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Utah in the Weeds Episode #82 - Cody James, Industrial Hemp and Medical Cannabis Program Manager

What to Expect in This Episode

Episode 82 of Utah in the Weeds features Cody James, Industrial Hemp and Medical Cannabis Program Manager for the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.

UDAF is one of the two testing facilities helping to ensure the quality and safety of Medical Cannabis products sold in the Beehive State. We started this episode with a quick overview of UDAF's role in overseeing the agricultural aspects of Industrial Hemp and Medical Cannabis in Utah. [02:41]

Cody has been working for UDAF for about 16 years. He told us about his job as Program Manager and how he ended up in that role. [03:33]

Part of UDAF's job with the Medical Cannabis program is conducting compliance checks. This means making sure each of Utah's cannabis grow facilities employ certified agents and maintains a clean environment. [08:06]

Cody told us about Utah's Medical Cannabis safety standards, the testing and approval process, and some of the challenges that have arisen since the program launched.   [09:34]

Host Tim Pickett asked Cody about the amount of cannabis flower reserved for testing. Some people have raised concerns that the amount of flower reserved for testing in Utah is too high, and it makes less cannabis available for end consumers. Cody says this may have been an issue in the early days of the Medical Cannabis program, but it isn't a problem now.  [13:25]

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a global shortage of pipettes, which are needed for Medical Cannabis testing. Cody talked about the workarounds testing facilities in Utah have used during the shortage. [16:05]

Many people have wondered about the lack of terpene profile information on Medical Cannabis products. Cody says the state laboratory has the equipment necessary for measuring terpenes, but, due to the sheer number of terpenes, it isn't practical to test for each one. [20:08]

If another testing facility were to open, UDAF's role in Medical Cannabis would change. At that point, UDAF would take more of a regulatory role, and conduct spot-testing and further analysis for products that don't meet Utah's standards. [21:37]

The conversation shifted to the controversy surrounding delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol, a synthetically-produced analog of delta-9 THC. Utah allows local producers to make Delta-8 products as long as they have a purity of at least 95%. [23:27]

Cody says UDAF doesn't anticipate requesting any major changes to the Medical Cannabis program next year, but there are some minor issues to address. These include the debate on whether or not sugar can be used in making "gelatinous cubes," Utah's version of cannabis gummies. [33:33]

Tim asked about UDAF's position on allowing Medical Cannabis patients to grow their own medicine, which currently isn't allowed by law. Cody says UDAF hasn't really discussed the issue, and their focus has been on keeping up with the current demands of the program. [35:44]

Next, Tim and Cody talked about the future of the industrial hemp industry in Utah. Cody says hemp has a number of promising uses in the construction industry. These include hemp-based concrete and lumber substitutes. [37:52]

Cody wanted to emphasize that anyone is welcome to reach out to his team with any questions or concerns about cannabis in Utah. He says his team is always a busy one, but they're very good about responding to emails and phone calls. [42:39]

Podcast Transcript

Tim Pickett:
Welcome everybody out to episode 82 of Utah in the Weeds, a podcast about Medical Cannabis, cannabis culture in Utah. Today's episode is with Cody James, the manager at the Utah Department of Agriculture. He's over the hemp side and well, as the Medical Cannabis side. The Utah Department of Agriculture is one of two laboratories in Utah that are doing the testing for your medical cannabis products, tinctures flower, concentrates, the Delta eight controversy that's in the market right now and they have been dealing with, we talk about that in this podcast. So stay tuned, enjoy this episode with Cody James.

Tim Pickett:
From a housekeeping perspective, I want everybody to know about our patient subsidy program called Uplift. This is a donation matching program where we're taking patients or anyone's donations. You can donate online at utahmarijuana.org/uplift, utahmarijuana.org/uplift. When you donate, your donation is matched by our partners, Beehive, Wholesome, Deseret Wellness and Utah Therapeutic Health Center. So you are maximizing your donation and all of that money, all of that money is going towards patient, evaluations and getting patients that are terminally ill or low income access to Medical Cannabis in the program. We have a great start. We launched it this week. We've had an enormous amount of support already from patients in our clinics, and we think this is going to help a lot of people. We'll keep you updated on how that program is going throughout the next few weeks and months, but we're very excited about Uplift.

Tim Pickett:
Utah and the Weeds. I'm Tim Pickett, I'm your host. You can reach out to us on Discover Marijuana on YouTube. Comment on any of those videos with questions and that's a great way to get ahold of me. Subscribe to Utah in the Weeds on any podcast player that you have access to. Just go ahead and stay up to date. Subscribe on the YouTube channel. Come see us at Utah Therapeutic Health Center, one of our six locations from Cedar City to Ogden. And enjoy this conversation with Cody James from the Utah Department of Agriculture. This is Utah in the Weeds. Somebody from the Department of Ag and you're the guy and I mean, you get a little crap.

