Review: Chains, trade group members win pot licenses in Mo.

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Some of the biggest out-of-state marijuana chains and board members of a pot-related trade group in Missouri were among the top recipients of medical marijuana licenses in the state, according to a newspaper's review of records.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reviewed records and business registration reports related to the state's awarding of 338 licenses to grow, process or sell marijuana as Missouri's new medical marijuana industry gets off the ground.

Hundreds of applicants who did not receive licenses have complained about the state's procedures and Missouri lawmakers were scheduled to hear some of those complaints Wednesday. The unsuccessful applicants allege the company hired to blindly score more than 2,000 applications from 700 groups had conflicts of interest and committed scoring discrepancies.

In-state applicants were always concerned they would be left out of the medical marijuana program by out-of-state companies or Missourians with influential ties, said Tim McCorkle, a pharmaceutical engineer with a Fenton-based CBD retailer that is appealing license denials.

“They (Department of Health and Senior Services) had to create a program out of nothing,” McCorkle said. “But how do we know at the street level that ‘organization X’ got five licenses and everybody knows they’re not from around here? So how did that pass the system?”

The state agency has revealed only select information about the applicants, meaning the exact ownership of the marijuana businesses remains unclear. The public information includes the names of the limited liability companies that applied and a principal contact for each group but does not reveal investors or others with ownership stakes.

Based on the records review, the limited liability companies that won licenses to grow, process or sell marijuana — as well as 10 licenses to test marijuana and 21 licenses to transport marijuana — amounted to about 130 separate business groups, linked through business registration reports and a spreadsheet of principal contacts for marijuana license applicants released by the state last year.

The group that won the most licenses, the Pennsylvania-based multi-state marijuana business Justice Grown, won the maximum three cultivation, three manufacturing and five dispensary licenses allowed any one group.

The group, which filed as as JG Missouri LLC, is linked through the same contact listed on registration reports and state records to two other groups that won licenses in Missouri: TC AppliCo LLC, and Growing Jobs Missouri, which won seven licenses, according to the Post-Dispatch.

Other groups that appeared to have won at least five or more licenses include those tied to board members of the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association, or MoCann, which was founded by legalization advocates.

Board Chairman John Curtis and three other board members, for example, are executives with BeLeaf Medical, which won the second-most number of licenses in the state. The business, which since 2015 was one of two Missouri companies allowed to grow hemp to produce CBD oil, won a total of 10 marijuana business licenses.

MoCann’s spokesman, Jack Cardetti, said he is an investor in QPS Missouri Holdings, which won six licenses, with other local partners and the Michigan-based marijuana company C3 Industries.

“It should come as no surprise that some of the most engaged, talented, professional and prepared Missourians that are seeking to get into this industry would be successful in license applications,” Cardetti said. “A lot of our board members showed initiative early on and a willingness to give up their time to help build the industry here.”

Missouri voters made medical marijuana legal in a November 2018 vote, but because the drug must first be gown at approved sites and tested, sales aren’t expected to begun until this summer.

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