Utah Medical Marijuana Initiative Insight

Caroline Morris
October 26, 2018

Contributing Writer: Sumer Thomas

Times are Changing

Utah is traditionally a conservative state, with over 50% of the population belonging to the Church of the Latter-day Saints and an electoral college that hasn’t voted democrat in over 50 years. Sandwiched between Colorado and Nevada, two states that have legalized adult-use marijuana, it’s no surprise that Utah has refused to keep up with the Joneses. This November, however — with medical marijuana looking like a shoo-in on the ballot and a powerful consensus of Utah lawmakers, faith leaders, and advocates — the tide is turning.

The Beehive State

The Beehive State is unique, and when it comes to cannabis, the same is true:

1. Utah was the first state to legalize CBD oil without legalizing other forms of cannabis, when the state legalized CBD oil for epilepsy in 2014.

2. Utah is recognized as the first state to explicitly ban cannabis, doing so in 1915, even though “marihuana” didn’t become federally illegal until the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. Some say California really owns this title, though its law wasn’t publicized, so no one really knew about the marijuana prohibition.

3. Utah passed the “right to try” bill in March 2018, giving terminally ill patients the right to try and to grow medical marijuana. President Trump followed closely behind, signing a federal “right to try” bill on May 30, 2018, which allows a terminally ill patient who has exhausted approved treatment options to try certain unapproved, investigational drugs.

4. Utah’s Proposition 2, The Utah Medical Cannabis Act, is on the November 6, 2018 ballot, and if successful, will make Utah the 32nd state to legalize medical marijuana. If you can believe it, 77% of Utahns support the legalization of medical marijuana. Utah and Missouri are the only states with medical cannabis on the November 2018 ballot, while Michiganders and North Dakotans will face the question of adult-use marijuana legalization.

5. Even if Prop 2 fails to pass on the November ballot, which pollsters find unlikely, the Utah legislature has already drafted their own Utah Medical Cannabis Act that “provides for the cultivation, processing, medical recommendation, and patient use of medical cannabis.” The legislation differs from the ballot initiative in significant ways.
Here are a few:

a. Prop 2 would allow for the licensing of up to 15 marijuana cultivation facilities and a formula to determine the number of dispensaries based on population. For example, Salt Lake City could have up to 8 dispensaries.
b. The legislation puts more power in the state government’s hands, not only to administer the medical cannabis program, but for county health departments to dole out the medicine themselves.
c. The legislation defines a state-run medical marijuana facility a “dispensary,” while a privately-run facility is called a “medical cannabis pharmacy.”

Hopeful Number 32

It’s looking incredibly likely that Utah will join 31 other U.S. states with legalized medical marijuana this year, and come 2019, the Utah legislature will be faced with the daunting challenge of implementing a successful medical marijuana program.

Contact our expert cannabis consultants today to see what you can be doing now to prepare for a medical marijuana license in Utah.

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