Cody James:
We're the underbelly, so [inaudible 00:02:52] that guy's, the ones who don't get seen a lot. And I mean, when I say that we're not really the public view of the medical cannabis industry in Utah, we're on the ground with the producers. And there's a lot of things that do fall onto our lap, but from our standpoint, being that down there in the dirt, we're the ones that are making sure that that product is safe and is going out according to the regulations. So we're probably not the prettiest group to deal with on asset, but we think we're pretty important based that way. So we understand that we may not always get the best or have the best view for things, but it seems to go well anyway.

Tim Pickett:
So Cody James, what's your role in the Department of Ag. I mean, how did you get here?

Cody James:
It's a great question. So I'm currently, I'm the manager of the Industrial Hemp and Medical Cannabis Program. So overseeing both the Department of Ag portions of industrial hemp, which includes growers and processors as well as product and retailers. And then obvious similar to the medical cannabis side where we're overseeing the growers and processors and the products that's being made there, and we also regulate the labs on that side.

Cody James:
Really I've been with the department for about 16 years. Made my name, I guess, within the department 10, 12 years ago as an inspector/investigator for another division where I took on some things that no one else wanted to take on and was able to do a pretty good job out of, I guess. And so it caught the eye of the bosses and they wanted to move me up to some other positions where I was running programs or fixing programs, things like that. And just kept going, and this came up and there's the opportunity that they needed someone with that type of experience to come in with at the time. Drew was here with us and he had a lot of industry knowledge and was getting things running, but they also needed someone to make sure that I guess, knew what the red tape was, the government red tape that needed to happen to make sure was writing rules, policies, things that way. And so I get the put in there to do that. And it's still ongoing work, but that's where we're at.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah, from the medical cannabis side, when did that start for the Department of Ag?

Cody James:
I think that there was actually conversations going on as early as 2017 as things started popping up out in the public and the Prop 2 things, even before that. And this was before my time in this program, but I know there's a lot of discussions that way. I'm obviously after Prop 2 and then going to the special session in December 201`8-

Tim Pickett:
2018.

Cody James:
Yeah. That's when that got put onto the Department of Ag producers side and they started down that road and I came over in about May 2019.

Tim Pickett:
The Department of Agriculture is responsible, essentially, this is what I view it as, and tell me if I'm wrong. I view the Department of Agriculture as the people who. You've got a license grower, you've got to monitor them seed to sale, essentially. That's essentially your job is the product from the time it goes in the ground to the time it gets sold on the shelf. And then all of this testing stuff. I mean, you were the only game in town up until, was it even this year? You were the only lab.

Cody James:
Yeah. We actually, the other lab, we do have two, one is obviously ours and the other is a third party, independent lab. They have been in just a little bit longer in the year, because we did in the last couple months, do a renewal for their license there. But, overall you're right. I mean, it's our job. And the way we look at it here is that our job is to make sure that the product that is being shipped, the pharmacies is safe. There's the criteria that was spelled out in statute that talks about that and really trying to make sure that the medical cannabis product in Utah is as close to following the medical guidelines for any other kind of pharmaceutical product out there. And so that's where the testing and that aspect comes in.

Cody James:
And so, like I said, we think that our job is, that's the number on priority, is that that product that is safe and it's being grown and harvested safely and correctly, as best as they can, but mostly safely at the growers. And then as it transfers over and as you mentioned, we do the seed to sale, but then the processes and the facility and everything at the processors is safe and how they're manufacturing the product is safe as well. So hopefully there's not a lot of concern to have those tests, but then we do make sure that we regulate, I guess from our side, we don't do the testing in my office, but when a test does fail, we're the ones who have to step in and make sure that it doesn't go to the market until it's been remediated or we can prove that it's safe. And so, as I mentioned it, we think for sure that our number one job is to make sure that it's safe product going forward. And that also includes making sure that it's certified agents that are in there doing the job, that the facilities are safe, don't have mice running around and they're cleaning their equipment when they're supposed to. So kind of all-encompassing to make sure that we do get to that point of safe product.

Tim Pickett:
Is the Department of Ag involved in any other medicine testing or is cannabis really the only consume or medical product that you guys are involved in testing?

Cody James:
So the Department of Ag does test a lot of different aspects from meat, dairy products. They do some other type of chemical testing. Exactly what else they do and what all that encompasses. So I know they do some antibiotic testing and things like that, but mostly in animals and things. But for the most part, what we do this type of testing at the Department of Agriculture is just set for cannabis. And then also hemp testing. We do the same type of full panel testing on some of the hemp products that we need to bring in and do some, either research or an investigation on. But really the rules were written right close to what other pharmaceutical products are, and that's how they follow up. But as you mentioned, it's all that... I'm aware of for sure, is medical cannabis on a day-to-day basis.

