MOCANNA co-owners John Gaddy, left, and Jerry Proctol met with county officials including Sheriff Clay Chism and commissioners Randy Kleindienst and Gary Jungermann on Wednesday. MOCANNA hopes to establish a marijuana cultivation facility in the Mid-Missouri area. Photo by Helen Wilbers /Fulton Sun.

Callaway County may soon have its first legal marijuana farm.

Last year, Missouri residents voted to legalize the growth and sale of marijuana for medial purposes. Though the Department of Health and Senior Services has yet to finalize regulations for the fledgling industry, businesses are already eyeing the Mid-Missouri area.

The owners of MOCANNA Solutions, met with Callaway County leadership Wednesday. Sheriff Clay Chism, Prosecuting Attorney Christopher Wilson and Commissioners Gary Jungermann and Randy Kleindienst attended the meeting.

“We’re a mom and pop operation,” co-owner John Gaddy said. “My wife and I live in Holts Summit, and we lived in Columbia for (years) before that. I’ve always enjoyed the fact that Callaway, Boone and Cole counties are so centrally located.”

Gaddy said he thinks medical marijuana offers an excellent alternative form of treatment for many people with various ailments.

“For me, it’s about patient care,” he said.

The central location, plus the ready availability of farmland, make Callaway County appealing for launching a medical marijuana enterprise.

“As Missouri residents, we’re interested in starting a cultivation facility in the Callaway County area,” Gaddy said. “We thought it best to meet with you all and start a dialogue.”

He gave county leadership a rundown of the business plan and a chance to voice any concerns or questions.

DHSS plans on releasing the regulations for marijuana cultivators, manufacturers and dispensaries in early June. Those regulations will help shape MOCANNA’s business plan, Gaddy said. If the regulations aren’t overly burdensome, MOCANNA will be putting in a cultivation license application in August and should hear a response within 120 days. At the moment, Gaddy and his three co-owners are planning to start with a small, well-secured cultivation facility — in the 1,000 square foot range.

“We’ll reinvest every dime to develop a larger distribution center,” he said.

If all goes well, the business hopes to eventually open dispensaries in Jefferson City, Columbia and Lake of the Ozarks — and possibly one in Fulton. Manufacturing is a possibility further down the road.

“We know there are going to be under-served populations of the state,” he said. “Often, individuals who use medical cannabis are people who don’t have much ability to travel.”

Gaddy said the business is waiting until DHSS releases the regulations to purchase land. But, he told county leadership, he and his co-owners are already doing plenty to prepare. They’ve talked to businesses in Colorado, where medical marijuana has been legal since 2000 and recreational marijuana since 2012. They’ve studied the regulations in other states. They’ve even talked to the local health and environmental department about safe waste disposal.

“We live here and we drink the water here, so we want to make sure the water stays good,” he said.

County officials largely raised questions about safety and security.

Wilson said that as marijuana is still illegal on a federal level, banks won’t touch money associated with marijuana businesses.

“Any contact with money that can be traced back to state marijuana operations could be considered money laundering and expose a bank to significant legal, operational and regulatory risk,” a statement from the American Bankers Association reads.

That means many dispensaries and cultivators are stuck handling large amounts of cash.

“Prosecutors in Colorado warned of a spike in home invasions, robberies and even homicides when bad guys figured out, ‘They’re not banking, so where’s the money?'” Wilson said.

Gaddy said cultivators don’t handle as much cash as dispensaries, and the business is planning strict security measures.

Wilson said once DHSS publicizes the regulations, many counties will likely be introducing new ordinances to get aligned with those regulations.

“(Until then), there’s not too far we can get with the conversation right now,” Jungermann said.

He asked MOCANNA’s owners to keep the county updated as they move forward with establishing the business.​​

“And if the regulations come out and there’s just no way, we’ll send you a nicely worded email saying, ‘Sorry, gentlemen,'” Gaddy promised.

By Helen Wilbers | Fulton Sun