Springfield News-Leader
by Gregory J. Holman
27 Nov 2020

If you are looking at getting a Missouri medical marijuana card now that a handful of dispensaries are open in southwest Missouri and elsewhere, you’ll be joining more than 87,000 patient and caregiver applicants logged by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to date.

DHSS has approved several hundred more applicants each week this fall, though a spokesperson said the pace ebbs and flows for any given day due to volume and breaks for weekends and holidays. Meanwhile, some observers think the number of lawful cannabis patients in Missouri will soon increase, perhaps dramatically, because dispensaries began opening this fall.

“I do expect the number of patients to start growing exponentially,” said Nate Bullman, a video blogger whose “Nate on Cannabis” series reaches thousands of Missourians over YouTube and other social media. “Having a physical store to legally purchase cannabis should drive patients to get certified, and it follows a pattern that other legal states experienced.”

In Bullman’s view, “if there were ever a time to get a recommendation, it’s now.”

Missouri requirements for marijuana

A DHSS spokesperson told the News-Leader last week that these days, patients and caregivers who apply through Missouri’s online system are typically waiting 16 days for approval. The department has 30 days to process applications, and staff process them in the order they were received. Missouri currently charges fees including $25.58 for a patient or caregiver medical marijuana card and $102.30 for patients approved for home-growing. Renewals through June 30, 2021 are slightly cheaper.

‘Egregious conduct’ in MO medical pot?:What a key industry lawsuit might mean for the future

The first step is getting a physician to certify that you’re an eligible patient. Missouri’s medical marijuana law permits a list of qualifying health conditions that includes serious problems like cancer and glaucoma, among several others. The law also allows doctors to recommend medical cannabis treatment of up to 4 ounces per month for “any other chronic, debilitating or other medical condition.”

Practically speaking, that means the Missouri constitution makes lawful medical cannabis available to a wide swath of the general population. Note: Patients seeking marijuana cards for a psychiatric condition must list a psychiatrist who’s treated them, though another physician may sign off on their marijuana recommendation.

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Springfield-area marijuana card certifications

Using internet search engines like Google to check for medical marijuana card clinics tends to yield a host of search results from establishments that may be online-based or located outside southwest Missouri.

In Springfield and the greater region, locally-based options for getting a physician recommendation through in-person or telehealth appointments are available. Keep in mind that doctors who work for large health systems are almost always unable to provide these certifications. Because cannabis is federally illegal, traditional health care networks that participate in federal programs like Medicare and Medicaid shy away from cannabis as treatment.

More:Trial focuses on alleged role of insiders on Missouri medical marijuana license rules

Smaller direct care clinics that have little to no entanglement with the federal government or traditional forms of health insurance may be an option. In these clinics, patients pay a monthly fee for services, rather than insurance copays.

Perhaps the best-known direct care clinic in the region that offers medical marijuana certifications is Roark Family Health in Cassville. Lisa Roark, physician and owner, is also a dispensary licensee. Her Cassville Dispensary and its attached Pot of Coffee café are just a few minutes’ drive from each other, but they are separate. The clinic offers primary health care, urgent care, massage therapy and other services including medical marijuana certifications for Missouri and Arkansas patients. Cost is $100 for telehealth certification appointments. Roark’s public statements mark her as a robust advocate for marijuana patients and veterans; this year she offered 45 veteran certifications for free on Veterans Day, according to a social media post from her clinic (417-847-1111, roarkfamilyhealth.com).

Shelby Smith is a doctor with Equality Healthcare, a direct primary health care practice in downtown Springfield. He told the News-Leader that he and other doctors at the clinic “only evaluate medical marijuana certifications for our established patients here in the clinic.” Thus, getting legal for medical marijuana might be one consideration if you’re considering a regular direct clinic membership. Smith said his clinic doesn’t establish new patients just to sign them up for medical marijuana evaluations.

More:A look inside the Old Route 66 medical marijuana dispensary

Gil Mobley, physician-owner of Dr. Gil’s Immediate Care, told the News-Leader that medical marijuana certifications are his main line of business these days. He charges $200 per certification, more than many competitors, but he said he often makes payment arrangements and sends out invoices. Mobley said his telehealth consultations include an extensive educational talk on harm reduction with medical marijuana use, including what to do in situations “with a DUI implication.” People who need extensive  technical help to file their certification with DHSS over the internet can get it for an extra $30, he said (417-848-6100 during “daylight hours”).

Green Leaf MD is a “sister company” with Elite Pain Management in south Springfield, offering certifications in-person with telehealth appointments coming soon, a representative said Nov. 20. Cost is $200 for new patients; $150 for annual renewal certification. Family medicine physician Shawn Stranckmeyer is the main provider at Green Leaf (417-202-0981, mygreenleafmd.com).

The Med Card is at 435 E Walnut Street in downtown Springfield.

Green Harvest Clinic opened in July 2019. L.E. Mire, a physician with the clinic at 2049 E. Cherry St. said Green Harvest specializes in “face-to-face personalized service” and that clinic staff help patients with uploading all of the documentation that that state authorities need to process their card application. “We have had consistently excellent reviews from our patients, and they in turn have made multiple referrals to us,” Mire said. Appointments for first-time patients cost $150 cash, $155 with credit card, Mire said, while annual renewals cost $100 for established patients. Green Harvest offers a $5 discount for each person patients refer to the clinic. (417-863-2222, greenharvestclinic.com)

The Med Card is the latest entry in the Springfield scene of cannabis-related businesses, having opened in early November. Director of operations JT Kendall told the News-Leader that the clinic is all-telehealth, and appointments ($125 for new patients; $95 for returning renewal patients; $75 for veterans) are sometimes available the same day as you go onto the clinic website to book. The Med Card’s Walnut Street location has a “little waiting room” area that can accommodate a would-be cardholder who needs technical help from clinic staff in order to use the Zoom app to reach the doctor. John Huffman and Norman Tullis are the physician providers, according to the clinic website (417-986-7272, themedcard.com).

News-Leader reporter Gregory Holman has been reporting on medical marijuana news since Missouri voters added the program in 2018. Email news tips (or new cannabis clinic announcements) to gholman@gannett.com and consider supporting vital local journalism by subscribing.