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Missouri Group Plans Marijuana-Friendly Entertainment District

It’s called the Smokey River Entertainment District. Plans call for it to be built in the small village River Bend

Columbia Mailman School of Public Health

Well, that didn’t take long. Just a day after Missouri voters legalized adult-use marijuana, developers are already rolling out plans for an entertainment district allowing people to consume marijuana onsite.

It will be the Smokey River Entertainment District, reports Fox 4. Planners want to build it in the small village of River Bend, along the Missouri River, north of Independence, Mo.

“You go to any music venue throughout the United States, cannabis has been a part of it whether you know it or not. Whether it was legal or illegal,” said Besa Hospitality Group marketing VP Joey Pintozzi.

Normalizing Cannabis

Pintozzi said it makes sense, then, to turn the mostly unused land north of the Missouri River into a massive entertainment district.

He envisions wedding venues, an amphitheater, clubs, restaurants, and spots for adults to consume marijuana. “It’s normalizing cannabis in everyday life,” Pintozzi said.

Pintozzi and his business partner, entrepreneur Jack Mitchell, are involved in the Show Me State’s medical marijuana industry. After Missouri voters approved the transition to recreational use, they’re pushing this ambitious project.

Their goal is to get started by Spring 2023.

Mitchell said the first phase will probably cost between $30-50 million, getting the space ready for smaller events in the spring. He hopes that gathers interest — which could to future development costing considerably more.

He thinks it’s more likely to happen on a rapid timeline in River Bend because that community is so unique.

“The [Missouri] River used to go down there and up and around there, that area became a village back in the early 1950’s or somewhere around there, which has its own government and its own residents,” Mitchell said.

There are fewer than 10 of those residents in the 2,000-acre village. That allows Pintozzi and Mitchell to make quick progress getting the local government on board with their plans.

“We Have A Blank Slate Here”

Mitchell admits the whole thing would take much longer in larger cities. Such locations have more municipal responsibilities to occupy their attention. And that’s not to mention residents who might raise issues with the project’s weed-friendly components.

“Those are things that we can overcome here without those mitigation efforts. Because we don’t have those large residential communities, we don’t have those vested interests,” Mitchell said. “We have a blank slate here.”

The plan is to start cutting trees in the next few months. That will set the stage for festival grounds and the first few structures.

“The 291 corridor, which is where we’re at, has been searching for an identity forever,” said Bill Haman. He’s a resident of the small town of Sugar Creek, which controls some of the land where the district will eventually build a river walk.

Preventing Impaired Driving Will Be A Focus

Haman said the entertainment district might help draw more people to the small communities. Folks might otherwise never make it there.

“Plus, Sugar Creek is going to get a 40-acre [river walk] park out of it,” Haman said. “This land we’ve had since 1949 and we’ve ignored it.”

Mitchell said the district will have a big parking lot, making it easy to access. But preventing impaired driving is going to be a big focus, he’s quick to add.

Mitchell said ride shares, bus availability, and other safety measures will be designed into the project.

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