ST. LOUIS (AP) — Interest in medical marijuana use has far outpaced expectations only five months into Missouri’s new program.

Missouri issued close to 22,000 medical marijuana cards since July 4, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Researchers with the University of Missouri’s Economic and Policy
Analysis Research Center previously estimated that the state wouldn’t
reach that many patients until 2021.

“We have always predicted
that the numbers would be far larger than the MU Economics study
predicted,” said Dan Viets, who leads the Missouri Cannabis Industry

Missouri voters in 2018 made medical marijuana legal in the state. Patients with cancer, HIV, epilepsy and other conditions can apply for state-issued medical marijuana cards with a doctor’s approval.

The Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association
estimates that there could be at least 122,000 medical marijuana
patients by the end of 2022.

Spokesman Jack Cardetti says that
estimate is based on trends in states such as Colorado, where 2% to 3%
of the population received cards after medical marijuana was approved.

state health department plans to start awarding licenses for businesses
to grow, dispense and make marijuana-infused products by January.

700 groups filed a total of 2,163 marijuana businesses applications in
Missouri. The state will issue only 60 licenses to grow pot, 86 to make
marijuana-infused products and 192 to open dispensaries.

University of Missouri study found that there likely won’t be enough
demand to support 60 marijuana farms in the first three years of the
program. But Cardetti said an abundance of cannabis growers will ensure
patient access and spur competition.

“We think that’s good for patients, and we think that’s good for the industry,” Cardetti said.

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