JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A Southwest Missouri family that recently filed a lawsuit against the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services for its decision to award only 60 medical marijuana cultivation licenses is being applauded for doing so by an area health care delivery system.
Paul Callicoat, a retired cardiologist, and his family applied for a medical marijuana cultivation license for the former Sarcoxie Nursery, but their application was one of hundreds officially denied by the department. Callicoat, wife Wendy and son Jonathon have already begun work to convert a 70-acre property in Sarcoxie into a cultivation site.
A day after their application was denied, the family filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s scoring system used to grade the applications, as well as the state’s decision to award only 60 licenses. In the lawsuit, the Callicoats argue the cap violates the right-to-farm amendment to the Missouri Constitution, passed by voters in 2014. It also includes a motion for a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction.
A Cole County Circuit judge took the lawsuit under advisement in a hearing on Monday at Jefferson City.
“We appreciate the opportunity to be heard by the court,” Paul Callicoat said in a statement after the hearing. “We proposed a sensible resolution that provides for an efficient and transparent process for licensure that citizens can have confidence in. It ensures patients also will have access to the high-quality, safe and effective medical marijuana that they need and deserve.”
The Callicoat family is being represented by attorneys Joseph Bednar and Bryan Bear, of Spencer Fane, in the lawsuit. Along with the health department, the document also names Randall Williams, director of the Department of Health and Senior Services, and Lyndall Fraker, director of the medical marijuana program, as defendants.
The lawsuit further claims that the department went beyond its authority by setting up a scoring system that awarded "bonus" points to applications located in an "economically distressed area," identified by specific ZIP codes, and by requiring information that the lawsuit alleges is out of date.
NovaLux Healthcare Holdings Inc., a veteran-owned, Missouri-based Integrated Healthcare Delivery System serving the medical cannabis patient population, supports the lawsuit. NovaLux Healthcare Holdings owns NovaLux Farms, which was denied a cultivation license for a facility in Oak Grove.
John M. Blosser, chief executive officer of NovaLux Healthcare Holdings, issued a statement this week saying the company applauds the efforts of the Sarcoxie Nursery and agrees with the points outlined in the lawsuit.
“We are in complete agreement with the valid, substantial, and true arguments raised within the suit and believe that the medical cannabis patients of Missouri deserve immediate and meaningful relief from the misapplication of the clear mandate of the majority of Missouri voters,” Blosser said in the statement.
In an interview with the Globe on Tuesday, Blosser said NovaLux wants Sarcoxie and the community to know that the company stands by them. He said the group has a responsibility to help rise to the occasion and be a voice for the people of Missouri.
“We have the resources, connections and a tremendous amount of support,” he said. “We’re standing by if they need moral support, if they want us to be a co-petitioner, if they need financial support as this goes on, whatever we can offer.”
The only cultivation facility to be approved in Joplin was Harvest of Missouri LLC, and according to its license application, the owner or manager is Steve White, of Arizona. White is the chief executive officer of Harvest Health & Recreation, which has its headquarters in Arizona. The company anticipates having rights to operate in more cannabis facilities and with more licenses than any other company in the U.S., including more than 210 facilities across 18 states and territories, according to The Associated Press.
Several medical marijuana advocates have expressed outrage that out-of-state companies were approved while locally based businesses were denied.
“Like many of you, we are deeply troubled by the number of large, out-of-state companies that were awarded licenses, especially given they didn’t invest their time or money to pass Amendment 2,” the Callicoats said on the Sarcoxie Nursery Facebook page. “We remain committed to ensuring that the will of the advocates and patients is carried out.”
According to state statute, "all facilities must be held by entities that are majority owned by natural persons who have been citizens of the state of Missouri for at least one year prior to the application for such licenses or certification. Notwithstanding the foregoing, entities outside the state of Missouri may own a minority stake in such entities."
The Department of Health and Senior Services did not respond to the Globe’s request for comment and did not provide a statement in response to the lawsuit.