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Yes, Medical Marijuana is already legal in Utah. This was first voted by the passing of proposition 2 in 2016 and a compromise bill, with updates making it more similar to prop 2, was passed. This bill, the Utah Medical Cannabis Act is the current active legislation on Utah Medical Marijuana.
The qualifying medical conditions to be eligible for a Utah Medical Marijuana Card include:
Curious about becoming a patient and being evaluated for a Medical Marijuana Card? Read this post.
Another option is, of course, to ask your primary care provider or specialist. This is the best option if you want the visit covered by insurance because if a patient has a long-standing relationship with a provider that is willing and qualified (with the appropriate malpractice in place), they can do the recommendation during a normal visit. Usually this requires a long term patient-provider relationship (greater than three months) and a visit that is billed for the complaint, not for Medical Marijuana.
There are some providers who specialize in Medical Cannabis who are available for referrals. These clinics, including UtahMarijuana.clinic provide comprehensive education, dosing, and delivery recommendations for their patients.
Medical profProvider note: Malpractice coverage should specifically cover cannabis recommendations before seeing patients.
After March 2020 patients will be able to find a list of willing providers at the Utah Department of Health provider locator page.
Most of the willing providers have been limited, by the state, to 175 patients total. Unless this changes with legislation this year there may be providers who reach their maximum within the first few months. I am not suggesting patients rush to get a card, but it will be interesting to see if Utah decides to limit providers moving forward. Stay in our email list to be notified of those changes.
Finally, after March 1st, when all providers must log their patient letters/recommendations into the system, it will be interesting to see if many of the “recommending providers” have run out of patients to see. That is because many providers have been limited to 175 patients in total. This will leave less available and willing providers if the Utah legislature does not change the law and let some of us become the specialists we need to be for patients to get the access they deserve.
In any case it is difficult to find a quality Medical Marijuana specialist. Seek specialists who belong to groups like the Society of Cannabis Clinicians and work with Utah Patient Coalition first. Ask your primary care provider for a referral, or call our office and we can help you find someone you can trust.
Most visits will require a $250-$300 charge. No insurance covers a patient evaluation for Medical Marijuana as the primary reason for the visit. This is covered more here. New York State is starting to force insurance companies to pay for the visit, but this has not happened in Utah yet, or in any other state.
Many office visits include the initial consultation with a free follow-up appointment to adjust the therapy. Once you are stable on your dose, you will follow-up every 6 months to renew your certification.
The monthly cost of Medical Marijuana depends on how much you need and what delivery system you choose. It is common to spend between $100-$200 per month. One day, hopefully, insurance will start to cover Medical Marijuana.
While patients can use a Visa, MasterCard, and in some cases HSA funds to pay for the medical evaluation and recommendation, cannabis will not be available for purchase with any credit cards in the dispensaries. This is because it is still listed as a federal one schedule one substance and Visa and MasterCard have not yet allowed transactions for marijuana purchases.
Being a medical provider that recommends cannabis to your patients requires a few specific considerations. First, know that you will likely be limited to 175 patients unless you are board-certified in pain, palliative care, oncology, neurology, anesthesia, or gastroenterology. If that makes you reconsider even getting involved, you are not alone.
Providers need to attend a 4-hour CME course, approved by the Department of Health, to be eligible for the title of Qualified Medical Provider. The course is offered online or in person.
See this article for other considerations about becoming a medical provider.
Providers also will require specific malpractice insurance and must pay $300 to the state for registration.
There are providers who can offer “best practice” guidelines and provide education on delivery methods (oral, vape, flower, oils) and dosing (how much and how often)? But, some providers will give a recommendation and let patients figure it out on their own. If they don’t provide dosing then the patient is required to visit with a pharmacist or another doctor to establish dosing “guardrails”.
This might not be a big issue for seasoned users, but anyone who wants more information on the science behind the medicine, ratios of CBD to THC may want to double-check with their provider prior to the visit. If find that your provider does not offer this service, try finding info here.
To obtain a card, patients with a recommendation will go to the UDOH website and apply for their card. Some providers will start to do this step in the office, but not much is known of the system yet.
At this point in time a $15 charge is estimated for the cost of the actual card. It will take up to two weeks for the patient to receive their card. Therefore, if you are a patient already with a recommendation and apply for your card on 1 March, you will not have access to purchase any Medical Cannabis in Utah until at least 15 March, plan accordingly.
Here is a link to an article about the dispensaries. Utah did a good job of spreading those dispensaries out and keeping the number low, although some disagree with the privatization of the cannabis pharmacy system. Many of the companies that own a dispensary are local growers or are Utah residents.
