St. Louis Public Radio
by Jonathan Ahl
24 May 2021

Dispensaries are starting to open in more rural areas as the rollout of voter approved medical marijuana continues.

Trinity Missouri’s grand opening isn’t until Friday, but that didn’t stop dozens of medical marijuana card holders, some who came from as far as 50 miles away, from lining up outside the dispensary before the soft opening Monday morning.

“Definitely more than we expected,” Trinity manager Adam Stacey said of the opening day crowd. “We weren’t expecting a line this morning.”

Medical marijuana sales started in Missouri in October, with the first locations in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas. Now they are starting to open in more rural areas, including Rolla.

Stacey said it’s easier to open a dispensary in a smaller town because national companies are looking to compete in metro areas.

“We’re at an advantage because we are sticking to what we know — the smaller communities, the Ozarks, not just the big traffic count crossroads,” Stacey said.

Trinity is planning to open locations in nearby St. James and Salem in the next couple of months. The state granted a license to a second dispensary in Rolla, to Holistic Missouri, but there is no timetable for when it may open.

Stacey isn’t sure there is a need for a second dispensary in Rolla.

“I’m sure we can adequately serve the area, but the state’s calculation is that the region can support another one,” Stacey said.

Cannabis activists in Rolla contend two might not be enough. Daniel Jones of the Rolla Cannabis Action Network said their effort to assist people in getting medical marijuana cards is outpacing the rest of the state’s.

“We have helped more than 2,000 people get their cards,” Jones said. “That’s 10% of the city. Can you imagine if St. Louis or Kansas City had those numbers? There is a green wave coming, and Rolla is at the center of it.”

Locating a dispensary in Rolla was not without controversy. The zoning rules for cannabis facilities created a contentious debate in front of the Rolla City Council, with some residents and business owners demanding the regulations be as strict as possible.

Trinity Missouri’s dispensary is in a strip mall in a commercial area of town, near a supermarket and a dollar store.

Stacey said security and following the state’s rules are among his top priorities. And he said there have been no problems on the first day.

“The state is firm but fair. We follow the rules 100%, and the patients who come here for their medicine are understanding and easy to work with,” Stacey said.