Medical marijuana in Utah: You can use it, but you can’t buy it

Letesha Case holds her daughter Aurora Case, 2, as they sit next to their sign Dec. 3, 2018, at the Utah state Capitol in Salt Lake City. Lawmakers passed changes to a voter-approved medical-marijuana ballot measure. | Associated Press file photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah patients can use medical marijuana legally after a compromise agreement was signed into law, but they likely won’t be able to buy it legally until at least 2020, officials said Tuesday.

The state will need time to first build up a database to start issuing patients medical-cannabis cards, and then begin granting licenses for dispensaries, health department spokesman Tom Hudachko said. The first license for a private dispensary must be awarded by June 2020, though authorities are aiming to do it faster.

But people who have bought permitted forms of medicinal marijuana, like cube-shaped gummies and oils, with a doctor’s recommendation now have legal protections.

“We did not want them to be considered criminals for the next year or two while they wait for the bureaucracy,” said Connor Boyack with the group Libertas Institute, who helped draft a legalization law passed by voters in November.

Until medical cannabis cards become available, patients can carry a letter from their doctor recommending use of the drug.

Lawmakers passed sweeping changes to the law Monday under a compromise deal that was arranged before Election Day and won the support of the influential Mormon church.

Gov. Gary Herbert quickly signed it into law, calling it the “best-designed medical cannabis program in the country,” and directed the state to implement it as soon as possible.

Some advocates, though, say the agreement makes it too difficult for patients to access the drug and have vowed to sue. The changes ban many marijuana edibles, prevent people from growing their own marijuana if they live far from a dispensary and narrow the list of eligible medical conditions for which the drug can be obtained.

The deadlines for opening dispensaries are largely the same as those written into the original bill, Boyack said. They call for the state to begin issuing medical cannabis cards in March 2020 and start a state-run central dispensary later that year.

The compromise cuts the number of private dispensaries from 15 to seven. But if the state doesn’t create its central dispensary by January 2021, more private licenses will begin becoming available.

Desiree Hennessy with the Utah Patients Coalition said she wanted the original law to stay intact, but the new one is a platform she’s hoping to build upon.

Hennessy is planning to get a doctor’s letter to use medical marijuana to treat her son Hestevan, whose cerebral palsy leaves him with severe disabilities and bouts of nerve pain that leave him screaming for hours. Cannabis has been the only effective treatment, she said.

“This is our one shot, so it’s pretty awesome,” she said.

Written by LINDSAY WHITEHURST, Associated Press.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • jpff December 4, 2018 at 7:51 pm

    I like and support the compromise; I have seen the wonders that medical treatment with cannabis can do. I am also happy that the compromise doesn’t open the door to the people who want it for recreational use.

    • Kilroywashere December 4, 2018 at 8:49 pm

      Gee Jpuff, if you need it for medicinal reasons in the near future, you can wait till 2020 to finally be able to purchase it. How wonderful. As far as your.genuine concern from saving others from the evils of recreational use, thank you for deciding what is right for other Americans. Smoking Pot for recreational use is as American as drinking beer and for that matter Apple pie. That is why it is legal now in numerous states. As far as Utah, maybe your concern is better spent on over prescription of anti depressants and the opioid epidemic. Add to that, perhaps the high rate of suicide in this state should also turn your head. Have you ever considered marijuana releases stress, and for some provides a quality of life. Give me a break. I feel like your words are from a David & Goliath claymation cartoon from the 1960s.

  • Kilroywashere December 4, 2018 at 8:03 pm

    Love the sign in the picture. Says it all. I wonder what Thomas Jefferson would think about all this? He separated his female marijuana plants from the males on his plantation. Something growers do to this day. Not for hemp production by the way. Gee I wonder if our founding fathers smoked that whacky tobacco? Governor Herbie you are full of you know what. 2020, lol what a joke. Reefer madness derangement syndrome. Save us from the devil weed! The LDS Church should be proud of their political victory over the will of the Utah people. Congratulations. You did it YOUR WAY and on the cheap as well.

    • tazzman December 4, 2018 at 8:19 pm

      Kilroy, Jefferson grew his plants for hemp. There is no evidence smoked. None. TJ and Washington both used hemp for many uses, as did many other people in their day. But there is no evidence they cultivated their plants to smoke.

      • Kilroywashere December 4, 2018 at 9:01 pm

        Oh I will agree with you Hemp was grown primarily for industrial purposes and low grade in the 1700s, but it is mentioned in Jefferson’s letters about separating male from female plants which suspiciously points to producing potent buds. Jefferson was very eccentric, a Mason, with connections to Dr. Weishaupt as weii.

  • Red2Blue310 December 4, 2018 at 8:23 pm

    Nice to know people who are already using MM wont be arrested after all. LMAO!!! who cares what LDS thinks. Buy the stuff in every other state and use as usual.

