State legislators did Medical Cannabis patients in Utah a favor earlier in 2021 when they passed legislation to expand access. The bill called for the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) to implement a system to accommodate the changes by September 1. That UDOH deadline has come and gone. Now that it has been missed, where do we go from here?
First, we want to make it clear that delaying implementation of the new rules is not the end of the world. It is certainly not the ideal situation, but the UDOH will get it done one way or the other. And once finally implemented, the legislation will definitely increase access to Medical Cannabis among qualified patients, especially in rural areas.
Among other things, the legislation changed the rules so that cannabis recommendations are no longer limited to registered Qualified Medical Providers (QMPs) limited to 275 patients each. Under the new rule, QMPs registration will still be available to providers who want it. But any physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or specialist with prescribing authority will be able to recommend Medical Cannabis for up to fifteen patients without becoming a registered QMP.
That may not seem like a significant number, but a hundred new providers in just one city gives access to 1500 additional patients. Just ten new providers in a rural area opens the door to 150 patients. Take our word for it when we say this is a big step forward.
From the outset, state legislators wanted to make sure our Medical Cannabis program remained tightly controlled. The goal has always been to make sure it remains a medical-only program. Though it is not clear why, the program's original architects believed that the current system was the best way to go in terms of who recommends Medical Cannabis.
It was only after some investigative journalism and public pressure that state lawmakers realized access to QMPs was too limited. To their credit, they responded with the legislation passed in early 2021. Now it is up to the UDOH to make it all work. For their part, they are blaming delayed implementation on a lack of staffing and undisclosed software issues.
While we wait for the UDOH to sort out their issues, the same QMPs are ready and available. You can find a list of QMPs on the state's Medical Cannabis website. We can't vouch for the accuracy of that list, but we do operate six clinics of our own. Just follow the 'Get a Card' link found on any page of our site and you'll be guided through the process of making an appointment to see one of our QMPs.
If you live in a rural area that is underserved at this point, we understand your frustration. We know how tough it can be to drive into one of Utah's cities to visit with a QMP or purchase your medicines. Thankfully, home delivery is now being developed in Utah. Already, many parts of the state are covered. Be patient. The rest of the state will eventually be open to home delivery.
Please be patient with the QMP issue as well. Once the UDOH gets everything ironed out, it is entirely possible that your own local provider will be able to help you with obtaining a Medical Cannabis card. At the very least, you'll have more choices than the system currently allows. And who knows? Maybe the day will come when any medical provider with prescribing authority will be able to recommend to an unlimited number of patients.