Tim Pickett:
So talk to me a little bit about safety, because it's been... I mean, we could spend all day on it and we can get into all these little nuances of stuff that's come up and all these additives and chemical byproducts and that sort of thing. But does the standards, talking about the standards, do the standards get set by your group or do the standards get set by the statute or the standards get set by industry? Who decides how much? How much contamination is allowed or who decides that stuff?

Cody James:
Yeah. And so some of the standards did give the Department of Agricultural rulemaking authority and the statute to come up with those, what we did is really look at pharmaceutical aspects of it. Have also our state chemist, Brandon Forsyth was actually brought in initially just for cannabis to help us get that aspect of it. So between him and people like Blake, as you mentioned, they talked about where that needs to be. People have a lot better background in that, in the chemistry aspect of things than I do. But there was a lot of back and forth on exactly, but a lot of it also was based on what pharmacies or what pharmaceutical products need to have as well. And so was at least a standpoint or at least a starting point with it.

Cody James:
And there's been a few changes and also there's been some force changes based from COVID for instance. I mean, trying to get supplies a lot of time. And so we try really hard to make sure our labs have all the equipment that they need, but during COVID, sometimes there's pipettes that couldn't come, because everybody's using them for testing. There's also the aspect that as we took a look at it initially, the law was set up, so you had to test medical cannabis at the cultivator. And then again at the processor, his final product. And so we was doubling up on tests. And so after talking to industry and looking at it and talking internally, we were able to get the law change to allow the department really to have a little bit more wiggle room, to move test forward and mostly based on the cost. I mean, those tests aren't cheap, they're pretty expensive. And so now we allow tests to happen depending on if it's going to be a flower product or if it's going to be extracted product, maybe just once before it gets to the processor and then only for a couple of tests as final products. So it's not going to have to get the full sweet twice in hopes to kind of lower the cost.

Tim Pickett:
Reduce cost, and get that throughput a little bit better and get products to market.

Cody James:
And we felt like after the research that we could still do a good job of, of making sure that the quality assurance is being met in that way. And so far, I think we have. I think that the testing aspect of it is a success because we have found some issues where we've had to put holds on, on products, whether it's flower, extracted material and get with the producer and say, "No. You can't move this anymore. How are you going to remediate?" Things like that. And then and after that, all of them are good. Nobody wants something that's going to make somebody sick and aftermarket. It's in everybody's best interest, obviously first and foremost, health-wise for the public, but from the business standpoint on their mind.

Cody James:
And so, like I said, I think we've ran close to over 4,000 samples in 2021. Something only like 65 tests have failed. And so those are 65 times that we've had to contact a producer, but all the time we have a system worked out now where they let us know, "Okay. It's on hold. We want to remediate it this way. We approve it." And then very rarely do we ever see something fail a second time.

Tim Pickett:
Talking about like flower, everybody is fascinated with, and there's been some discussion that you take... Man, the department of act takes so much of our flower for testing. We have 50 pounds and they got to take a whole pound or something like that. It's just such a high amount. Has that changed or is that true? Is that even true? I mean, do you have to take so much that it decreases the amount in the market?

Cody James:
I don't think it decreases the amount in the market. I think maybe early on it did. That first year when everything was just starting, I think that there wasn't a real lot that was being produced anyway. And so anything you took out the top or took out of any harvest was going to hurt, be felt when people were only using 800 square feet to grow and just getting started. And especially when the product first or the industry just first got off the ground, and there wasn't really a lot of processors that were doing extracted products, either it was almost all flower and there was very few of it while the [inaudible 00:14:30] growers got up and running. But now we're seeing with the amount of grows and both indoor and outdoor that we're not hearing those same concerns on that.

Cody James:
The other thing to keep in mind, and again, this goes back to, we've got chemists and people who are involved that deal with that stuff a lot. And I know have a lot more knowledge than I do about it, but there's seven different tests. We're testing not only for cannabinoid profiles, but heavy metals, pesticides, microbials, all kinds of different things that takes a little bit more time. And you have to break some of it down to test for some of them and some of the other ones you have to test break down a different way. So I can see that anytime someone comes in and takes 10 grams or something, it probably seems a lot, especially if you have a lower production side. But on the other side with some of our growers having two and a half acres outdoor, or a 100,000 square feet they're growing that they're harvesting, it's probably not as much. It's probably relative, I guess, would be the better way to say it.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah. In the beginning, it seemed like that was a complaint that I heard once in a while even from the growers. They're like, "Oh, well, the Department of Ag is going to take however much of this." And you're right, at the time they didn't have as much overall. And now don't ever hear that. I don't ever hear that complaint because heavens are 50,000 pounds of dry flower hanging somewhere and they're going to extract it a little bit of testing material is not that big of a deal.

