Less than 9 weeks remain for local governments to act on setbacks before applications will be accepted

Less than 9 weeks remain for local governments to act on setbacks before applications will be accepted

By Rachael Dunn

A public listening session in Kansas City Wednesday left potential medical marijuana facility license applicants uneasy, looking at a calendar with barely 8 weeks left for the town to act on reducing buffer zones from churches, schools, or daycares. Article XIV, created by Amendment 2 in November 2018, sets a 1,000-foot maximum limit statewide for facilities to be set back away from churches, daycares, and schools. Local governments can reduce the distance.

Kansas City municipal staff showed an interactive map of Kansas City with church, daycare, and school locations, demonstrating what a 1,000-foot vs. 750-foot setback would make available for applicants to target for potential facility locations, including dispensaries. A 1,000-foot setback left a rare few regions city-wide to open a facility in the state’s largest city, while 750 feet made few more available.

On facility applications, the state asks applicants for addresses of facilities, including binding documentation that the location is arranged to house a facility. This can come in the form of purchase documentation, letters of intent, or lease agreements with licensing contingencies. Attendees of the Wednesday session were told that a reduced setback could get out of the planning commission by July 18 – perhaps even later, which would leave applicants barely two weeks to secure a legal location for their application(s) before the Saturday, August 3 opening of applications.

Timeline courtesy of DHSS MM Division

Some of the 70+ attendees of the Kansas City session told Greenway they were concerned that city staff was unaware of the incredibly tight timeline facing applicants hoping to develop their medical marijuana facilities in the city.

Applications will be accepted by the Department of Health and Senior Services from Saturday, August 3 to Saturday, August 17, before the applications are assessed by state-contracted application scorers. Scorers will complete the assessments in phases per each facility application type (cultivation, manufacturing, dispensing, or testing). Licenses are to be awarded by December 31, 2019.


Kansas City is primarily in Congressman Emanual Cleaver’s district. Parts are in Congressman Sam Graves’ district, which also encompasses Lee’s Summit and most of north Missouri. Each congressional district has approximately 710,000 residents. Amendment XIV specifies that there must be at least 22 dispensaries in each congressional district.

With 24 dispensaries set to be licensed by the state to operate, that leaves at least 24 Missourians scrambling in Kansas City for two weeks selecting facility sites for development.

Manufacturing and cultivation facility location restrictions are based on population, as opposed to the congressional district, per the constitutional amendment.

Most municipalities, like Lebanon and Jefferson City, are still in the committee and public comment period of their setback planning, like Kansas City. Several cities, including Joplin, have ordinances before the city council to be determined by a council vote as of the writing of this article. However, other towns, such as St. Louis, Blue Springs, Trenton, Chillicothe, and Nixa, have already approved their setbacks at the municipal level.

If a daycare, school, or church moves into a setback buffer zone, thought leaders say a facility would not have to relocate due to grandfathering policies.