Appeals board questions why only 8 growers picked for Utah’s medical marijuana program

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

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah’s medical marijuana licensing process was called into question by a state regulatory appeals board which said the state may have erred in choosing only eight growers for the program set to launch next year.

In a written decision made public Thursday, a three-person panel consisting of two state employees and a private attorney suggest the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food issued fewer licenses than outlined in the law.

The board argued the law’s language indicates the state’s intent to grant an “initial 10 licenses,” according to the decision. They suggested state agriculture officials review their licensing process because “too few licenses were awarded by DAF according to the requirements of the Utah Code,” the decision read.

Their recommendation came in a statement rejecting the latest appeal from one of the companies that wasn’t chosen to grow medical marijuana.

Three companies, Pure UT LLC, JLPR LLC and Total Health Sciences LLC, challenged Utah’s rejections of their original appeals.

Marijuana plants grow in a greenhouse in British Columbia, Sept. 25, 2018 | Associated Press file photo by Ted S. Warren, St. George News

The panel upheld the earlier denial of the appeals but agreed with Pure UT’s objection to the state not selecting 10 growers as allowed under the law.

In July, Utah chose eight growers for its medical marijuana program. State agriculture officials have said this was done to avoid an oversupply of the drug.

Their decision immediately sparked protest from marijuana advocates and rejected applicants, who claimed the state granted licenses to unqualified cultivators and will create a cannabis shortage.

It was not immediately clear if the board’s feedback would force the state to reassess its decision.

Agriculture officials didn’t immediately have comment.

Utah legislators are expected to convene in a special session Monday to approve changes to the medical marijuana law passed last year, which include scrapping a planned state-run dispensary system.

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