Strong legal weed sales fuel high hopes for some small Missouri towns | KCUR 89.3

In the first weekend of recreational cannabis sales in the state, Missourians spent more than $12 million on both recreational and medical products. The strong sales were despite many operators being caught by surprise; the opening of recreational sales came a few days earlier than expected.

Now, business owners are looking to the future of the industry in Missouri, and that’s not just happening in the biggest cities.

Brooke Foster was one CEO who was preparing to begin recreational sales on Monday but was caught off guard when the state gave the go-ahead to start selling Friday.

Foster is the CEO of COCO, which has a lab in Clarence, Missouri, and dispensaries in Chillicothe, Hannibal and Moberly. Her dispensaries essentially did a “soft open,” without advertising, on Friday and Saturday. Still, the business sold about 2½ times what it normally does on those days. And she said many people visited the dispensaries from other states.

“When I pulled into the parking lot, there was one Missouri car and all the rest were from out of state,” she said.

Foster runs the business with her son, who graduated from the University of Missouri and has a background in plant science. She sees this industry as a way to keep people like him in parts of Missouri that are losing young people.

“To be honest it’s mostly agricultural-type businesses up here, a lot of farming, and if you aren’t a farmer it seems like a lot of high school and college graduates typically leave this area,” Foster said. “So we really looked at this as an opportunity to help build north Missouri.”

To prepare for the new sales, many dispensaries added staff and ordered more supply. Good Day Farm extended operating hours and added 200 new employees across its 19 locations in Missouri.

“The biggest thing we’ll take away is, be prepared for the unexpected,” said Good Day Farm CEO Ryan Herget.

The company has locations in both big and small cities across the state. Herget said even stores in less populated areas exceeded expectations.

Another operation, Trinity Dispensaries, has locations in Rolla, Salem and St. James. The business started with a medical program, said Lacy Doerr, Trinity’s community outreach coordinator.

“We weren’t fully expecting to launch on Friday, but I think with how we had been preparing the past two months, we were able to make a really great weekend out of it, even though it was three days earlier,” Doerr said.

To prepare for new recreational customers, the company scaled up staffing and increased orders, but it also looked for ways to prioritize medical customers.

“It’s just been amazing to be able to serve a whole new market but still keep our med patients happy and feeling taken care of,” Doerr said.

That focus on medical patients could have helped the launch go smoother for Missouri cannabis businesses, said Jack Cardetti, a spokesperson for the Missouri Cannabis Trade Association.

“There were dispensaries that were operational in people’s own local communities,” Cardetti said. “That really provided a good base of infrastructure, so that we were able to avoid, quite frankly, a lot of issues that states have seen when they first go towards adult-use sales.”

Copyright 2023 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

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