ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Dozens of people lined the sidewalk outside of N'Bliss in Manchester on Saturday morning, awaiting the official first sale of medical marijuana in Missouri's history.
N'Bliss is the first dispensary to open in Missouri, with several more around the state expected to follow in the coming days and weeks. The store opened earlier this year to sell CBD products. Now, those with a medical marijuana card can enter the dispensary.
“We all have someone that’s had challenges maybe with opioids or they’re looking for some alternatives and it’s finally here," said N'Bliss CEO Bradford Goette.
Larry Simpson was the first patient to purchase medical marijuana in the state of Missouri. Accompanied by his wife, he explained the struggles he endured after being diagnosed with stomach cancer last year.
"When I came home from the hospital initially after surgery, I had a whole list of things you don’t want to take," Simpson said. "Morphine, OxyContin, this, that … I took none of that.”
Instead, he tried a medical marijuana gummy and a Tylenol.
“I would have never thought I would ever have any value for marijuana but it has changed my life," he said.
Simpson said the edibles helped get him through his chemotherapy, a change his wife Sue, a nurse, noticed as well.
"I looked at him and he was helping me, we were refinishing some furniture, it was a beautiful day and the sun was shining," she said. "He felt good and I thought, 'who is this young, happy person going through this?' It was just a tremendous difference."
The state health department limits the amount of medical marijuana that can be purchased to 4 oz for a 30-day supply. Because the supply chain is just getting started, N'Bliss is limiting patients to 1 oz for the time being. In the coming months, it expects to add vapes, edibles and topicals to its product line.
N'Bliss is working with Perryville based Archimedes as its supplier of the marijuana.
"To finally be here at this point, it's really an honor because we know how much it means to so many people who have been waiting and fighting for this for years," said Erin Moore, Archimedes' Chief Scientific Officer.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has licensed a total of 192 retail dispensaries, 24 in each of the state's eight congressional districts.
Additionally, 60 cultivation sites have been approved to grow medical marijuana.
Moore said the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the process for cultivators, who require inspections and interviews from the state.
Across Missouri, more than 65,000 people have medical marijuana cards, with another 12,000 currently awaiting approval. In 2018, Missouri voters approved an amendment to the state Constitution allowing the sale of medical marijuana.
The industry's anticipated economic impact in Missouri is estimated at $800 million in direct spending by 2021.
For those skeptical of the idea, Simpson encourages them to give it a try.
“Give it a chance," he said. "It’s not like you’re going to walk around like you’re stoned or your high or anything, but it will improve your overall well-being.”
N'Bliss also opened a store location in Ellisville on Saturday.