MO marijuana dispensaries could promote sales under proposed rules



The proposed rules would allow dispensaries to sell small marijuana plants and would ban dispensary sales of delta-8.

Missouri medical marijuana officials proposed new rules this week that would let licensed dispensaries hold promotional events and publicize price discounts.

If they do so, state-licensed dispensaries would be required to include a disclaimer with any promotion that reads: “Medical decisions should not be made based on advertising. Consult a physician on the benefits and risks of particular medical marijuana products.”

News of the proposal comes after marijuana industry advocates spoke out against a warning to dispensaries issued by the Department of Health and Senior Services last summer.

According to a July 9 email from regulators, reported at the time by industry publication Greenway, Missouri dispensaries “are not allowed to advertise price discounts on a particular product because that would result in disbursing medical marijuana as part of a promotional event.”

The July email also said any holiday-themed pricing and promotions for medical marijuana products would be a no-no. Price discounts were allowed anytime, but dispensaries weren’t allowed to hype them, in a program that’s supposed to be medical.

Industry advocates argued that cannabis regulators might be well-intentioned, but Missouri rules forbidding price discount promotion had several problems: They were vague; they would have a chilling effect on patient education; and they would make it harder for low-income cannabis patients — who may already have paid a total well over $100 in clinic and state license fees to obtain a patient ID card — to shop around for lawful medicinal treatments.

A spokesperson for DHSS said Thursday that the department made the July 9 warning “because we observed a fairly widespread misunderstanding of the existing rule.” The department will gather feedback from the public on the proposed rules until Nov. 18, the spokesperson said. 

The Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association, or MoCannTrade, released a statement Thursday praising state regulators for softening their stance on price promotion, arguing that Missouri’s 150,000 licensed patients “were harmed by the former rule.”

MoCannTrade’s executive director, Andrew Mullins, said, “it is absolutely essential that patients have accurate, timely information and education that allows them to make good health decisions, and that’s exactly what this rule rewrite will allow them to do. Robust patient education is crucial to the program’s continued success and we are thankful DHSS recognized and acted on patients’ behalf. The program is stronger today for that responsiveness.”

David Olive, a Springfield-based cannabis lawyer, told the News-Leader in an interview that “we’re very pleased” that DHSS listened to industry’s feedback. “These new rules are consistent with the department’s stance that this is a medical industry and this is medicine for the patients.”

More: Federal judge removes Missouri’s residency requirement for marijuana business owners

Rules may allow dispensaries to sell marijuana plants, may ban delta-8

The new proposal also featured other key changes, including what Olive characterized as long-awaited “clear guidance” for dispensaries to install drive-through windows. Proposed rules ban dispensaries from hosting telehealth clinics on-site, where physicians provide the paperwork for patient ID cards. It also requires anyone working for a dispensary to be at least 18 years old.

The new rules would also allow Missouri dispensaries to sell marijuana seeds or plants, but only plants less than 8 inches tall (i.e., before they typically develop marijuana buds). Seeds and plants would have to be acquired from licensed cultivators only. Dispensaries would not be allowed to “alter the plant or care for it in any way other than watering.”

Finally, the new rules appear to ban popular hemp-derived products like delta-8. Delta-8 is “typically manufactured from hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD),” according to the FDA, and so is theoretically legal under federal laws allowing hemp extraction. It’s considered less potent than the delta-9 THC found in marijuana.

Missouri’s proposed rule states, “Dispensary facilities may not sell any product that contains cannabinoids created through chemical conversion of other compounds.”

More: As Missouri marijuana sales top $100 million for the year, Kearney Street gets a dispensary

Olive, the cannabis lawyer, said, “I think we’re going to be needing further guidance from the department” on the chemical conversion rule since it didn’t explicitly mention delta-8 or delta-9 products. 

But department spokesperson Lisa Cox said Thursday, “Yes, the intent of this draft revision is to prohibit dispensaries from selling these types of products” when the News-Leader asked about delta-8 and similar products. “We are considering whether such a prohibition is consistent with (Missouri’s medical marijuana amendment to the state constitution) and welcome public feedback for consideration on this issue.”

Cindy Northcutt, a Springfield-based cannabis attorney and a registered nurse, said the slate of proposed rules and clarifications were “a good thing for both patients and the industry.” She said she especially liked the potential ban on chemical conversion products being sold at permitted medical dispensaries. (The products are widely available from companies not required to have a medical marijuana business permit, and which may also sell other hemp items like CBD.)

“As an RN, I’m incredibly concerned about patients being sold compounds that have not been tested for safety in people,” she said in a message to the News-Leader. Delta-8 and similar products are seen as “questionably legal” by Northcutt and others, so she views DHSS’s proposed ban as “encouraging” for patient safety.

Reach News-Leader reporter Gregory Holman by emailing gholman@gannett.com. Please consider subscribing to support vital local journalism.



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