Local Family Plans Medical Marijuana Business in Ava

The Overcast family from Squires are the driving force behind Show-Me Natural Gardens, a Medical Marijuana cultivation facility,  manufacturing facility, and dispensary business they plan to launch in Ava. In the photo (left to right) are Matthew Overcast, COO, VaNessa Overcast Loftis, Director of Manufacturing, Katrina Overcast, CEO, and Alex Overcast, Director of Information Technology.

by Michael Boyink / mike@douglascountyherald.com

Rolling hills and cattle. Future Farmers of America. The University of Missouri Extension. Old dairy plants. Heirloom seed festivals. Echoes of tomato canning. A weekly farmers market.

You don’t have to be in Douglas County long to understand and appreciate its agricultural heritage. Be it crops or livestock, folks have been growing things to sell for a long time in the Ozarks.

And farming is usually a family business.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone, then, that a local family is planning to start a business of growing a crop to sell.

It might surprise you to know the crop they intend to harvest is marijuana.

But only if you haven’t been paying attention – to either the news or what was on the ballots last year.Back in November, Missouri voters approved Amendment 2, the Medical Marijuana and Veteran Healthcare Services Initiative. Amendment 2 creates a new market in Missouri for state-regulated and controlled medical marijuana. 

Some sources estimate the market will generate $18 million in annual taxes for the state and $6 million in annual revenues for local governments.

And the Overcast family from the Squires area wants in on that action. 

Mom Katrina, sons Alex and Matthew, and daughter VaNessa (Overcast) Loftis, together with still-evolving group of investors, partners, and employees are starting Show-Me Natural Gardens, which “aims to be one of the first vertically integrated, patient-focused, and family-owned medical cannabis businesses in Southern Missouri.”

Vertically integrated?

“The Missouri Amendment will allow cultivating, manufacturing and dispensing facilities to exist and run independently,” explains Chief Operating Officer Matthew Overcast. “But we plan to have all three types of facilities. This will allow us to have greater control over our inventory and pricing.”

Where will these facilities be?

It’s too early to say. For a couple of reasons.

First is the licensing conundrum. Each facility type (cultivation, manufacturing, and dispensary) will need a separate license from the State of Missouri. 

The state is already accepting the licensing fees, but Show-Me Natural Gardens can’t submit their full application until August 3rd (see sidebar for a complete timeline of the medical marijuana implementation in Missouri).

And there are no guarantees.

The state plans to license 30 cultivation facilities, 86 manufacturing facilities, and 192 dispensaries. The licenses will be distributed across Missouri’s eight Congressional districts.

If there are more applicants than licenses, the state will begin an evaluation process to decide which applicants are awarded licenses.

It’s not quite a lottery, but there is a chance Show-Me wouldn’t get the full complement of licenses they seek.

Which makes it tough to be able to buy real estate quite yet. 

“The main hangup with investor meetings has been solidifying locations,” says CEO Katrina Overcast.

While the overall solution is still coming into focus, Show-Me Natural Gardens does have a location in mind for the dispensary. But they’re not telling exactly where just yet. “It’s in Ava,” smiles VaNessa Loftis, Director of Manufacturing. “and convenient.”

And they hope the rest of the business ends up in Ava as well. “We believe in the community,” says Katrina Overcast. “We want to stimulate the economy.”

And jobs?

“We are starting out thinking that we’ll need 50-60 employees,” says Matthew Overcast. “But that’s a very conservative number.”

“There’s a lot of room for expansion, especially on the manufacturing side,” adds Katrina.

The jobs will be mostly entry-level manufacturing and cultivation. A small percentage of corporate level openings also available. 

Candidates will need to pass a state background check and be fingerprinted before being able to work for Show-Me Natural Gardens, or any other provider in the medical marijuana facility.

“We are accepting resumes,” adds Matthew Overcast. “But we won’t be reviewing them until after the application window has closed.

“We’ve already had 65 applicants through Facebook,” says Katrina, “and over 100 through Indeed.com. A lot of those are from out of state, but we’d prefer to fill the jobs locally.”

The family stresses that their motives aren’t purely financial.

“The number one reason people apply for medical marijuana,” says VaNessa Loftis (who is also an RN), “is chronic pain. Other places that have legalized medical marijuana have seen a 67% reduction of opiod abuse. Death rates go way down. People don’t lose work hours to pain.”

“We’ve been personally impacted by some of the conditions that medical marijuana helps with,” says Katrina. “We lost an uncle to cancer. Other family members had cancer. We’re not smokers, this is all about coming at it from a medical standpoint.”

Michael Boyink/Herald
Locals sign a petition of support for Show-Me Natural Gardens at the Common Grounds Coffee Shop in Ava on Monday, June 10th.

While Show-Me Natural Gardens (and other potential cultivators, manufacturers, and dispensaries) are laying the groundwork for making medical marijuana available in Missouri, the exact timeline of it being available to end users is uncertain.

Currently, prospective customers can see their physicians and request a medical marijuana certification. The state will begin taking patient applications online on July 4th, and customers will need that certification as part of the application process. 

If your physician won’t provide you with a certification, there are already clinics popping up to step in. Websites like marijuanadoctors.com can help you find an option.

The Missouri Department of Health and Human Services is managing the program, and you can find news releases, application forms, and other related information online at health.mo.gov/safety/medical-marijuana.

Locally, Show-Me Natural Gardens is planning another meet and greet at the Common Grounds Coffee Shop at 465 South Spring St. on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.  Visit their Facebook page for more information: facebook.com/ShowMeNaturalGardens.