Cassville home to one of state’s first medical marijuana dispensaries

Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 7:04 PM CDT
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A lot of things have been put on the back burner since the coronavirus pandemic came along including Missouri’s attempt at starting up a medical marijuana industry.

But slowly the various parts of the supply chain from seed-to-sale are starting to come to life. Missouri issued 60 licenses for commercial cultivators, 86 for cannabis processors, and 192 for medical marijuana dispensaries but only a handful of operations are now open with one of the first dispensaries in a small town in Barry County.

It’s a beautiful fall day in Cassville where the “winds of change” don’t just refer to the changing colors of the leaves and the “new normal” doesn’t pertain to the effects of the pandemic.

The “change” and the “new normal” also refer to the Cassville Dispensary, one of the first medical marijuana dispensaries in the state opened within a half-mile of Main Street and owned by Dr. Lisa Roark, who has a family medical clinic in town.

Featuring patient consultant areas, a showroom, a drive-thru and a security vault, the dispensary is the culmination of two years of blood, sweat and tears to get through the enormous red tape and financial investment needed to get a license.

“I don’t think there are words," replied Store Manager Charlea Estes-Jones when asked what it felt like to finally see the dispensary open. "It has been such a long road.”

And that road still has its twists and turns because while the dispensary is selling accessories as well as hemp and CBD products, they don’t actually have any THC medical marijuana on hand yet because the other parts of the supply chain are just getting started too.

“The biggest issue is just that so few cultivators have plants in the ground," Estes-Jones. "We have been assured that we will have product very soon. We had multiple cultivators who had flower that was ready. We’re just waiting for that flower to get finished with testing.”

The store hopes to have the THC medical marijuana in-house within the next two weeks.

“The problem is when you only have a couple of people who are growing there’s not a lot of incentive to lower that price of those initial pounds of flower that are going to be delivered,” Estes-Jones explained. “We’re going to try and keep our prices as low as we can.”

Estes-Jones expects to see a packed house when the THC medical marijuana does arrive and says her staff can handle about 240 patients per Brittany Pinnell.

Brittany Pinnell is among those who is excited about having the dispensary in town as she is a medical-card qualifying patient for medical marijuana.

“I was prescribed a pill for my anxiety and depression and just like everybody else I’m sure it made you feel tired and sluggish, just kind of blah," she said of her attempts at taking conventional medicine.

So Brittany traded her pills for a dab pen filled with cannabis oil and saw a marked difference.

“It is a great substitute," she said. "Instead of taking the pills and narcotics you have a natural-based medicine that helps with the anxiety, it helps with the sleeping. I’m just glad it’s an option in our community.”

An option that will still take some time for people to get used to which is why the store has reached out to educate the community about the once illegal product that voters overwhelmingly approved for its medical uses.

“We started educating the community really early on,” Estes-Jones said. “Dr. Roark has presented to Rotary. Last year pre-COVID we had a booth at the chili cook-off. We even held law enforcement training so they’d know patients rights. It was easy in a sense to educate our community because they all knew someone it could help. It just getting the right information out there to break that kind of ‘stoner stigma’.”

“I feel in time people will get rid of that stigma," Pinnell added. "It’s just part of the change that’s gonna happen.”

People who qualify for medical marijuana are also allowed to grow their own and the dispensary also offers accessories for growers even though it may cut into their profit margin. Estes-Jones says the business also supports the move afoot to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

“From our perspective we’d be willing to open up as a recreational and medical facility,” she said. “We believe in improving access for adult use. However, I would like to see the medical program get up off the ground before we see a more widespread availability of cannabis flower.”

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