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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri opened its first medical marijuana dispensary last October and now there are more than 140 across the state, with more to come.

The state’s medical cannabis industry employs roughly 5,000 people. Earlier this summer, Governor Mike Parson vetoed a bill that would have allowed medical marijuana business owners to deduct their expenses, but the head of the state program says that won’t stop the multi-million-dollar industry.

“The sales revenue is pleasantly surprising,” Lyndall Fraker, director of the section of medical marijuana with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, said. “At the end of July, we surpassed $91 million in sales.”

Voters in the Show Me State passed an amendment in 2018 legalizing medical marijuana. Missouri was the 33rd state to legalize cannabis as medicine. Fraker said all medical marijuana sold in the state is grown in Missouri.

“The amendment that was voted on said that we should open the minimum number at least, which was 192 dispensaries,” Fraker said. “As of today, we have 142 open We’ve done the math and based on the number of quantities that each patient can purchase each month, how much product it would take to serve the patient base and we think we are going to be good for five or six years.”

Fraker said he believes the other 50 dispensaries could be open by the end of the year.

In the month of August, the industry generated more than $113 million in sales. Part of the amendment voters passed; after expenses are paid, the revenue goes towards the Missouri Veterans Commission.

“We have transferred $2.1 million over to the veterans,” Fraker said. “We did that last year and we are getting ready to make a transfer, much bigger than that one.”

Fraker said the department will release the total later this month when they transfer over the money. There’s an additional 4% sales tax on all medical marijuana products purchased in Missouri.

Currently, only half of the number of cultivators are producing in the state and Fraker said some of the delays are due to the pandemic. He said 29 are open currently and the goal is 63 locations which he expects a majority of those to come online in the next three months.

“Being able to get equipment, being able to get building materials, delays with some city governments and things like that,” Fraker said. “There’s quite a lot of product being harvested out there today and it’s serving those 142 dispensaries. Plus, we have about 40 manufacturers that are operating out of the 86.”

In total, there are 248 facilities involved in Missouri’s medical cannabis industry that serves roughly 134,000 patients. Fraker said he also expects that number to rise to about 180,000 over the next year.

Starting this year, patients are allowed to have their own home cultivation as long as all seeds are purchased from a dispensary. Patients can have up to 18 plants in their home at one time, but only six mature plants are producing.

“There’s not any place in the state that’s not accessible within 50 minutes to a dispensary from anywhere in the state,” Fraker said. “We have 348 facilities that we have licensed. Our first goal is to get all 348 of those operating.

Fraker said the governor supported Senate Bill 226 which allowed medical marijuana business owners to deduct their expenses, but there were pieces of the large bill he didn’t agree with. The veto session starts Sept. 15 and he said if it’s not taken up then, he hopes to address it next season.

“It’s a huge burden in Missouri to have to pay tax on the full amount of sales and not just the profit of sales which is unlike any other business that I know of,” Fraker said. “All other business can deduct their expenses and you then you pay on the profit.”