SALT LAKE CITY – Utah has officially launched its medicinal cannabis program. On Monday, patients were able to apply for medicinal cannabis cards. The Utah Medical Cannabis Act dictated that the program had to start by Monday, a deadline that required quite a bit of work by officials.
“It’s been in the law the program has to get up and running by today, and so the [Utah] Department of Health, the [Utah] Department of Agriculture—everyone has been working up until today,” Connor Boyack, president of the Libertas Institute, a libertarian thinktank supporting medicinal cannabis said.
According to KSLTV, in order to qualify for medicinal cannabis in Utah patients must:
- Locate a medical provider who is registered to recommend medical cannabis
- Meet with a qualified medical provider
- Review the electronic verification system tutorial and apply online for a card
- Qualified medical provider issues recommendation online
- Pay a medical cannabis card application fee online (initial: $15, first 30-day renewal: $5, six-month renewal: $15)
Although fourteen dispensaries may open by the end of March, twenty are expected to be operational by this summer. Currently, only Dragonfly Wellness has opened its doors to patients.
Voters approved medicinal cannabis in November 2018, and many, including members of the cannabis industry, have been anxious to see the program up and running long before now.
“For far too long we’ve been told what we should do and what we shouldn’t do,” Narith Panh, Dragonfly’s chief strategy officer, said at a news conference. “And now, finally, we have that option to be able to take back control of our own health, to take back control of our lifestyle, to take back control of how we manage our medical conditions.”
“So excited for this,” David Sutherland, a qualified patient, told CBS KUTV. “It’s going to help a lot of people, it’s going to help me especially.”
Sutherland suffered a spinal cord injury eight years ago and has been living in discomfort, waiting for safe access to cannabis. “Since my injury,” Sutherland explained. “To get off of opioids and all the chemicals that I was doing. Nerve meds, muscle relaxers. I became depressed, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety meds. It was a whole handful of pills that I was taking monthly.”
For many in Utah, legal cannabis may be a bit of a culture shock. Tim Pickett, a physicians assistant and medicinal cannabis provider, believes legalization will not alter the moral fabric of Utah. “I think the medical community and the patients will see that this isn’t going to, it isn’t going to change the Utah culture,” Pickett said.