories Manchester and Ellisville began selling cannabis a 9 a.m. Saturday to legal medical marijuana cardholders.

The first official sale of legal marijuana in Missouri went to a cancer surviver who was accompanied by his wife, a registered nurse, according to the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association, which goes by MoCannTrade.

Missouri voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana sales by passing Amendment 2 in November 2018 with 65.54% approval. The measure went into effect on Dec. 5, 2018, but it took 22 months to get to the point where medical marijuana businesses can go operational. That's the fifth-fastest out of the 21 states that passed medical marijuana since 2005, behind Oklahoma, Minnesota, Utah and Pennsylvania.

The key came last month, when the state Department of Health and Senior Services said EKG Labs, a medical marijuana testing facility in St. Louis, passed its commencement inspection. That meant the state had now approved cultivation, dispensary and testing facilities, opening the door for retail sales to begin.

But N'Bliss didn't sit around waiting for all that to happen.

To prepare for legal medical marijuana sales, CEO Bradford Goette, speaking to the website Weedmaps.com, said his Manchester and Ellisville stores first opened in June and August selling CBD, a legal and nonintoxicating cannabis extract.

"Part of our preparation was having the retail open, being able to engage customers that are coming in, answer their questions, learn how to scan items, and work in a cash environment," he said. "We're fortunate to have been out in front."

Legal recreational marijuana sales — in which medical marijuana cards are not required — began in Illinois in January. Since then, the state has collected more than $100 million in marijuana tax revenue from the state's 67 licensed dispensaries, according to the Chicago Tribune. Those retailers sold $68 million of marijuana in September, topping August by $4 million, according to the Tribune.

But in the earliest days in January, some Illinois dispensaries struggled with replenishing supplies while the production side of the state's cannabis industry ramped up.

Goette told Weedmaps to expect something similar in Missouri. He said additional product types will roll out as the industry matures.

"It's going to be a very slow roll, like many states that have gone before us experienced, until the supply chain catches up with demand," he told Weedmaps.com. "Because the number of cultivators through commencement, processing, and harvest is very low, but increasing everyday."

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