Should Missouri Caregivers Who Cultivate Be Compensated?

Oct, 2020
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Recently, Elevate Holistics had the pleasure of picking the brain of an attorney who specializes in cannabis. Because, even though the DHSS has laid out a lot of rules to guide us through the medical cannabis process in the Show-Me-State, there’s still some confusion surrounding certain topics like guns, caregivers, and possession. In this post, we’re going to talk about whether caregivers who cultivate should charge their patients. And who better to ask than a lawyer Mo Greenway magazine announced as One to Watch in the cannabis industry.

Cannabis Attorney Andrew Goodwin

Meet Kansas City-based attorney, Andrew Goodwin. He’s an experienced litigation attorney who has always been interested in cannabis. He’s witnessed first-hand the positive effects of cannabis on his injured clients, helping them avoid or get off of opioids. He followed Amendment 2 in Missouri closely, and was compelled to become involved in the cannabis industry. Drew and his partner’s legal services have written and won seven applications for cannabis businesses, three of which are for their company in St. Joe, Vertical Enterprise—that means he’s versed in the compliance of cannabis patients, cultivation, manufacturing, and dispensing. On top of that, he’s a cannabis adjunct professor at UMKC. (Sheesh, expert much?) 

What Drew Says About Possession in Missouri

Elevate’s own Russell Colby recently interviewed Andrew to ask him about some of the not-so-clear medical marijuana laws our Facebook followers and Missouri cardholders are concerned about. When the iffy ground of compensation for caregivers who cultivate came up, Andrew informed us that cultivating caregivers are definitely not allowed to sell to dispensaries or anyone. But things get a little fuzzy when a patient wants to compensate a caregiver for their efforts. And could patients or caregivers get taken advantage of in a relationship that is not solely embarked on in the spirit of helping the patient? Here’s what the attorney had to say when Russell asked him to shed some more light on the subject.

Russell (Elevate Holistics): I'm hearing through the waves that some people believe there's going to be a caregiving option to sell to the dispensary. That's not true, is it?

Andrew (Cannabis Law Attorney): No, no, that's not true. Patient cultivators cannot sell to anybody. The only person who can sell cultivated marijuana are businesses that have a marijuana cultivation license in Missouri. Now, there will likely be an adult use ballot initiative on the ballot in 2022. It may have a micro-business component. It may allow certain socioeconomically disadvantaged groups and maybe even veterans, we think, have a micro grow, like 80 plants. I think they will be able to sell, but the state of the law now is that you cannot sell and dispensaries can't buy from you.

Russell (Elevate Holistics): Right, right. There isn't much clarity on the caregiver patient interaction as of yet, apart from you're allowed to do it. Is the advice just to use your discretion, be very safe, know your grower at this point? Is that the best we're going with for the caregivers? Or what would you advise patients approaching this interaction with a caregiver? How should they approach that, and what things should they do to safeguard themselves, if any?

Andrew (Cannabis Law Attorney): Yeah. The Missouri regulations actually, I think, spell out the role of a caregiver clearly enough, and I wouldn't have wanted them to go farther. Basically, a caregiver has to be over 21, identified by the patient as the caregiver and has to fulfill the DHSS requirements for a caregiver. And then once they get their caregiver card, they can purchase for their qualified patient at a dispensary. If they have a patient cultivation card and their patient has a cultivation card, they can cultivate for them and provide that marijuana at no charge to the patient.

Russell (Elevate Holistics): Right, and at no charge. Is there some type of agreement? Because that's what I'm hearing a lot, a caregiver is trying to sell their services. That's what I do recommend apart from someone wanting to do it for you out of the true caring of wanting to help you out, I think the only exchange for any patient I would recommend is the exchange of utility expenses for that person to do it for you and maybe the nutrients or what it takes to get it going. But that's what I'm so surprised about … it's not really a business model. It's not there to try and stack away for the growers to make money off of patients. Correct?

Andrew (Cannabis Law Attorney): Yeah. That's a really good question. I'll admit, that's something I have not thought about, but just as I sit here, I would want to structure any payment from a patient to a primary caregiver in a way that it couldn't be misinterpreted that you're buying marijuana from them, right? If you're going to pay a caregiver and they happen to cultivate marijuana from you and you pay them a ton more than a normal caregiver, a home nurse or somebody like that would get, I think that somebody looking at that would say, “Well, part of that compensation you paid to them was for this marijuana product they were providing and that's not permitted.” I also don't think there's going to be a big, deep dive audit by the Department of Health and Senior Services anytime soon into those relationships. But I'd be really cautious about being seen as selling marijuana.

Caregiver Compensation Recap

  • It is illegal for cultivating caregivers to sell cannabis to their patients (or anyone, dispensaries included).
  • Caregivers should not be charged a price by the ounce for the medical marijuana their caregiver cultivates for them.
  • Currently, it may be acceptable to hire a caregiver for services, like a home nurse, to procure your medical cannabis for you as a qualifying patient, but avoid letting it be interpreted as paying for they MMJ they grow. 
  • Compensation for expenses incurred for cultivating, such as utilities, setup, fertilizer, etc. are reasonable.
  • Take precautions not to leave any obvious record of any compensation on Venmo, PayPal, or any social media. 

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