SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Desmond Morris owns Pride Auto Detailing in east Central Springfield but he's trying to expand his business portfolio with a much different product.
Morris and seven other partners are among the 97 medical marijuana applicants in the Springfield area and have already gotten the city's approval for a location even though the $60,000 they've already invested into the endeavor may all be for naught should they not receive state approval.
Morris' business would consist of a 12,000 sq. foot cultivation, manufacturing, and dispensary facility located on Enterprise Avenue where there's currently a Bob's Automotive Care business.
"We wanted to have control from the moment that the product is grown to the moment that it's dispensed," Morris said."That gives us the flexibility to develop products in-house that would be able to treat patients appropriately and have that control from the entire supply chain."
It's definitely a unique industry that's a new frontier with plenty of rules still be set by state regulators.
"Not ever has something like this gone from being illegal to legal," Morris said.
So that's why the whole process of setting up a company has been a difficult one like trying to get loans from banks who face the dilemma of dealing with a business whose product is legal in the state but illegal under federal law.
"If they were to take money in from a cannabis business and then loan that money out, you're essentially loaning money out that you got from a criminal enterprise from a federal standpoint," Morris said. "And that's what sometimes drives banks away (from making the loan)."
The 78-question application process is also very taxing covering everything from operating plans and security to technology and experience.
In the months leading up to the deadline Morris admitted, "We were in our office looking at computer screens 10 hours a day. The amount of red tape from the municipal level as well as the state level was daunting to say the least."
While Morris and his partners are all from the area, like many applicants they've brought in out-of-state experts to help them circumnavigate the difficult waters, people with prior involvement in the cannabis industry.
"The highest-weighted question in the application is ' What is your experience?' because this industry changes almost on a daily-weekly basis," Morris said.
Morris also knows this industry is still dealing with a certain stigma that has law enforcement, employers and the general public wondering just how our culture is going to adapt to this different way of looking at a once-forbidden product.
Morris even admitted that going to a local sheriff to visit with him about this new venture did feel a little strange.
"It was definitely surreal to sit in the sheriff's office and tell him that you're going to try and start a marijuana business," Morris said with a smile. "I made sure that my wife had my cellphone number in case she needed to bail me out."
The state will grant licenses to 24 dispensaries, 60 cultivators and 86 manufacturers in each congressional district in an approval process that should run until the end of this year.