Tim Pickett:
Another question [inaudible 00:16:11] was there ever a time during COVID now with the supply chain problems that you had to reduce the number of tests for flower products? Specifically, you mentioned the pipettes, because I know on some of the COAs, it was said, well, because of a global shortage of pipettes, we've not done certain testing. Where is that at? That particular piece was surprising to me, and I don't know what products were affected or not affected. What do you think about this?

Cody James:
Yeah. And I could talk a little bit about it because again, it's something that's a lot of times over my head, but they're right. So because we never really stopped doing all the testing, what we did is make it, because we had such a small supply of what we did need, that we would do visual tests for microbials and things like that and probably a little bit more than just visual tests to run the tests they could. And if there was a need to run the full scale based on what they found in those initial tests, they would. But if everything checked out and in the national test and they wouldn't necessarily go down any further, just because, like I said, we was running out of ability to run those tests. So we tried to do it on more basis.

Cody James:
So what the department had to do, and it took going to, now it wasn't just something that was just decided here in my shop or with the Dr. Forsyth. It was more, hey, well, we have to have a meeting with the commissioner. Have to get approval from the governor's office and put it in an emergency rule to say that you don't have to have to do this testing all the time for this reason.

Cody James:
And that's the reason because I mean, one of the number one things is I mentioned, we think the most important thing that we do is make sure that safe product is getting out there. But right close to that, and even more so at the beginning was making sure that product gets to the patients. In order for this program, for this industry to be successful, we've got to make sure they're doing that, that the product's getting to the patients. And so we try to, especially early on was like, hey, we got to do everything we have to, we got to work as fast as we can. We got to still make sure it's safe, but we also don't want to stand in the way of getting it to the patients.

Cody James:
And that still is the same thing here. We want to make sure it gets there. And we didn't want to shut down the entire program because we couldn't get something like pipettes. And as we talked about it, we still had ways that we thought was able to catch any quality assurance concerns if there was any there. And as I'm not aware of anybody being sick because of quality assurance, standard problems

Tim Pickett:
Yeah, that was going to be my next question really, is that are you aware of anybody who's had a negative outcome? And I don't know. In my experience with patients, I don't know of anybody with a negative, like they were admitted to the hospital for some type of infection that potentially would've been caught with that test. There isn't any cases of that out there. Certainly a little bit of public awareness and transparency.

Tim Pickett:
And I think what's important, to me, it's nice to hear that it's not just, well, we didn't have these pipettes, so we got approval to not do the tests. It's actually, it's nice for me to hear, well, we didn't have the pipettes so what we did was we went to the chemists and we went to our group and we said, hey, how can we keep this safe but keep this moving forward right now.

Tim Pickett:
And that part of it, I think, is a problem for the Department of Agriculture and frankly, the Department of Health in that you're doing things on the background that people don't see. And it's not like you have this ability to this marketing team or something to push out all this info. Oh yeah, by the way, everybody, we did this instead, while we're working through the process.

Tim Pickett:
The other question that comes up with the Department of Agriculture all the time is the testing of what you do test for and what you don't test for. So many people want you to test for more. They want you to test for the entire cannabinoid profile plus the entire terpene profile. And we don't do that in Utah.

Cody James:
So there was an addition to the statue and for some terpene testing. And I'm not sure that we can test for all, but what we can test for is the majority of them that they let us know is in there. So we can give some profiles on that type of situation. There's such a number of terpenes and stuff and trying to find the standards still at the chemistry. And again, these are probably better questions for Dr. Forsyth than myself, but I was talking to him about that, because we get those questions as well as hey, we want to put this on the label and the requirement is if you're going to put it on the label, then you have to have had to talking about terpenes and any cannabinoids. Well, it has to be tested for and have that profile or that percentage on there and that's what we've been asked for. And we've been able to get to that point at our lab and make sure that we're testing for those things that they're telling us about to test for. But trying to catch it at all on the terpene side, I don't think we have that ability to just do a broad test and catch every terpene that might possibly be in there.

Tim Pickett:
Right. Yeah, I mean there's hundreds and hundreds and terpenes and I don't know. Will the Department of Ag get out of the testing of cannabis, Medical Cannabis eventually when there's more labs? You guys get removed.

Cody James:
You're right. Yeah, if we could ever get to two labs, then our lab will actually step back and just more take that regulatory aspect where we'll be double-checking the other labs on occasion, make sure that it looks like those results are correctly. And then if we have any complaints or investigations where we might need to go and do some testing that, that our lab will do that aspect of it. But until we can get that second lab, our lab's stuck doing a good amount of the sample testing for cannabis right now.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah. I've talked to a couple of other people who run labs and they've said, well, the market's just pretty small and the cost of the investment to create a lab to do this is pretty high. And without the one thing is if you're the second lab to come in or you're the first lab to come in, it's one thing. But let's say there's two more to come in and now there's three, is the market big enough to support that? and so far it seems like it's just not that.

