The seeds for the medical marijuana industry in Jefferson County have been planted, and soon dispensaries will be sprouting up around the area.
Missouri voters approved a constitutional amendment to authorize the use of marijuana for medical purposes in November 2018, and this past January, the state Department of Health and Senior Services awarded licenses for six medical marijuana dispensaries in Jefferson County, contingent on meeting guidelines developed by Jefferson County and its cities.
Five of those dispensaries – in Imperial, Festus, south of Festus, Pevely and Hillsboro – have since secured the local approval needed to proceed, and at least some of them may be open by the end of the year.
The other dispensary that received a state license – at 3 Walters Place in House Springs – is in the approval process.
The Jefferson County Planning and Zoning Commission is scheduled on Oct. 22 to discuss plans to open the House Springs dispensary – essentially a store that sells medical marijuana by prescription. At that meeting, the commission will hold a public hearing on a conditional-use permit application and make a recommendation for approval or denial to the County Commission.
The Jefferson County Council voted unanimously Aug. 10 to approve a conditional-use permit to allow the county’s first dispensary at 1229 Imperial Main street near I-55.
The proposed site in the Main Street Plaza shopping center anchored by a Frankie Gianino’s restaurant.
Attorney Michael Sayers represented the applicant, VG Imperial LLC of St. Louis, at a July 9 public hearing before the P and Z board. At that hearing, Sayers acknowledged the historic nature of the request.
“It’s always a challenge being the first of anything,” he said. “This is untested waters.”
Sayers said his client is prepared to meet all conditions spelled out by the state and county outlining the operation of the store.
“The staff referred to this as something like a pharmacy or a drug store,” Sayers said. “I’d go so far as to say that this is a drug store or pharmacy on steroids, given how stringent the security will be in this facility.”
Michael Dierkes, a former St. Louis County police officer and former director of the state’s Department of Homeland Security, spoke on the security measures he directed the owners of the store to put into place.
“I tend to go a little overboard on safety and security,” he said. “We will not only meet, we’ll exceed any standards set forth.”
Dierkes said he has overseen security at five medical marijuana dispensaries for two ownership groups.
In addition to conditions requiring security cameras, a fireproof vault to store cash and a secure stockroom, Dierkes said procedures will be put in place to ensure product deliveries are scheduled at different times and days, only a small inventory will be in the store and cash will not be held overnight.
No one spoke against the application, and one Imperial resident, Michael Barczeweski, spoke in favor of it.
Barczeweski said medical marijuana helps his wife, suffered a stroke several years ago and lost her mobility and had other issues
“I did some research into the prescription drugs her doctors were giving her that were giving her problems,” he said. “There were a lot of bad side effects. Some of them were narcotics.”
Barczeweski said he learned medical marijuana might be a better alternative, so he and his wife visited Boulder, Colo., after that state legalized marijuana for both medicinal and recreational uses.
“The dispensary we went to was a prime example of professionalism,” he said. “We talked to someone about my wife’s condition, and they recommended a product that she was comfortable taking. We had better results.”
When Missouri approved the use of medical marijuana, she applied for a card to get prescriptions for it, Barczeweski said.
“I’m registered as her caregiver,” he said. “It’s nice to know that a dispensary will be three miles down the road.”
The Festus City Council was next, voting unanimously Aug. 24 to approve a conditional-use permit for a medical marijuana dispensary at 1168 W. Gannon Drive.
Prior to the vote, some council members said they were worried about allowing such an enterprise in the city. However, City Administrator Greg Camp told them those businesses are legal and the applicant, Occidental Group Inc. of St. Louis, had followed all of the state and city requirements to open such a facility.
“We’re glad to see a responsible group coming into our community,” he said.
Chris Chesley, one of the members of Occidental Group, said he and his partners hope to have the dispensary open by the end of the year.
He also said the company is opening a medical marijuana dispensary in University City.
South of Festus
The Jefferson County Council voted unanimously Sept. 14 to approve plans for three medical marijuana facilities to be located on one site at 2285 Hwy. 67 south of Festus at its Sept. 14 meeting.
Conditional-use permits were approved for a dispensary, a transportation facility and a manufacturing facility, all to be operated by Nirvana Investments and Bold Lane Logistics LLC of Fenton.
Council members approved the applications without comment.
The site is on 4.89 acres south of Buck Creek Road in what used to be One Stop Boat and Motor.
Bradford Goette of Nirvana Investments said the three buildings on the Festus site lent itself to housing the three separate uses.
“I guess it is kind of a one-stop operation,” Goette said. “We haven’t done it like that before. But this seems the perfect place.”
The dispensary will be in front of the complex and will be the only portion open to the public.
The transportation facility will be the logistics center for shipping out product elsewhere, and under state law, the manufacturing side will make medicinal marijuana-infused products.
Goette said he hopes to open the Festus location by the end of the year.
He said his company also has applied for the conditional-use permit to operate the dispensary in House Springs and also plans to open a facility in Farmington.
Goette also said his companies have other operations in Manchester and Ellisville in St. Louis County.
Pevely and Hillsboro
North Medical Group has begun construction on structures in Pevely and Hillsboro to house medical marijuana dispensaries.
The company also is targeting December openings for its dispensaries.
However, that depends on the availability of marijuana, said Zach Mangelsdorf, one of the owners of the business.
The Pevely site will be at 1709 Hwy. Z, with access through the driveway leading to the Super 8 Motel, 1711 Hwy. Z. The dispensary will be built north of the motel.
“Both are ground-up buildings,” Mangelsdorf said. “Both will be constructed by mid-December.
“Our openings will depend on supply. Right now, we’re just waiting for cultivators to pass inspection with the (Missouri) Department of Health and Senior Services.”
The Pevely Board of Aldermen voted 6-0 Sept. 14 to approve the North Medical Group’s application for a business license.
Because a medical marijuana dispensary is an allowed use in a business zone, conditional-use permits were not needed in Pevely or Hillsboro.
The site in Hillsboro is in the Peachtree Plaza at Business 21 and Hwy. B.
City Administrator Jesse Wallis said North Medical Group has secured a building permit, and a business license is not required by the city.