  • DRT December 4, 2018 at 8:47 pm

    Push that lawsuit forward! These jerk politicians, bought and paid for by the Mormon Church need to be brought up short. I really felt like when we the people approved prop 2 that it would shake up some of these life long politicians. And apparently it has, to the point that they are at least trying to make it look like they are “working” on this mess.

    • Kilroywashere December 4, 2018 at 9:02 pm

      Amen brother.

      • Utahguns December 4, 2018 at 9:07 pm

        This church and it’s cult-like influence just steams me….

    • Steven December 4, 2018 at 10:46 pm

      Lol. You actually think a law suit will help you? Maybe stop smoking so much it’s killing your brain

      • iceplant December 5, 2018 at 6:05 am

        Maybe you have a better suggestion. Should we just bend over and take it? Capitulate?
        Maybe you should start smoking some.

  • Utahguns December 4, 2018 at 9:05 pm

    There is actually a endocannabinoid system in the human body. Cannabinoid receptors can be found in your brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, and immune system. Both the therapeutic and psychoactive properties of marijuana occur when a cannabinoid activates a cannabinoid receptor. There’s still ongoing research as to how far they impact your health, but to date, it’s known that cannabinoid receptors play an important role in many body processes, including metabolic regulation, cravings, pain, anxiety, bone growth and immune function.

    • Comment December 4, 2018 at 11:31 pm

      The way that some hardcore dopers tell it, our body was designed to require cannabinoids since our body has the receptors. Like it’s an essential vitamin or something. We’ll we got opioid receptors too. I guess the right person could argue that crack is like an essential vitamin to them, LOL. It’s kind of funny they call them cannabinoid receptors. The plant happens to have molecules that hit these receptors, but they do have some other function besides being there to get people high. I just think it’s funny.

      • iceplant December 5, 2018 at 5:40 am

        “hardcore dopers”
        Thanks for that lesson, gramps.

        • Comment December 5, 2018 at 10:57 am

          I could’t come up w/ a better term. That would be those who use mj solely for chasing the high or using it as an escapism. For those that smoke it, even w/ your water bong or w/e, the stuff is every bit as harmful as cigs and probably worse.

  • jaltair December 4, 2018 at 10:08 pm

    I guess I’ll be buying cbd oil for a while then. I do hope the lawsuit goes forward, at 72 and with chronic pain from chronic health problems, sure would like to see if the medical marijuana would help. The cbd helps to a point. Anyone else taking cbd oil?

    • Comment December 4, 2018 at 11:32 pm

      No, does it work as a sleep aid though?

      • iceplant December 5, 2018 at 6:06 am

        Best dang sleep-aid on Earth.

      • jaltair December 5, 2018 at 9:16 pm

        Yes, it does help me. It takes about 40 minutes to an hour to get there, though. It also does help some of the pain I have that’s related to my lupus and fibromyalgia as well. I only take it at night and it’s a trial. My medicine is cheaper, trying to get off of it with the cbd. Hope this answers your question. Iceplant helped!

        Question: Does cbd work as well as Medical Marijuana would? Wondering. Especially with the pain I have.

  • iceplant December 5, 2018 at 5:43 am

    Not even going to bother getting a card. This wasn’t what I voted for.
    I’ll keep getting my meds through the black market. Lord knows going to Mesquite is a big fat ripoff.
    I’m beginning to embrace being an outlaw in this state. Hell, I don’t even care if I get arrested. Been there, done that, over it.
    Lawsuit? Pointless. Utah just …* all over the will over the voters. THEY DON’T CARE.

    * Ed. ellipsis added.

    • Comment December 5, 2018 at 10:16 am

      Seems the only way to make it cost effective is to have a few plants of your own.

      • iceplant December 5, 2018 at 12:57 pm

        It is extremely cost effective and I would love… LOVE to grow my own. I’ve done it before and growing cannabis isn’t very hard. Especially outdoors. Sun, water, a little natural fertilizer, and basic care. Pretty easy.
        The “hard” part is living in Utah. Too many snooping neighbors. As much as I don’t care if I get arrested with a small amount for personal use, getting busted for growing your own is a much bigger problem. I can see it now. Some overzealous local prosecutor wanting to make an example of the lowly cannabis user and tacking on unrealistic charges like intent to distribute or growing within 1000′ of a Mormon church. Reefer Madness.

        • Comment December 5, 2018 at 5:48 pm

          Yup, it’s hardly worth the risk. Jail or even prison just for growing a plant.

  • rusty shackleford December 5, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    Isn’t it amusing that the two biggest marijuana advocates, Cheech and Chong, portray dope users as being a lazy, mindless, stupid bumbling idiots. “Dave?….Dave’s not here”. Let’s legalize recreational use of marijuana and lessen the applicant pool for the higher paying professional jobs.

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