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Business owners want to open at least 89 marijuana dispensaries in the St. Louis area, according to state data released Tuesday.

As of June 20, regulators had received pre-filed application fees from people who want to open at least 137 businesses that grow marijuana, make infused products and sell both across St. Louis city and six surrounding counties, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. The department published a map Tuesday that breaks down the number of marijuana business applications in each Missouri county.

Most of the marijuana business applications are concentrated in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas, with each receiving nearly 90 applications to open marijuana dispensaries.

The state won’t accept formal applications until Aug. 3, but has allowed groups to pay the associated fees — $10,000 to grow marijuana, $6,000 to make or sell it, as well as to sell infused products. Missouri had raked in nearly $3.9 million in fees from 543 applications statewide as of Tuesday.

The state had planned to keep identities of applicants secret. The Post-Dispatch sued the state in January to release the names. A Cole County judge on Friday granted the newspaper’s motion for summary judgment to force the state to release the records but delayed the effective date of his order so the state could decide whether to appeal.

Missouri became the 33rd state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes after 65% of voters in November approved Amendment 2, starting a stampede of business owners looking to capitalize on the new market. Sales of the various forms of the products are to start early next year and are expected to top $100 million by 2025. Tax proceeds and licensing fees are supposed to go into a new veterans health care fund, and are expected to generate about $20 million a year.

Many applicants have been long at work on their business plans, anticipating a competitive process to gain entry to the regulated industry. DHSS released formal application forms June 4 and will accept business applications Aug. 3-17. The state expects to start licensing businesses in December. Applicants need hundreds of thousands in cash and must describe details of their business plans, including odor control, security and economic impact.

The map DHSS published shows the applications to grow, sell or manufacture marijuana or infused-products are mostly concentrated around major cities in the state; large swaths of north, south and central Missouri are not included in the applicants’ plans.

Jackson County, which includes part of Kansas City, had the most applicants in the state: 69 dispensary applicants, 21 grower applicants, and 14 who want to make infused products. St. Louis County came in second with 51 dispensary applicants and 17 grower applicants.

The number of dispensaries authorized in each Missouri county is to be determined by U.S. Congressional District. Missouri is required by law to approve at least 60 commercial growers, 86 facilities that manufacture marijuana-infused products and 192 dispensary licenses — 24 dispensaries for each of Missouri’s eight congressional districts.

That makes for at least 48 dispensaries in the St. Louis metro area. Two congressional districts cover St. Louis and St. Louis County and parts of St. Charles and Jefferson counties. Other Missouri counties in the metro area will likely get some of the dispensaries allocated to two congressional districts that stretch west to Jefferson City and south to the state border.

The state will also license up to 10 medical marijuana testing facilities.

Women and minority business owners have said they’re concerned Missouri’s marijuana industry will be disproportionately white and male, as it has been nationwide. Business applicants have also said they are concerned marijuana industry insiders from other states could cut locals out of a large share of the market, despite state law requiring at least half of any state-approved marijuana business be owned by Missouri residents.

On Friday, Missouri will begin accepting applications from people who want to use marijuana to treat a number of qualifying medical conditions.

Nassim Benchaabane • 314-340-8167

@NassimBnchabane on Twitter

nbenchaabane@post-dispatch.com

This article originally ran on stltoday.com.

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