Washington County could be among future sites for medical marijuana cultivation

ST. GEORGE — After choosing eight companies to become state-licensed medical marijuana growers last week, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food says Washington County could be home to one of the growing sites.

A bud tender shows a top cannabis strain at a dispensary in Portland, Ore., Feb. 7, 2019 | Associated Press file photo by Richard Vogel, St. George News

“Half of the awardees already have existing businesses in Utah, and the other half are out of state but have Utah ties,” Kerry W. Gibson, commissioner of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, said in a statement Friday.

The eight companies chosen are Dragonfly Greenhouse, Harvest of Utah, Oakridge Greenhouses, Standard Wellness Utah, True North of Utah, Tryke Companies Utah, Wholesome Ag. and Zion Cultivars.

The state received 81 applications that resulted in hundreds of hours of committee review before the final eight were chosen.

While they have been selected for licensing, each company must still undergo background checks and meet other requirements before licensing and contracts are finalized by the department and the Division of Purchasing.

As the licensing process in still underway, the department could not say definitively where future cultivation facilities would go. However, Sasha Clark, public information officer for the department, told St. George News Monday there was a pending proposal for a facility in Washington County.

All of the medical marijuana growing sites will be in Utah, with seven possible locations slated for rural parts of the state and one proposed for an urban area.

While the Utah Medical Cannabis Act allows for 10 active cultivation licenses, the department says it only issued eight to avoid oversupply issues.

A hemp plant is pollinated at a facility in Springfield, Ore., April 24, 2018 | Associated Press file photo by Don Ryan, St. George News

“The decision to only award eight licenses was made to avoid an oversupply of product, while still maintaining a healthy diversity of cultivators for purposes of competition of product quality and patient pricing,” said Andrew Rigby, the department’s director of medical cannabis and industrial hemp programs.

Harvest of Utah, one of the eight companies selected for licensing, issued a statement Monday saying it was grateful to have been selected, while also applauding the state’s selection process.

“Utah’s rigorous evaluation standards highlight the state’s dedication to their community and we share in their vision to improve patients’ lives through cannabis,” Harvest CEO Steve White said in the statement. “We are grateful to be a part of this milestone and be granted the opportunity to build exceptional operations that provide the most trusted and safe products … We are looking forward to playing a pivotal role in this next stage of providing greater access for the thousands of patients in Utah.”

Pending license approval, entry into the Utah market will expand Harvest’s operations to 18 states and territories.

Medical marijuana became legal in Utah last fall, though not without controversy.

Originally, a ballot initiative calling for the legalization of medical marijuana was passed by voters on Election Day 2018.

However, state legislators and others, such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said some of the provisions in the ballot initiative were either too vague or too board. This led to the creation of compromise legislation between lawmakers and some of the state’s medical marijuana advocates that addressed the concerns brought on by the ballot initiative.

The compromise legislation, which also had the backing of the church, passed during a special session of the Legislature in early December.

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Twitter: @MoriKessler

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

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