No dispensaries are open in Utah yet. And they will not open until March or later of this year. There will be a total of 14 dispensaries, scattered throughout the state to make sure everyone has availability of product. This means you may need to travel to Nevada, Colorado, or another legal state to obtain your marijuana and return to Utah with it. There are certain legal considerations to know about this.
For example, it is still federally illegal to travel across state lines with marijuana, but there is little enforcement and prosecution of this in small quantities that are allowed by Utah law. I obviously don’t condone breaking the law, and I also know this is a tough situation for patients to be in.
Patients will be required to show valid identification and an official Medical Marijuana Card issued from the Utah Department of Health to enter dispensaries. No observers or medical providers will be allowed in the pharmacies unless they are themselves medical cardholders.
No flames or food! Patients cannot smoke a joint, use a bong or bowl, or have brownies, cookies, or candy edibles in Utah. There are no established benefits of using a flame to combust the marijuana for inhalation when you can use an electric vaporizer to warm the product and get more medical value and a better entourage effect from the Terpenes and different cannabinoids in the plant.
From a medical standpoint, there are few reasons to bake cookies or brownies in order to get the medication ingested. Patients can simply use a liquid suspension with a dropper.
Raw cannabis flower WILL BE AVAILABLE in dispensaries; blister packs will likely not be needed after this legislative session. This is the list of legal product types you can have and use in Utah:
PATIENTS MAY NOT SMOKE MARIJUANA (NO JOINTS), MAY NOT BUY EDIBLES – CANDIES, COOKIES, BROWNIES ETC. IN THE STATE. THESE ARE NOT PERMITTED UNDER THE LAW.
92% of patients will use Utah Medical Marijuana for pain, according to this graph based on users. Marijuana can be very beneficial to pain patients as it is synergistic with opioids, meaning it works well together and allows people to use fewer narcotic medications. Lower dose narcotics are always safer for patients.
You can read more about examples of patients with pain in this article that I wrote last week.
Growers and producers in dispensary owners are busy working on good products. I met with one of the growlers from Zion cultivars last week and discussed strain types and possible product combinations that will be available in the first dispensaries to open in Salt Lake City.
Proper Hempco.com has been working on a formulation of 2.5 mg THC/10 mg CBD for some of my patients who require a micro-dosing or very low-dose sensitization protocol. These will be very good for new users because it will keep the psychoactivity or “hi “to a minimum. There were previously no ultra low dose products being developed for Utah.
In early February I will be interviewing with the I Am Salt Lake Podcast. Subscribe and support this local podcast and learn more about what we are working on.
February 12th at 6:00 pm, in partnership with Salt Lake Culinary Education Center, UtahMarijuana.org is hosting a provider information session for medical providers and staff to come and learn more about cannabis as a medicine and how to navigate deciding whether or not to recommend Utah Medical Marijuana Cards in practice.
I will discuss best practices and clinically Useful information. We will go through a typical patient visit, what to expect as a medical provider, what the patient should expect from you. We will go through some simple guidelines to follow, and I will provide resources on how to get more information from me.
This discussion is not associated with the Utah Department of health and there is no CME available for attending. This is strictly to get patients and providers the best possible clinical information to keep people safe and educated. I believe we need to listen to each other and listen to patients in order to do this well.
Throughout the month UtahMarijuana.org will be putting out articles on the most common conditions that cannabis is helpful for and guidelines for users to learn how others have reduced prescription medication.
We are very excited to work with guest writers including legal counsel, clinical pharmacy, and nursing contributors in the next few months. A diversity of viewpoints will make this project much more usable for you as a reader.
Please be careful. Personalized education, dosing, and delivery recommendations are a key part of having a good relationship with marijuana medicine. Plant-based medicine is complex and requires a thoughtful approach from both the provider and the patient. There is no substitute for good medical advice from a caring medical provider.
This is an exciting time to be a patient and a provider in Utah. We are certainly at a turning point in medicine and I am happy to be a part of it with you and for you.
I am very excited to have been invited to I am Salt Lake podcast. I hope they will release my interview sometime in February 2020. I encourage all of you to like their Facebook page and subscribe to the podcast in anticipation!
Finally, I am also excited to bring you recorded interviews with real patients suffering from injury and illness who have found Medical Marijuana to be a useful tool in regaining control of their lives. I hope to bring you at least one of these interviews per month, with unique perspectives.
All in all I hope you see that this is a comprehensive project, it is very exciting and I look forward to working with each and every one of you. As always, please leave comments and suggestions below, like us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!