ST. LOUIS ( -- The State of Missouri collected more than $3 million in application fees for the medical marijuana industry since voters legalized it in November.

A workshop is underway for people hoping to get into the medical marijuana business.

The group Canna Advisors is leading the event at UMSL, using their experience as one of the first licensed dispensaries in Colorado to guide their new clients in Missouri.

Clients like Paul Rieke who, after two decades in the insurance industry, is considering a career change.

“For Missouri, it's medical so it's really close to home for me for friends I know, family I know,” said Reike of the cannabis industry. “Just trying to produce medicine that can impact their daily lives.”

Reike is consulting with Canna Advisors to make his dream a reality.

The company's founder Diane Czarkowski said across the country, more people are more open to medical marijuana. She said her 91-year-old mother may be proof.

I moved her to Colorado over five years ago and she's got a lot of back problems and she relies on cannabis every day,” Czarkowski said.

The latest numbers from Missouri's Department of Health also show more people want in on the business.

418 applications have been pre-filed for cultivation, dispensary, or manufacturing facilities.

But entrepreneurs are often surprised by how much red-tape there is to get started.

“You just can't go to a bank like every other industry and ask for a business loan. It's not available,” Czarkowski said. “It's federally illegal still and the banks are federally regulated.”

Reike has discovered some surprises as he builds a team and business plan.

“The IRS, from a federal standpoint, still sees this as level one narcotic so I cannot operate a normal business with the same write-offs as I would for other industries,” he said.

Only a fraction of the applications will be granted in Missouri, and the $6,000-$10,000 fee is nonrefundable.

But Czarkowski has seen it can pay off.

“Like any industry, it takes a lot of hard work and takes time,” she said.

Those who just want to use, not sell, have to be approved for a medical marijuana card.

Those will cost $25 and the state will start accepting applications on July 4 this summer.

The first dispensary could be open in early 2020.

Copyright 2019 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved


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