ST. LOUIS — A local marijuana company is among two Missouri businesses now able to legally grow the plant after passing inspections by the state’s Department of Health and Senior Services.
The two growers, Earth City-based BeLeaf Medical and Perryville-based Archimedes Medical Holdings LLC, are the first Missouri businesses officially permitted to grow marijuana.
A BeLeaf cultivation facility at 13378 Lakefront Drive in Earth City and an Archimedes growing facility at 14593 State Highway B in Perryville recently completed commencement inspections with DHSS.
The inspection is the final step for a facility to receive approval to operate in the state. The DHSS is tasked with regulating the state’s new medical marijuana program. In all, about 60 commercial marijuana-growing facilities are expected to operate in Missouri.
“This is a big step forward for patients in Missouri,” Lyndall Fraker, director of the Section for Medical Marijuana Regulation with DHSS, wrote in a Tuesday release. “We know qualified patients are eager to see dispensary doors open up in our state, and having cultivators now able to grow and soon supply these other facilities is something we are all very pleased to see.”
Sales of medical marijuana were expected to begin sometime this summer before facility inspections were delayed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. BeLeaf plans to begin selling wholesale marijuana to dispensaries in the last few months of 2020, executive John Curtis said in a written statement.
While at least 7,500 licensed patients can grow marijuana at home and commercial growers are now receiving licenses to grow the plant, legally obtaining marijuana seeds remains a gray area. Transferring seeds across state lines remains a felony, and obtaining seeds from the illicit market is illegal. Regulators are expected to look the other way while growers obtain seeds until after Dec. 31, when anyone growing marijuana legally must obtain seeds or plants from a Missouri business licensed by the state.
Missouri has issued licenses to at least 25,000 people who applied to use marijuana for medical purposes after they were certified by physicians as having qualifying conditions including cancer, epilepsy, immunodeficiency, chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder and terminal illnesses. That includes private caregivers licensed to process and transport marijuana for patients medically unable to do so, and cardholders who also applied for a second license to grow a limited amount of marijuana at home.
Archimedes and BeLeaf have both come under scrutiny for alleged conflicts of interest in Missouri’s competitive marijuana business licensing process as part of criticism by lawmakers and hundreds of spurned applicants.
The Post-Dispatch reported in February that BeLeaf Medical won the second-most medical marijuana licenses in the state. The business, which since 2015 was one of two Missouri companies allowed to grow hemp to produce CBD oil, won a total of 10 marijuana business licenses. Four BeLeaf executives were board members of the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association, an industry trade group that retains former House Speaker Steve Tilley, a political ally of Gov. Mike Parson, as a lobbyist.
Archimedes, which also obtained multiple business licenses including a license for a second growing operation at the same location in Perryville, has donated to Parson, Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger reported in May.