We have been fairly vocal about our desire to see the list of qualifying conditions in Utah expanded. We've been particularly interested in Medical Cannabis as a treatment for acute pain. Well, we have good news to report – lawmakers approved a bill during this past session that now qualifies some forms of acute pain for Cannabis treatment.
The bill in question is SB195 Medical Cannabis Access Amendments sponsored by Sen. Luz Escamilla and Rep. Raymond Ward. Thanks to their hard work and an affirmative vote in both legislative houses, the bill is now law. Patients expecting to experience some types of acute pain can apply for a temporary Medical Cannabis card allowing them to treat their pain with Medical Cannabis.
The specific section of the bill outlining the qualifying conditions expansion is 26–61a–104 Qualifying condition. It states the following, in relation to pain expected to last more than two weeks:
"Pain that is expected to last for two weeks or longer for an acute condition, including a surgical procedure, for which a medical professional may generally prescribe opioids for a limited duration, subject to Subsection 26-61a-201(5)(c)."
Other types of acute pain might also be eligible, though additional language in the law suggests they would need to be approved by the Compassionate Use Board. Chronic pain is already a qualifying condition.
The law is still new enough that it will take some time to figure everything out. The important thing is that state lawmakers have recognized that certain situations involving acute pain are better handled with Medical Cannabis than opioid painkillers. We consider this a big deal.
The change is a big deal for a lot of reasons, not the least of which are the many stories we have heard from patients. Our very own Tim Pickett has heard plenty of stories (on the Utah in the Weeds podcast) of patients who switched to Medical Cannabis after deciding opioids were bad news for them.
Opioids have their place in modern medicine. But we already know they are highly addictive. We also know that not everyone tolerates them well. Medical Cannabis is another option for managing acute pain. Our state lawmakers have acknowledged as much in expanding the qualifying conditions list to include acute pain.
So what does all of this mean to you? It means you might have another choice. However, you and your medical provider have to figure out whether your acute pain qualifies for Medical Cannabis. The best advice we can offer is that you talk things over with your medical provider as soon as possible.
If you are planning to have surgery, it is important to have the discussion sooner rather than later. Your primary care physician or surgeon may not be registered as a Qualified Medical Provider (QMP) in Utah. If either one is willing, they could still recommend Medical Cannabis as a Limited Medical Provider (LMP).
There are restrictions to the LMP program. Your medical provider can learn what these are by visiting the state's Medical Cannabis website. In the meantime, take heart in knowing that some types of acute pain will soon qualify for Medical Cannabis treatment.
Utah's program keeps getting better. Thanks to attentive lawmakers who earnestly want to improve access to Medical Cannabis, they are crafting rules designed to do just that. We think adding acute pain to the qualifying conditions was the right move for lawmakers.