Patients struggling to stay legal using medical cannabis find support with new bill from Utah lawmaker

Composite image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE —While patients and legislators are still huffing and puffing about whether the recently passed Utah Medical Cannabis Act is a good idea for Utah, people can now seek relief for their medical ailments beyond traditional pharmaceuticals. But with many patients still confused – and in some cases, outright restricted – as to how they can purchase the medical marijuana, a Utah legislator has introduced a bill offering amendments and clarifications of the act.

Stock image of unprocessed cannabis flower, St. George News

Seven days a week, dozens of patients with Utah licences plates travel to dispensaries across Nevada to purchase their medicine while they await the state dispensaries to get up and running, and though it is now legal to possess their medicine while in Utah, under the “extremely prescriptive” structure of the current act about the kind of dosage and packaging a patient can have in their possession, many are having difficulties remaining within the boundaries of the law.

“If a product is ‘legal’ but no one can buy the product that complies with the legal definition, then the product is not legal in practice,” Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost, D-Salt Lake City recently told St. George News about the impetus behind her new bill she is pushing her colleagues to back in the House.

In their haste to pass a rebuttal to the voter-approved Proposition 2 last fall, lawmakers failed to take in every consideration for practical use of cannabis when passing HB 3001, said Dailey-Provost, a member of the Health and Human Services and Government Operations committees. Utah Medical Cannabis Act Amendments, designated as House Bill 383, attempts to bring some clarification and lessened restrictions for Utahns.

One area the bill addresses is marijuana packaging. Several forms of the medicine, such as edibles, concentrates and tinctures with the proper packaging that comply with Utah law, are available in nearby dispensaries in Colorado and Nevada. Unprocessed cannabis flowers used for smoking are designated by HB 3001 to be packaged in 1 gram blister packs for individual consumption, but they are not available to purchase by patients anywhere nearby.

Cannabis flowers are commonly sold in other states in ziplocked bags, generic prescription bottles or plastic and glass jars in assorted amounts from 1 gram to 1 ounce packages bearing several different manufacturing styles, and the Utah limitations are leaving patients hazy on how to purchase their medicine. Dailey-Provost’s bill would remove a requirement for the blister packs.

HB 383 would create a more lenient definition so that people can actually use affirmative defense when they purchase products from out of state – when they have a recommendation by a physician,” Dailey-Provost said.

Another provision her bill is seeking to address is increasing the number of people that a qualified medical provider can prescribe cannabis to from 175 to 500 patients. She said with a limited number of physicians in Utah who are willing and able to recommend cannabis, the shortage of available patient spots will have the unintended consequence of “doctor shopping.”

“Ironically, the limits that were imposed in HB 3001 were written so as to avoid doctor shopping, but in practice will have the exact opposite effect as patients scramble to establish care with a willing recommending physician,” she said.

Read more: Intermountain Healthcare, U of U Health to allow physicians to recommend medical cannabis

Dailey-Provost said advocates and her constituents have also been pushing for a change to the age limit restriction in HB 3001 for cannabis products use and purchase from 21 years old to 18, the age when Americans are considered of legal age to perform many other actions.

I think that in virtually every area of medicine, full authority and autonomy over decisions begins at 18,” she said. “And in fact, with regard to some issues, patients as young as 14 can request certain levels of medical confidentiality and autonomy in conversations about health care, medical treatments and health goals.”

However, Dailey-Provost added that she would be willing to compromise on this portion in order to make progress in the House.

HB 383 is now being studied by the House Rules Committee for future consideration and debate.

Read more: See all St. George News reports and opinions on Utah Legislature 2019 issues

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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