Southwest Utah health department finds itself in unexpected role of medical marijuana distributor

Marijuana plants at a dispensary in Oakland, Calif., Jan. 1, 2018 | Associated Press file photo by Mathew Sumner, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Proposition 2 compromise bill, or the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, which was passed into law earlier this month, names local health departments as points of distribution for medical marijuana.

Each of the 13 local health departments, along with seven to 10 medical cannabis pharmacies placed throughout the state, will be responsible for providing one dispensary in their district, which means the Southwest Utah Public Health Department is required to provide just one dispensary for the five counties it covers: Washington, Iron, Kane, Garfield and Beaver, David Blodgett, health officer for the department, said.

According to a flowchart summarizing the inventory control system, the bill allows for a maximum number of 10-15 cannabis cultivators in the state.

The product will be tested by an independent laboratory, which will send it to a central processing plant for packaging.

From there it will be sent to a medical cannabis pharmacy for distribution or to a state central fill pharmacy, which will then send it to local health departments for distribution.

It kind of puts us right into the distribution chain that we maybe hadn’t expected to play a role in before,” Dave Heaton, the health department’s public information officer, said.

The only role that the health departments will have in the process is distributing the cannabis to those with a doctor’s prescription and a medical marijuana card issued by the state. They will not stock any marijuana in the dispensary beyond that needed to fill existing prescriptions.

“All we’ll do is check their identification and their card, and then give it to them,” Blodgett said.

It is still unknown who will run the dispensary, where funding will come from and where exactly it will be located. Funding for the first year, 2020, will come from the state’s general fund.

The bill is still undergoing adjustments and faces a potential lawsuit, both of which could prompt changes to the bill’s current language.

Read more: LDS church, lawmakers threatened with lawsuit over Prop 2 compromise bill

Should the bill go unchanged, however, the Southwest Utah Public Health Department would locate its dispensary in one of its existing county health offices. Which one will depend on whether a medical cannabis pharmacy is placed in their district and where it is located.

“I think it will be very different by the time it actually happens but we’ll see. It’s still early,” Blodgett said.  

Email: [email protected]

Twitter:  @STGnews | @MikaylaShoup

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.


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  • LocalTourist December 27, 2018 at 7:05 am

    Awesome… so our state health department offices are now going to be dispensing a Schedule 1 substance in the same spot we give kids their vaccinations and do those WIC applications.
    Rather than have a “budtender” handling this as a sale in the private sector, we’re going to have clerks, with zero knowledge of cannabis, handing cannabis to medical patients.
    And that’s better than going to a dispensary how???

    What about those health dept offices that are next door to schools…the state will be breaking the law saying these “pharmacies” must be 600 feet away from schools…? Remember the idiot cop driving the u-Haul around to protest that very issue?

    Utah needs to get out of people’s medicine cabinets and get out of competition with the private sector. Smaller government and less intrusion into the privacy of citizens.

  • iceplant December 27, 2018 at 7:54 am

    LOL 🙂 Utah continues to shoot itself in both feet.
    This is why medical marijuana in Utah will be a dismal failure. It’s not what people voted for.
    I mean, really? Talk about feeling like your vote doesn’t matter. What was the point of even voting on this at all?

    This is also why the black market will continue to thrive. And will, most likely, continue to be the best source for discerning medical cannabis users. I have no problem with that. I know where mine comes from, who’s growing it, and what it’s going to do for me. As well, people can travel to Colorado or Nevada and by quality product(although I don’t recommend going to the dispensary in Mesquite because it’s a steep ripoff).

    I really hope that lawsuit gets traction. Tired of the Mormon church telling me what to put in my body.

    • mesaman December 27, 2018 at 7:52 pm

      You need to take a leave from whining and blaming. Your insidious hate is starting to gnaw at your brain. You wanted marijuana, you voted for it, now you want it tailored to your consumption (medical?).

      • iceplant December 28, 2018 at 12:05 am

        Are you freaking serious? Insidious hate?
        Did you even pay attention to what the Utah legislature did to Prop 2 after it passed?
        I’m not asking for it to be tailored for anyone. I’m angry because they changed the law that everyone voted for AFTER we all voted for it. What part of that is whining and blaming? I’m pissed off because our votes didn’t matter.
        Take a seat, pal. You got nothing here.

      • Redbud December 28, 2018 at 12:41 am

        Mesaman, I agree with your statement! Iceplant could also use a lesson learning the difference between “by” and “buy.”

        • iceplant December 28, 2018 at 6:27 am

          Keep trying to ding me for missing one letter in a word when English isn’t even your first language, comrade.

  • Red2Blue310 December 27, 2018 at 8:17 pm

    “It is still unknown who will run the dispensary, where funding will come from and where exactly it will be located….”

    Uhh, try MedMen.

    • LocalTourist December 29, 2018 at 12:11 pm

      The director of the state Health Dept will be responsible for it all.
      And I’m willing to bet Evan Vickers runs the “central fill” pharmacy.

  • jaltair December 28, 2018 at 11:44 pm

    The influence of any church on government might be breaking Federal law for the issue of, “church/state.” It would be interesting to see someone file a claim and have it go up the courts for a decision on how much government can be influenced by church. It could go up to the Supreme Court.

    • LocalTourist December 29, 2018 at 12:09 pm

      No doubt, the passive-aggressive saints will take issue with your comment and say it was never meant to prohibit religions from practicing politics, but that there would never be a state-sanctioned religion.

      Okay, fine, I won’t argue those (stupid and ridiculous) concepts.

      But the Utah State Constitution, Article 1 Section 4 states : “There shall be no union of Church and State, nor shall any church dominate the State or interfere with its functions.”

      It would seem pretty obvious the LDS church has interfered with the function of the legislature representing the will of the people. In addition, the Mormons are no longer the majority in the state… but 88% of the legislators are LDS, so the church is over-represented.
      And what chance do you think any one of us would have to get a special session called, like the church got?

      So say the church doesnt have sway in lawmaking is to ignore the 800 pound gorilla sitting in the legislature. Of course they do, and thats fine…provided the voters have the same access to lawmaking. But they dont.

    • LocalTourist December 29, 2018 at 12:13 pm

      The other argument is the legislature and the citizens are supposed to be equals (if you listen to legislators).
      But when the legislature passes a bill, it only gets reviewed by the executive branch (governor) and the judicial branch (courts).
      When a citizen gets a law passed via initiative, it is scrutinized by the executive, the courts, AND the legislative branch… in other words, we aren’t treated as equals… and yet their power to legislate comes from the citizens.

      That’s an abuse of power, and it must be corrected by the courts.

  • Canaanite January 2, 2019 at 8:05 pm

    Still waiting for a brave congress critter to propose legislation for removal as a Schedule 1 drug…

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