Cody James:
Right. And we talked to industry about that, especially groups that have a lot of knowledge about the industry during this the last couple years. And so one of the things that was brought to us was maybe if you capped a number of labs as well, that might help to say that you may not have to worry that there's going to be such a small part of the market that if we only... So I think we capped it at four labs and hoping that maybe one or two would still want to jump in there. But yeah, so far I think that the market is still too small for them to want to invest that millions and millions of dollars in the equipment and the building and just do that, just do Medical Cannabis.

Tim Pickett:
Sure. Okay, so we've got a few questions for... And I want to get into this, honestly. We've got to get into this Delta-8 and this thing a little bit because everybody's going to want to know what Cody James says about the Delta-8 thing. But what do you think we can expect in 2022? And do you think that we're going to get another grow license? I mean with nine or something like that, what do you see happening?

Cody James:
Yeah. So first on the Delta-9 there, I mean, and most everybody probably saw the articles a couple months ago about Delta-8 and the concern for safety and things and then we had to several meetings about that. On the Medical Cannabis side, we put in place or the legislature put in place that there's a need for, if you're going to have Delta-8 or any other THC analogs other than Delta-9 and any products that it has to meet a purity level of 95%. Which again, this is more chemistry stuff, but in my understanding is that most pharmaceutical side of things, it's a purity of 90%. But we actually increase it up to 95% and talking to people like Blake, they're happy about that. That's what he tells me all the time we're glad. We know we can meet it.

Cody James:
And what that 95% purity means is that as you're taking CBD or whatever, and converting to Delta-8, sometimes if there's some different things that could be made, some different type of chemical byproducts there-

Tim Pickett:
Yeah, chemical byproducts, right?

Cody James:
So that 95% purity test shows that if 95% of the cannabinoids are pure in there, that the stuff that we recognize that those are not just some outlier that we don't know what it is, or maybe even scary, sometimes we do what it is and it's not good, then that passes quality assurance testing on that. And so we feel that the Delta-8 aspect from everything, and there's going to be tons of research going on for a long time, but we feel like it has a place here. I think that Delta-8 is helping a lot of patients as I talked to some of the industry members such as Blake, such as folks from standard and a lot of different pharmacies. Delta-8 is popular. And I think as long as we are making sure that it's safe that way, through that 95% purity level, that it has a place in the market and probably should be, along with anything else that starts to come down the line that we'll have to figure out how we deal with as it comes.

Tim Pickett:
Is the Department of Ag... Then there's this secondary issue with Delta-8 and Delta-9 products where there's this 0.3% cap limit. And there's these products that are tested in the medical market and then there's products that are being sold over the counter that have Delta-8 and Delta-9. Is the Department of Ag supposed to be testing these or they're coming in from out of state and not getting tested by you, so the purity's different. I guess that's one question. And then another question is how did we get these 10 milligrams of Delta nine products on the shelf and then and have them allowed?

Cody James:
Yeah. So I guess the first part of your question was how did they get into Utah? Some were out of state, some were and said, there's a couple of manufacturers from in-state that are making those types of products. It was something that we wanted clarification on during the session last year. Didn't necessarily happen. And again, talking, we tried to figure out what we could. Because there is that concern about safety, which as I mentioned, those couple of articles are couple of weeks ago that really-

Tim Pickett:
Yeah. A few weeks ago. Yep. And then even the CDC came out and they came out and they're like, we don't deal with anything to deal with cannabis, except we're going to tell you that Delta-8 is dangerous or getting it from a garage chemist is dangerous. That type of fume, right?

Cody James:
And I think that's where the department is feeling. We want to make sure that things are safe. On the medical side, we have that control on the QA testing that we do, like I said, the 95%. We're not quite sure what we're getting on, on that side on the industrial hemp side of it from out of state, from others. We have an ability to go in and test for it, but it's tough for us to get to all those products and test every single one to do that.

Cody James:
But so the reason why it says that you could have 10 milligrams there and overall, like just put in a large gummy or something like that is the way that the statute and the rule is written right now. It is all about 0.3% THC by dry weight. That's even talk about products, which initially, and still is mostly talking about USDA's industrial hemp plant there. And so trying to figure out where the milligrams should be, it sounds like what we're hearing from other states is that other states are starting to make some changes to do milligrams per packaging or preserving size, things like that to do that. So there's a, I think a federal, I don't want to say federal, but a national effort from different states are doing things like that, that we get to be at least participate in and go that way and because we're always looking to learn something from all these different aspects. And like I said, there's tons of research and trying to find exactly what is the good research versus maybe something that is not honest and that, and then try and put the best information out there to the decision-makers, the lawmakers and see what they want to do with it.

