Missouri judge dismisses case contesting cannabis cultivation license limits


Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Missouri’s cannabis cultivation licensing regulations will not be changed, following a recent ruling by state Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce. In an order that extended over 37 pages, Joyce affirmed that the existing scope of rules surrounding cultivation licensing are reasonable and need not be amended.

A request to amend the regulations came from state resident Paul Callicoat alongside his relatives Wendy and Jonathan. The Callicoat’s, all of whom come from the town of Sarcoxie, filed a lawsuit after being rejected as medicinal cannabis cultivators in Missouri. The medical cannabis program’s license caps and scoring process were strongly contested in the suit, which was filed in 2019.

The Callicoat’s had hoped that they would be granted the opportunity to cultivate and sell medical cannabis in Jasper County. Unfortunately, the license-scoring process did not go in their favor and the family missed out on 60 available licenses. 

As a direct effect of their failed application, the Callicoat’s claimed that the state’s license limit was unconstitutional. However, Joyce followed up on their argument by saying that the state Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) is granted the authority to implement licensing caps as per the 2018 constitutional amendment legalizing medical cannabis in Missouri.

Fair and lawful enactment of Missouri’s cannabis rules highlighted in this case

According to the Communications Director for Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services, Lisa Cox, the outcome of this cannabis cultivation licensing case indicates that a major goal of the state’s medical cannabis program is to establish rules “fairly and lawfully.”

The plaintiffs were ordered to fund all court costs after Cole County Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce ruled in favor of the state; proclaiming that state’s cannabis regulations were “properly promulgated”, despite Sarcoxie Nursery principal Callicoat asserting that the state prioritized applicants in high-unemployment ZIP codes.

Another element of the lawsuit that was dismissed by Judge Joyce stated that imposed limits on Missouri’s cannabis cultivation licenses breached the plaintiffs’ rights under the 2014 “Right to Farm” amendment.

“The right to farm does not apply to the cultivation of [cannabis],” Joyce wrote in her ruling. “The department’s regulations fall squarely within its constitutional delegation of authority.”

Missouri state lawmakers want to prevent excess supply of cannabis 

One key takeaway from the medical cannabis licensing lawsuit in Missouri was that state lawmakers are successfully preventing a surplus of cannabis from infiltrating the market. Imposing caps on the number of allowed licensed producers in the state will ensure that patient safety is not put at risk and, ultimately, effective regulation can ensue. 

Furthermore, lawmakers say that cultivation limits will reduce the chances of excess cannabis being distributed among Missouri’s black market.

“There are numerous legitimate state interests, both set out by (the medical [cannabis] amendment) and Missouri law, that bear a rational relationship to limiting the number of medical [cannabis] facility licenses permitted in Missouri,” said Joyce, who bit back against the Callicoats when they described the state’s choice to award cannabis businesses owners in high-unemployment areas with bonus points as “unconstitutional” or “unreasonable”.

The decision which was praised by the DHSS was accompanied by a written statement from Joyce, who said that Missouri’s constitutional amendment will enable the state to contemplate “the potential for positive economic impact in the site community” when reviewing future applications. 

She concluded by writing that “potential for the positive economic impact increases in areas that are suffering economically.”