Medical Cannabis

Missouri’s Top Cannabis Lawyer

Joe Welch has been active in Missouri’s cannabis legalization movement since 2006 and is one of the leading experts on medical cannabis in Missouri. His expertise in administrative law, marijuana law, civil litigation, and his science background lead other lawyers to look to him for advice on these complex and constantly changing issues.

On December 6, 2018 Missouri’s new medical cannabis law will take effect, and with a doctor’s certification, patients should be able to possess medical cannabis in their home even though the official patient identification cards will not be available until after June, 2019. During this time, doctors, patients, and those interested in working in the new medical cannabis industry will need to learn and understand the new complex web of rules and regulations that will govern the recommendation, use, manufacture and distribution of medical cannabis under Missouri law, federal law, and the tax and banking implications of state-legal medical cannabis businesses which are still considered illegal under federal law. While Amendment 2 amends the Missouri Constitution and can’t be revised by the legislature, the Department of Health and Senior Services is charged with creating the rules and procedures governing the granting and enforcement of licenses to grow, distribute, manufacture, test, and transport medical cannabis.

Physicians and Osteopaths

Under this new law, any physician licensed to practice medicine or osteopathy under Missouri law may enable a qualifying patient to use medical cannabis by issuing a signed “Physician Certification” stating that in their professional opinion the patient suffers from a qualifying medical condition. The physician can issue this recommendation for any number of listed qualifying medical conditions, or in their “professional judgment…any other condition” to a qualifying patient that could benefit from medical cannabis. A qualifying patient must be a Missouri resident and diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition. The “Physician Certification” must be in writing, but may be handwritten or in a commonly used electronic format. This certification will be necessary for patients to get their ID card and should allow patients to use medical cannabis in their home until the ID cards are available and during the application process.

Patients and Caregivers

Patients with a “Physician Certification” while in the process of applying for a “Qualifying Patient Identification Card” may use and possess medical cannabis in their residence up to a 60 day supply. The actual amount is not yet defined, but it could possibly be based on a “not less than four ounces of dried, unprocessed marijuana, or its equivalent” that can be purchased from a licensed dispensary every 30 days depending on the rules promulgated by the Department of Health and Senior Services. The Department could set different limits, or no limit at all, and patients can be allowed higher limits by jumping through additional legal hoops.

Patients must obtain identification cards and renew them every year for a $25 fee.

Patients should be able to possess medical cannabis with a “Physician Certification” between the date the law goes into effect (December 6, 2018) and when the official ID card application process starts (no later than June 4, 2019). The Department has a 180 deadline to publish the applications and instructions, and a 240 day deadline to start accepting applications. While a patient can possess medical cannabis with just the doctor’s certification while applying for an ID card it could be open to interpretation whether or not this includes the period of time before applications are even available and may subject patients to legal jeopardy.

Out-of-state Medical Patients

Medical cannabis cards from other states will likely be valid in Missouri as of December 6, 2018 under the new law even though cards for Missouri residents won’t be available for several months.

Commercial and Industrial

It is anticipated that the medical cannabis industry will be very competitive as licenses to growing operations, dispensaries, and other operations will be limited based on population. Initially, there will be no less than 61 growing, 87 infusing, and 192 (24 for each of Missouri’s 8 congressional districts) dispensary licenses available. An entity (or group of entities owned or controlled by the same individuals) may hold no more than 3 growing, 3 infusing, and 5 dispensary licenses. A holder of a testing license may not hold a license for growing, infusing, or dispensing. The Department of Health and Senior Services will establish a system to numerically score competing license applicants based on several factors, including character and experience of the owners, business plan, and safety of the community. Successful licensees will seek legal counsel early in the process to navigate the complex web of administrative rules and state and federal laws, as well as local zoning regulations.

“Medical Marijuana Cultivation Facilities” – Licensed to grow cannabis, either inside or outdoors, and to sell to dispensaries, testing facilities, or manufacturers, but not directly to patients or caregivers.

Distributors, or “Medical Marijuana Dispensary Facilities” – Licensed to sell medical cannabis and “drug paraphernalia” directly to patients and caregivers.

“Medical Marijuana-Infused Products Manufacturing Facilities” – manufacturing edibles, oils, etc., and selling them to dispensaries or other manufacturers, but not directly to patients.

“Medical Marijuana Testing Facilities” – Licensed to test and certify medical cannabis. An entity that holds a license to operate a testing facility may not hold a license to operate a cultivation facility, dispensary, or manufacturing facility.

The application process

Application fees for cultivation facilities, infusing facilities, and dispensary facilities may be prepaid as of January 4, 2019, even though the applications may not be available until June 4, 2019. Sixty days after the applications are available, the department must start accepting them, and must make a decision on them within 150 days after receipt.

The drug lawyer

While many lawyers handle drug cases, Joe Welch has earned his reputation as “the drug lawyer” through a combination of winning drug cases in the courtroom, advocating to end drug prohibition, and having the expertise to understand the science behind drug cases.  Fellow lawyers in the community often seek his advice on novel or confusing issues in their own drug cases. He has handled hundreds of cases before administrative tribunals in Missouri, including licensing cases before the Board of Nursing, the Office of Tattooing, Body Piercing, and Branding, the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Revenue, the Metropolitan Taxicab Commission, and the Missouri Highway Patrol.

The Litigator

  • Joe Welch has tried countless cases before judges and juries and has litigated hundreds of motions to suppress, dismiss, or otherwise undermine the state’s cases against his clients.  His courtroom success and experience is unrivaled

The Advocate

  • For over 10 years Joseph Welch has been an active, public, and outspoken member of NORML – long before marijuana legalization had the public support it now does
  • Drafted the 2009 petition to decriminalize marijuana in the City of St. Louis
  • Has helped prosecutors challenge their own opinions about drug laws and mass incarceration
  • He publicly fights for a society where law is no longer the tool of oppression

The Scientist

  • Joe Welch also has a bachelors degree in geology, a “hard science”  of physics, math and chemistry where he studied and used many of the same instruments that the state’s drug chemists use in analyzing controlled substances
  • Few lawyers know more about mass spectrometry, gas chromatography, specific versus presumptive tests, the Wiley library, and lab quality control than he does
  • He also has extensive knowledge regarding the science of addiction, drug treatment and drug testing


The Highest Credentials

  • Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers
  • Ranked 10/10 Superb, Avvo’s highest rating
  • Graduated from top ranked Washington University School of Law
  • Attended the Missouri Bar CLE’s Advanced Trial College
  • Teaches a CLE on defending protesters in criminal cases
  • Member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL)
  • Member of the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (MACDL)
  • Member of the Missouri Association of Trial Lawyers (MATA)
  • Member of the NORML Legal Committee
  • Card carrying member of the ACLU
  • Member of the Missouri Civil Liberties Association (MOCLA)
  • Member of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG)
  • Practiced law for over 15 years


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The choice of a lawyer is an important one and should not be based solely on advertisements. Past results afford no guarantee of future results. Every case must be judged on its own merits.

Copyright © 2002-2018, by Joseph P. Welch