Tim Pickett:
Because is the Department of Ag stuck in this statute spot where look, if you meet the requirements, then the Department of Agriculture is by basically you can't deny their ability to put that on the shelf. Is that where you're at or do you have to work with the Department of Health to adjust what's allowed? Because it seems to me like, and as the bystander, on the one hand, I'm involved in a medical cannabis advisory group with the pharmacists and a few Q and PS and some industry people. And on our side we are saying, look, we don't want patients being able to buy a 10 milligram Delta-9 gummy over the counter in a state where we have really restricted that. As a state, we've decided that these are dangerous products. They should be allowed only in certain circumstances by certain people. So we believe that. And as a safety thing, we say, shouldn't be allowed to buy it at Walgreens. But I also am pragmatic and I understand that, well, if the Department of Agriculture is not, you're tied to the statute and the rule.

Cody James:
Yeah. And we are in a lot of aspects, and this is one of them as well, that if you do meet that criteria, then if the government tells you no, and the rules say that all you have to do is meet this criteria and you will get licensed or you will get a product registered, obviously that would put us in a bad situation, it'd be illegal for us to deny that. So in a good sense, that is where we are, is that it says 0.3%. There's the argument that USJ industrial hemp law, the 2018 Farm Bill allows for you to take CBD and convert it into Delta-8 and that, so because it's coming from CBD, it does that. That's still up in the air. You still have Utah's drug enforcement code that calls all THC analogs, other than Delta-9 under the Utah medical [inaudible 00:31:04] that it is illegal type of thing.

Cody James:
So it's like stuff we're all dealing with there. And again, it was just something that we were trying to get clarification on, and it turned into a lot bigger deal during the session and then we thought it was. We knew it was going to be a big deal, but we didn't think it was going to lead to what it led to and so we're still trying to hopefully, not necessarily pushing that, waiting, like I said, to get other states input as well. But you mentioned, the department, we have reached out to [Ritch 00:31:32] and his side and have him start talking to Department of Health, get input from them so we can all be honest. Things like this, we want the state and try and be everybody to be as close to on the same page as you can, because there are two sides to this and it's a heavy side, but we definitely want to make sure that whatever's out there safe as I mentioned before. On both sides, industrial hemp, and medical cannabis, we feel that our number one job is to make sure what consumers are buying, whether it's the patients or just anybody going to a Walgreens yet that it's safe.

Cody James:
And then that public safety in mind too. I mean, like you mentioned, if you get a gummy with a lot of a pretty high amount of milligrams and then they eat the whole package or something, there could be some effects that are concerning. And all that goes into places. We're talking both the public safety to our bosses here, to the governor's office and legislators. It's stuff that we all want to make sure that we bring as much information to the table to everything really too and let them try and make that decision there after having it.

Tim Pickett:
So do you feel like that's going to get worked out? I mean, gosh, I think that has to get worked out. There has to be some more clarity on this. It just seems like it doesn't make sense otherwise.

Cody James:
I think we're to the point where we're hoping it does as well. I mean, everything you said, as far as the advisory portion of what you're doing, those are conversations that I know are happening even at the legislative level. And so I think it'll still be talked about no matter what. And like you said, the hope is that it gets there because it does put people in at least the department and really, I think the state and a weird predicament on how you handle a couple things. And it would just always be nice to be all the way or all the way out on some things. And what does either side of that mean? Is 0.3 of that or is it a combination of a cumulative total? Just some clarification would be nice on our side.

Tim Pickett:
Other than that clarity. Does the department of agriculture, or you personally want to see some type of changes in the medical cannabis program?

Cody James:
No. Not really. This year, we feel from our side that things are going fairly well. I mean, and it's things that are getting better. We're not asking for anybody to do too much on there. There's some clarification, some word changes that we're just where they should have used processor versus grower. We're asking for that. There's been some arguments back and forth about sugar on products on the medical side.

Tim Pickett:
Oh yeah. That's right. Yeah, keeping products, because you got to keep the gelatinous cube separated and sugar is a very good way to do that. And otherwise you got to wrap up them all and individually wrap things or you put them in your car and they all melt together.

Cody James:
Yeah. So things like that on clarification, on what the-

Tim Pickett:
Oh, what about the drinks? Are you involved in that? Liquid suspension?

