The 2022 legislative session was another busy one for Medical Cannabis advocates. Lawmakers took up several bills intended to both increase access and further regulate advertising, labeling, and synthetic cannabinoids. Overall, the session turned out fairly well for the Medical Cannabis community.
Below is a summary of the action that lawmakers took this year. Bear in mind that most legislative updates in the Medical Cannabis space take time to implement. It will be a while before we see all the changes in full force.
One change that got a lot of press is a regulation that bans analog THC products in Utah. The ban was part of SB 190, a bill intended to clarify what products can and cannot be sold in Utah. It is believed that the ban is in direct response to the popularity of Delta-8 THC.
For now, the state does not support the use of analog THC products for medical purposes. That is not to say that lawmakers are not open to approving analogs at some point down the road. But for now, a lack of scientific evidence relating to both efficacy and safety will not allow lawmakers to green light analog THC products.
By the way, our own Tim Pickett discussed SB 190 in a recent Utah In the Weeds podcast. We encourage you to take a listen to learn more about this year's legislative session. The podcast was originally recorded in February 2022.
Lawmakers used this year's session to expand access to patients diagnosed with acute pain and terminal illnesses. Acute pain is pain that comes on suddenly and does not last long enough to qualify as chronic pain. Adding acute pain to the list of qualifying conditions was an important goal this year, especially because it can be just as severe and debilitating as chronic pain.
It should be noted that there are limits to recommending Medical Cannabis for acute pain and terminal illness patients. It is up to Qualified Medical Providers (QMPs) to know what those limits are.
The same bill also expands access to Medical Cannabis for terminally-ill patients by requiring hospice programs to have at least one Qualified Medical Provider.
On the industry side of things, several bills are moving the state closer to a strong set of standards. Lawmakers took on the task of more closely regulating how Medical Cannabis products can be marketed and labeled. SB 190 addressed marketing and labeling to some degree by clarifying the differences between industrial hemp and Medical Cannabis.
Meanwhile, SB 153 creates a Cannabis Commission working group tasked with the mission of studying the industry and making recommendations for future standards.
HB 2, an appropriations bill, allocates different parts of Utah’s state budget. Part of the budget will go toward a new study on using cannabis to treat chronic pain.
Rich Oborn, the Utah Department of Health’s Medical Cannabis Program Director, recently told us a little bit more about that study on the Utah in the Weeds podcast.
“[I]t’ll be done through an RFP process where academic researchers at universities have an opportunity to bid on receiving these funds. But we're very serious about funding research, and we're excited about the legislature having an interest in doing it,” Oborn said.
Finally, although lawmakers were not able to address the federal ban against marijuana consumption among police officers, they did pass legislation that prohibits public sector employers in Utah from discriminating against Medical Cannabis patients. The legislation was in direct response to a Utah firefighter whose job was put in jeopardy when it was revealed he possessed a Medical Cannabis Card. Thanks to the legislation, public sector employees must now treat Medical Cannabis like any other prescription drug.
2022 was generally a good year for Medical Cannabis legislation. Utah's program is improving little by little. Our thanks to legislators who are looking out for Medical Cannabis patients and the industry as a whole.