Medical marijuana will be
available in Utah March 1
By Robert Stevens
The rollout of Utah’s medical marijuana program is on track for the March 1 deadline, according to officials, and patients interested in trying it out will soon have that option.
Patients interested in pursuing medical marijuana to treat their conditions must first visit a qualified medical provider (QMP). A QMP must register with the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) and must be a Utah licensed physician, physician assistant, or advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who has a controlled substance license and must have completed four hours of approved education. During the initial discussion, patients will speak with the QMP about how medical marijuana might help their condition.
Only qualifying conditions are able to receive a recommendation letter (see infographic with qualifying conditions).
After getting a physician’s recommendation, you can apply for your medical marijuana card through your QMP’s office, via an electronic verification system. You must be a resident of Utah, at least age 21 and provide your name, gender, age and address.
The UDOH should issue your medical marijuana card within 15 days if you qualify. Medical cannabis patient and guardian cards must first be renewed 30 days after they are originally issued, then once every six months thereafter.
Once in possession of the card, patients will be able to purchase, possess, transport and use marijuana in a medicinal dosage form. Patients are required to keep their card on them at all times if you are in possession of marijuana. You can be fined $100 for not having your card if in possession of weed, or for not having your cannabis properly labeled.
The card allows patients to purchase up to two ounces of unprocessed medical cannabis within a 14-day period.
If you have a card, but live more than 100 miles away from one of the 14 licensed dispensaries, patients are legally allowed to grow up to six plants for their own use. The plants must be grown within a locked and enclosed space not in public view, but they can only be grown outdoors. If you live within 600 feet of a “community location” such as a park or church, or within 300 feet of another home, you cannot grow any plants at all.
Patients who live more than 100 miles from a licensed dispensary also have the option to order from the state central patient portal online or by phone and have their shipment of medical cannabis delivered to their homes. Patients must be present, show valid photo ID and sign for the shipment.
Leading up to the March 1, 2020 deadline for the program rollout, UDOH has been finalizing components of the system, including award the licenses to dispense marijuana. On Jan. 3, the state awarded 14 licenses across the state in Salt Lake City, Cedar City, Springville, Lindon, Park City, Provo, St. George, Vernal, Logan, Ogden and West Bountiful.
Each licensee will pay the state and annual fee of $50,000-$69,500 depending upon the type of license they received and the physical location of the pharmacy.
“The evaluation committee spent hundreds of hours evaluating applications from companies seeking a limited number of licenses. It was a highly competitive process and some qualified applicants will be left disappointed, but that is the nature of a highly competitive process” said Richard Oborn, Director of the Center for Medical Cannabis at the UDOH. “We are committed to ensuring patients have safe and reliable access to medical cannabis and we are confident the companies selected are best prepared to meet the needs of Utah patients and provide the best value to Utah communities.”
In addition to awarding licenses for dispensaries, some last-minute efforts to tweak the medical marijuana system are in the works as well. Sen. Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, is sponsoring Senate Bill 121 —Medical Cannabis Amendments.
According to Vickers, the bill is meant to change a few things currently in place to make things easier for patients and growers.
Perhaps the biggest point of the SB 121 proposal is an adjustment to the legality in how law enforcement would apply a DUI if someone got pulled over and tested positive for marijuana.
According to Vickers, his bill proposes that people who smoked marijuana a day or two before being pulled over would not be charged with a driving related crime. If they smoked 30 minutes before being pulled over, they would be charged with a DUI potentially.
Another element of the proposed change would be to allow the unprocessed medical cannabis to be dispensed in child-proof bottles, instead of only blister packs.
Also included in the proposal is an increase in number of cannabis patients allowed per doctor, from 175 to 275 for a general practitioner, and 300 to 600 for a specialist.
Licensed growers would be allowed to stack planters, and have more than one location but they would still be subject to square footage limits in place.
The bill also attempts to clarify that private businesses are not required to accommodate the use of medical cannabis by their employees. SB 121 does require that government employers allow their qualified employees to use cannabis, unless they are impaired at work.
Sen. Vickers’ bill is scheduled to be heard this week by the Health and Human Services Committee.
For more information on the Utah medical marijuana program, visit medicalcannabis.utah.gov.