Cody James:
Yeah. That's been an interesting one too, because one of the main goals of the legislature and the governor's office is to make sure that this program maintains its medical standing. That's the goal in Utah right now. And so there's those type of discussions too, that we're looking for clarification on. Because you can take a look at definitions on one side and maybe a beverage fits into to that. And then on the other side, you look at it and it's like man, they make great arguments when they're coming to us about this. And so it's like, hey, would you at least clarify for us so we can make sure that we're doing it the way that lawmakers intended this to be type of thing. Because some of this, I mean, some of it seems as I first start thinking about a few things, it's kind of a small item. It's like, ah, it's not such a big deal, but as you get going on and the conversations get going and back and forth, it's like, man this might be something that ends up at the legislative. And we hear that all the time too. It's like, well, if you don't do what we think you should, I'm just going to go to my lawmaker. And it's like, you know what? I'm happy to go with you. Let's just clear this up with that.

Tim Pickett:
Right yeah. Let's clarify this once-

Cody James:
That'd be fantastic.

Tim Pickett:
... and once and for all right?

Cody James:
Right.

Tim Pickett:
What about home grow? If that ever happens, I mean, I don't think there's any appetite for that this year, but I think in the long run, trying to project myself in this program down five or more years down the road, it does seem like home grow is always going to come back around. It's always going to come back up for people who want to save money, want to grow. I mean, I grow my own tomatoes. It's very important to me to grow a certain type of tomato every year so I can have sandwiches in July. It is very important to me. And I imagine cannabis would be like that for other people. Does the Department of Agriculture have, I mean, it seems like a lot of work for you if they allow home grow.

Cody James:
Yeah. And to be honest, I don't think we've actually thought that far ahead. It's like right now, we're dealing with what we have and trying to make sure we have as good a handle on it as [inaudible 00:36:38]. And as always anytime that there's a law change or they allow something or take something away, it obviously affects the work that we do. And the legislature usually lets us give some input as like, Hey, this seems like maybe what the type of works that's going to cause us no matter what it is and we may need more people or maybe we can not, maybe if it's they're taking something where we don't need as many people. And so we can lower our budgets or something like that but that aspect specifically, we haven't really talked about. Like I said, we're trying real hard to just try to make sure we keep up with what's there now.

Cody James:
And it seems for the first couple years with law changes, like you mentioned, it took us six months to get out the rules written for each new law change and policies and procedures put in place and doing that and at the same time building the team. So that's one of the reasons we feel pretty happy that we're not asking for these any wholesale changes on anything. We're just like, hey, a few clean up things, some clarification, and then let us keep on the way we're going. We'll see what happens if there's more changes. But anything like being able to grow your yourselves or in your home is we haven't thought that far down the road yet. I don't think so.

Tim Pickett:
Right. Is the hemp, kind of switch gears before we wrap this up really, I mean, is the hemp side really going to take off in Utah? Seems like hemp is... The more you look at this from 30,000 feet, I mean, it seems like Medical Cannabis is a small part of this much larger thing that's happening with hemp and industrial hemp. What do you see with industrial hemp?

Cody James:
So we were seeing an increase in processors on industrial hemp. I mean that side of things seems to be going and products keeps increasing, type of thing. What I'm hearing is the most exciting aspect of the hemp side, is the fiber type of thing. There's some people out there doing some really cool stuff such as making concrete, building houses-

Tim Pickett:
Installation.

Cody James:
Yeah.

Tim Pickett:
Lumber. Mandi Kerr, that Global Hemp Association, she does a great job of exposing us to all of this new stuff.

Cody James:
Yeah. I think that that's probably, at least from my standpoint, from what I'm seeing out there currently, that's probably the most exciting thing for our growers to have our growers to transition maybe over to more of that type of hemp to grow for fiber and things like that. And from everything that I've researched and what you hear from Mandi and others that we're talking about a whole new rule with that type of stuff. And so I think that that's the portion that's going to take off. I think that the market got saturated after the 2018 Farm Bill. I think everybody was like, "Hey, I'm going to hemp. A lot of money." And I think that that just collapsed the market type of thing a little there. And we saw that in Utah over the first couple of years, but like I said, talking to Mandi and others, that the more the manufacturing side of it seems to be like something that everybody should get really interested in.

Tim Pickett:
Yeah. And for those, for people who don't know, I mean, when you're growing hemp for fiber, you don't even let it flower. So it doesn't seem like it fits in this, although the Department of Agriculture would be involved in making sure the compliance was there because it's the same gene or genus of plant. It's really a totally different. Is really a totally different process and whole plant thing in there. But I see that piece just growing huge over the next little while and being a big part of, I don't know, this whole idea that cannabis is as a plant that we can use. We can incorporate it back into a lot of other things, not just medicine, but there's a lot of other processes we can, that cannabis is pretty beneficial for. Seems like you guys at the Department of Agriculture are on the tip of the sword, because you're going to have to deal with everything that plant is involved in.

