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A Missouri Marijuana Store Near The Arkansas Border Is Flourishing, And Local Officials Want A Cut



“That stuff’s been around here since Jesus was of age.”

By Rebecca Rivas, Missouri Independent

Nestled along a bubbling creek at the base of a rolling hill is the Flora Farms Stateline Dispensary—just a third of a mile from the Arkansas border.

On a Sunday afternoon, cars in the drive-thru line wrap around the building and about 20 cars are parked out front. Inside, budtenders at 14 registers never stop moving to keep up with the rush.

“This is actually not that busy,” said Valerie Mattingly, the store’s inventory manager. “We stay busy from the time we’re open till the time we’re closed.”

Since the store opened on January 5, it’s already become one of the highest revenue-generating dispensaries in the state, said company president Mark Hendren.

On the Missouri side, there’s not much near the dispensary. The closest city is Jane, Missouri, a town of about 400 people less than a mile away. The closest major Missouri city is Joplin—an hour north.

However, Arkansas offers a web of rapidly growing cities within a 20 to 30 minute drive.

Across the Missouri border is the city of Bella Vista, Arkansas, a wealthy community with blue-green creeks, several golf courses and fishing lakes. A little further south down the road is Bentonville, the fifth fastest-growing city in the country and where Walmart is expanding its headquarters.

Rogers, Fayetteville and Springdale are also nearby.

At a glance, the dispensary appears to be part of Jane. But Jane isn’t benefiting from the sales tax revenue of the marijuana gold rush because the dispensary is located in an unincorporated area—along with Walmart.

About a decade ago, Walmart’s attorneys were able to squash the town’s efforts to annex that area to allow them to benefit from the tax revenue.

However, at a recent meeting, the village’s board of trustees discussed the possibility of revisiting the effort.

“That would be huge for us,” said Trustee Vic Underwood.

Biggest dispensary ‘by far’

Just after Missouri voters approved medical marijuana in 2018, Hendren spoke with some friends in Oklahoma who had gotten involved in the marijuana industry there and urged him to submit applications. His team was awarded three cultivation and three dispensary licenses.

Hendren, an attorney and accountant, started out with five employees.

“This is a ground-up operation, started from scratch,” he said. “And now we have about 320 employees—half of that staff is at our farm, and the other half that of that count is throughout our retail outlets across Missouri.”

Flora Farms now operates three cultivation licenses in Humansville, an hour north of Springfield, and the group is one of the biggest cultivators in the state. The group also has a manufacturing facility in Springfield.

Aside from the Stateline location, Flora Farms has dispensaries in Humansville, Springfield, Ozark, Lee’s Summit, and soon a location in Hollister.

Hendren said Stateline is his biggest dispensary “by far.”

Flora Farms closed its Neosho dispensary to open Stateline. At the Neosho location, there were four registers and 15 employees. In comparison, Stateline has 14 registers and 50 employees.

Mattingly got her start as a budtender three years ago at the Neosho dispensary, when she was 20. Since then, she’s quickly moved up to a keyholder, an assistant manager and now inventory manager.

“I got lucky,” she said. “And then I clung on to it, and I’m never letting this go.”

Every month, the state reports how much marijuana revenue Missouri marijuana businesses bring in, and that’s how Hendren gauges how well Stateline is doing.

“We kind of know what our percentage of that is…and we know what our other dispensaries do,” Hendren said, “There’s only about 350 licenses, and most of those 350 licenses are probably owned by less than 40 groups. So it’s a pretty small community.”

The community of Jane

On a Monday night in April, the Jane Board of Trustees arrived at their office, which is in the same lot as the town’s lumber yard. After they discussed Fourth of July celebration plans with a handful of firefighters, they moved on to “new business”—the new dispensary.

Board Chair Dustin Allwood said the dispensary hasn’t negatively impacted the town at all, and they don’t mind it being there.

“That stuff’s been around here since Jesus was of age,” Allwood said. “There’s more problems with alcohol than there is with that stuff. Arkansas is going to have more trouble with it than we are.”

The trustees agreed that 90 percent of the license plates they’ve seen in the parking lot are from Arkansas.

The question they raised was: Can their community potentially benefit from a local sales tax on marijuana?

The trustees said the only way it would likely happen was if the dispensary owners agreed to be voluntarily annexed.

Bill Martin, who the locals call “the Grandfather of Jane,” launched into the town’s history of annexation, which he called “excruciating.”

In 2006, the Village of Jane voted to expand southward within a mile of the Arkansas border. Martin said the plan was to go all the way to the border, but the residents of the unincorporated town Caverna did not approve it.

When all those residents left, the town passed another ordinance in 2012 to annex the business district that included Walmart. By Missouri annexation law, Jane residents can vote to annex an area, especially since there are no residents now to vote otherwise.

But Walmart and other businesses challenged the ordinance and won. A Missouri judge ruled that the annexation was not “reasonable and necessary.”

“I was the person called up to defend Jane,” Martin said. “And I’m talking to those million-dollar-a-month lawyers, and I lost.”

Hendren grew up in Gravette, Arkansas, just on the other side of the border. His father—former state Sen. Kim Hendren—once owned the car dealership across the street from where his dispensary now sits for about 20 years.

Hendren said local leaders have not yet approached him about voluntary annexation.

“We’d have to look at the whole proposal,” he said. “What would be involved and what services would they extend? So I really couldn’t give you an opinion either way without seeing it.”

Hendren said he’s seen the process in other municipalities, where the towns have faced challenges in being able to offer necessary services such as police and fire.

“If you don’t offer to extend services, which is very expensive for them, of course,” he said, “sometimes it becomes difficult.”

This story was first published by Missouri Independent.

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