Missouri voters approved medical marijuana use in 2018, and the first dispensary opened in October 2020.
The Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association reports there are 192 dispensaries in the state, and none are owned by a Black entrepreneur.
That will change in January 2022, when Adrienne Scales-Williams launches Luxury Leaf at 1463 S. Vandeventer Avenue in The Grove neighborhood.
She said branching out into the cannabis industry “was a no-brainer to me.”
“I am an advocate for alternative medicines and want to be a part of a culture that promotes plants in healing. I want to invest in something so innovative and great for patients,” she said. “I want patients to feel healing when they enter the dispensary space. I will also offer virtual classes to keep education at the forefront of this industry. In addition, it was important to have this business in the city of St. Louis, to closely engage the community in a very direct way.”
As the owner of Document Imaging Systems of St Louis, Inc., (DIS), which placed No. 23 on The St. Louis Business Journal list of minority-owned businesses last year, Scales-Williams is not a stranger to entrepreneurial success.
She is entering a lucrative field which created more than $136 during in tax revenue the first-year medical cannabis dispensaries operated, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Section for Medical Marijuana Regulation.
Obtaining a highly sought-after dispensary license includes a lengthy and expensive process. Her location also had to pass a state commencement.
“I have been committed to the process and just stuck with it as closely as I could,” she said. “Being a long-term entrepreneur, (I) understand the ups and downs of highly regulated industries.”
Fifteen states, including Illinois and Washington D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana. Missouri and 34 other states have legalized marijuana for medical use.
The Marijuana Business Daily website reported 80% of cannabis businesses are owned by whites, while Black people and Hispanics constitute barely 10% of business ownership combined.
As for being Missouri’s first Black medical cannabis dispensary owner in a field that lacks minority and women owners, Scales-Williams said she wants “to be a successful dispensary servicing all.”
“Business is commonly filled with men, and even with my understanding of this, I didn’t focus on that as a negative,” she said. “I kept my focus and pushed full force throughout all of my endeavors.”
While she is new to the cannabis industry, Scales-Williams has proven she can adjust to new business challenges. DIS initially focused on the printing industry, but she shifted its focus to strategic sourcing for casinos.
“Any business requires you to be agile and embrace technology,” she said. “The cannabis industry is forcing our traditional medical structures to reconsider and to embrace this technology of healing.”
The industry is also forcing Missouri politicians to recognize a growing number of people who want to legalize marijuana use.
Leaders of a group working to legalize marijuana for adult use in Missouri say they believe the measure will pass if they collect enough signatures to get the issue on next year’s ballot.
Legal Missouri 2022 began an initiative petition campaign last week in St. Louis. If voters approve the measure, anyone 21 or older could buy marijuana for any reason.
About 170,000 valid signatures must be collected in six of the state’s eight congressional districts to place the initiative on the ballot, John Payne, campaign manager for Legal Missouri 2022, said in a release.
He is confident the measure would pass if it reached the ballot because the medical marijuana initiative garnered close to 66% of the vote in 2018.
Congressional Democrats announced last week efforts to decriminalize marijuana would begin in spring 2022.
“The growing bipartisan momentum for cannabis reform shows that Congress is primed for progress in 2022, and we are closer than ever to bringing our cannabis policies and laws in line with the American people,” Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) wrote in a memo to the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.