Cody James:
Yeah. And sometimes that's puts us in a little bit of a difficult situation because we're trying, again, as I mentioned before, we're trying to just keep up sometimes with what has already come down the road, and so trying to move ahead or think down the road is difficult. But we're also really small team. I mean, I've got six, almost about to have six total people on the medical side and I'll have six total people on the industrial hemp side and then myself who splits my time between the two there. And so it's like trying to keep up with all of the stuff that's going on. We're just busy nonstop and it seems like we spend a lot of time doing that aspect, just the work, rather than being able to sit back and be like, all right, let's really think ahead and end some things. Hopefully we can get to that as we build our team and get everybody trained and get a handle on everything that we need to do.

Cody James:
And really overall on the medical side, we've seen actually a huge increase in stuff. I mean, because our team was so small, we weren't being able to get out too often other than maybe going and take samples or we'd go and do inspections once or every two or three months. Now we're out there more often and we're seeing that we're not fine problems anymore. We're not finding that things are dirty or that there's maybe some product that's not labeled. We're not finding that anymore, which is a good thing. Compliance is there, so it's now it's more that we can maybe, as I mentioned, start thinking down the road. All right, we've got a little bit of a handle on this, let's start talking about the stuff there and having those type of meetings with industry as well.

Tim Pickett:
Right. Is there anything that we haven't talked about so far that you want to bring up, you want to talk about?

Cody James:
I guess I want to probably just say that don't hesitate for anybody to reach out to us. I mean our licensees are pretty good about that. People are this trying to get into either side of the industry. Maybe they look at the website, or reach out to us really. Happy to talk people through it, happy to be honest with them and try and walk them down that path versus... Because they've taken a lot of risk just putting any money into it on either side. And so talking to us about it, we can answer a lot of questions. Hemp more on the fiber side, that's something that a lot of people want do. And as we go and go to some meetings and stuff, there's people like, "Yeah, I don't think I can do this." And it's like, "Well, we haven't talked to you yet. Have we talked before?" And they know and they're like, "Well, hey, call us. Let's talk to it." Because I don't think that there's as big as roadblock as you think there is for you doing what you want to do type of thing.

Cody James:
And so I think just making sure that people understand that we're approachable, we're busy, but emails or phone calls we're going to return them. We do really good job at get back as soon can and usually within the next day, but that's probably the only thing is that-

Tim Pickett:
Is that info's found on the Department of Agriculture website?

Cody James:
Yeah. Yep. Yep. You can find at least the industrial hemp site at the ag.utah.gov website and then that would still get us to the medical account side, but you can go to utahmedicalcannabis.gov, I think is the other one that and go to the production side of things and that'll get you to us as well.

Tim Pickett:
Oh, cool. That's great. It's good to know. I mean, I think that's important. I think Utah does a pretty good job of that. I know the Department of Health has done a pretty good job of being available for people and it's nice to know that that's the attitude at the Department of Agriculture for people who want more information specifically. It's important for people to have access to the regulatory bodies, frankly.

Cody James:
Well, and like I mentioned, we're so busy just dealing on a data that we don't always thinking about, hey, we should put something out. We should try and reach out. So really, I guess what I'm saying is that we may not know what the questions are until they're asked. And so we're happy to do any research or talk to people and get the answers as best we can for them. We just need to know what the questions are.

Tim Pickett:
Cool. Two last questions. One, do you have a favorite strain? I asked that to everybody who's on the podcast.

Cody James:
I'm going to say no. I mean, I'm not going to say I have a favorite strain at all. I don't want to be seen as that I'm picking favorites for anybody.

Tim Pickett:
Oh, there you go. Right. Okay. Totally fine. And what's Cody James do for fun?

Cody James:
Oh, I've got a couple of hobbies that I try and just get better and better at, live the by the idea that you should have a couple of different hobbies. Ones that keep you healthy, ones that you have fun with and some that you make money on. And I haven't figured out that third one yet, but I try and stay healthy and have some fun. But other than that, I just, with my family a lot. Pretty much if I'm not at work, I'm doing something with somebody in my family.

Tim Pickett:
Cool. Well, thanks Cody for taking time. I mean, it's been fun, been informative and I'm sure you'll be hearing from some people maybe from this podcast or me.

Cody James:
Sounds good.

Tim Pickett:
Absolutely. Thanks everybody for listening. This is Utah in the Weeds. You can subscribe to the podcast on any podcast player that you like to listen to podcasts on. If you want to reach out to me or you have questions about this podcast, find it on Discover Marijuana on the YouTube channel and make a comment on the video or make a comment on any of those videos on that channel. We look could all those comments and that's really the best way to reach out with questions or comments if you have anything to say. Thanks again, everybody. Stay safe out there.

By UtahMarijuana.org
Published December 10, 2021
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