Cannabis remains illegal at the national level, but states have made great strides with legalization.
In Utah, efforts to legalize cannabis for medicinal use faced multiple obstacles even as neighboring states embraced compassionate programs with ease.
Where lawmakers failed, the general public managed to get cannabis legalized for medical use by putting it on the November 2018 ballot as the Utah Medical Cannabis Act initiative.
Since its adoption, the state’s medical cannabis program has undergone various modifications.
Let’s explore the impacts of these legislative changes on medical cannabis in Utah.
The medical cannabis program saw new changes in 2021 that expanded the role of physicians. SB 170 gives medical providers more room to recommend marijuana to patients.
Marijuana doctors can now recommend up to 15 patients without having to meet stricter requirements.
With the number of patients seeking medical cannabis on the rise, an improvement in physician participation has made it easier for more people to get registered with the program.
Patient protection at the workplace is the main issue addressed in Senate Bill 46. The provision protects employees consuming marijuana in compliance with the medical cannabis law from getting punished by state employers.
So long as employees don’t report to work under marijuana influence, state employers can’t take punitive actions against them. Keep in mind that these protections only apply to people working for state employers and not private entities.
Protection also extends to medical cannabis patients in judicial proceedings. They are not to be discriminated against because of marijuana use since the bill clarifies and treats the drug like any other authorized medication.
Another recent legislation set to impact every aspect of medical cannabis regulation in Utah is Senate Bill 153.
The bill, which passed the senate and the house and got signed into law during the 2022 legislative session, calls for the creation of a working group to “study and to make recommendations regarding a single state entity to oversee all medical cannabis regulation.”
The new law is meant to make things more cohesive and enforce industry standards.
The new reforms have adjusted and built upon the ballot measure, also known as Proposition 2.
Five years since legalization, what do the new changes mean for medical cannabis patients in Utah?
Recent changes in the medical cannabis industry in Utah have had some positive effects on patients, which include:
1. Quality Products
There’s a clear line now between the hemp industry and the medical cannabis industry as lawmakers have ensured clarification and proper labeling for the benefit of patients.
Previously, products made from synthetic cannabinoids had infiltrated the market. By prohibiting these chemicals, which have no known benefits, the Utah Cannabinoid Product Board has ensured quality for medical marijuana patients.
2. Limited Prescription
One of the provisions in SB 195 caters to patients in need of cannabis prescription. These patients must have qualifying conditions such as chronic pain or terminal illness to have limited access to a cannabis prescription.
3. Ease of Access
Patients can now access medical cannabis with ease via drive-throughs or home delivery. For those with moving difficulties, home delivery is a huge relief.
Besides the positive impact of recent legislation on patients, a number of restrictions on possession and purchase are also in place. Here is a breakdown:
- Regardless of the circumstances you’re in as a medical marijuana patient, it remains prohibited to purchase and possess 113 grams of unprocessed cannabis flower or 20 grams of composite THC.
- It’s unlawful to have in your possession cannabis paraphernalia, a violation that may result in prosecution.
- If you live a distance of less than 100 miles from a health department or medical marijuana dispensary, then within 12 days, you’re not allowed to purchase:
- More than the 14-day prescribed amount
- Composite THC above 10 grams
- Unprocessed cannabis flower above 56 grams
- If you live more than 100 miles from a health department or medical marijuana dispensary, then within 28 days, you’re not allowed to purchase:
- More than the 30-day prescribed amount
- Composite THC above 20 grams
- Unprocessed cannabis flower above 113 grams
Medical cannabis may have faced bumps in Utah, but the industry continues to improve as new changes are enacted. Regardless of a bumpy history, the reforms have resulted in more benefits for patients.