The 2023 legislative session brought about some significant changes to Utah’s Medical Cannabis program. Among the changes is the number of patients Qualified Medical Providers (QMPs) can work with at any given time. We’ll get to the hard numbers in a minute. For now, just know that the number has increased significantly.
This is an important change given the constant growth of our Medical Cannabis program. According to the most recent state update, there are now nearly 70,000 valid Medical Cannabis Card holders in the Beehive State. Each one of them needed the assistance of a QMP or Limited Medical Provider (LMP) to get that first card.
As you know, follow-up visits are required at card renewal time. Increasing the number of patients a QMP can work with gives patients greater access when they need it most. That is a good thing.
State lawmakers took the occasion of the 2023 legislative session to recalculate the total number of patients a QMP can work with at any one time. Without getting too technical, QMPs were limited to around 600 patients prior to the change. Exceptions could be granted under certain circumstances.
Under the new rules, a QMP’s patient limit will be calculated as 1.5% of the total number of active Medical Cannabis Card holders. Based on current calculations, QMPs can work with 1003 patients simultaneously. The calculation is updated every quarter, by the way.
Going from 600 to 1,000 is quite the change. Medical providers across the state, including those who staff our clinics, can now see more patients. They can help more new patients get their first Medical Cannabis Cards; they can help existing patients with card renewal.
Given that more patients are being added to the active card holder totals every day, it is a good bet that some of you reading this post are new to the whole Medical Cannabis thing. And maybe you’re not familiar with how it all works. No worries. We have you covered.
In order to legally use Medical Cannabis in Utah, you must have a card issued by the state. Utah issues cards for a number of qualifying conditions including chronic pain, acute pain, cancer, PTSD, and seizure disorders.
The state follows a basic step-by-step process for issuing cards:
Once an application is submitted, it needs to be approved by the state. This generally happens pretty quickly. Approval results in the patient receiving a valid Medical Cannabis Card via email. Patients can keep their cards on their phones or print paper copies.
One last thing to know is that you will need your Medical Marijuana card in your possession to buy medical Cannabis products. The pharmacy will ask to see your card and check it against information in the Electronic Verification System (EVS).
Even though the system might sound complicated, it is pretty simple once you get used to it. And now it is even better thanks to state lawmakers increasing the total number of patients QMPs can work with. A higher number means greater access for both new card applicants and existing patients who need to renew.
The pharmaceutical market is worth more than $1 trillion globally. Here in the U.S., Big Pharma earns hundreds of billions of dollars every year. But is the industry affected by Medical Cannabis? Absolutely. Medical cannabis harms Big Pharma’s bottom line.
Medical Cannabis proponents are not in favor of harming any industry. Yet the harm to Big Pharma is indisputable at this point. According to a first-of-its-kind study published in the PLOS ONE journal, the pharmaceutical industry loses upwards of $10 billion every time a state legalizes medical or recreational cannabis use.
The financial hit is impressive enough. But there is something more important here: the reasons behind the financial hit. Could it be that legalization encourages people to explore the therapeutic potential of cannabis, instead of OTC and prescription medications?
Big Pharma loses with cannabis legalization on two fronts. The first is stock price. According to the study, returns on pharmaceutical stocks tend to be as much is 2% lower some 10 days after a legalization event. That may not seem like much at first, but 2% of tens of millions of dollars is a lot of money.
The second front is actual pharmaceutical sales. Study data suggests average sales losses of up to $3 billion annually, per legalization event. So when Utah legalized Medical Cannabis back in 2019, it is possible that some drug company stocks fell. Once our program was implemented the following year, those same companies started losing billions in sales.
We can easily see how Medical Cannabis legalization would affect Big Pharma just here in Utah alone. We know from our own experience that patients often turn to Medical Cannabis as an alternative to other therapies. They have tried other medications that didn’t work. They have tried things like physical therapy and lifestyle changes.
Imagine being a patient trying to manage chronic pain with prescription opioids. The opioids make you feel terrible, but OTC pain medications just don’t offer enough relief. Then a friend suggests you get your Utah Medical Cannabis card. He swears by cannabis and its ability to help you feel better.
After visiting with a Qualified Medical Provider (QMP) and getting your Medical Marijuana card, you begin your Medical Cannabis journey. You discover your friend was right. Within a few months, you are finding enough relief with cannabis that you’re no longer taking prescription opioids.
The company that manufactures your opioids is no longer earning revenue from you. But you are just one patient. There could be tens of thousands of others, just in Utah alone, that have given prescription opioids the proverbial heave-ho. All those prescriptions no longer being filled puts quite a dent in the bottom line.
Right now, the cannabis industry has no equivalent to Big Pharma. That’s primarily because cannabis remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. But if Washington ever moves to decriminalize it, watch out. Corporate consolidation will be the trend to follow.
Our current fractured state market will undoubtedly experience enough consolidation to create Big Cannabis. It may take a while, but it will happen if cannabis is ever decriminalized. What will that mean for patients? Only time will tell.
What we do know is that cannabis legalization is hurting the pharmaceutical industry. Every time a state gives the green light to either medical or recreational cannabis, Big Pharma loses billions. That only demonstrates the reality that Medical Cannabis users are turning to the plant-based drug as an alternative to traditional prescription meds. What more do we really need to know about its usefulness?
It was pretty amazing to see voters rise up and pass Proposition 2 back in 2018. Lawmaker efforts to legalize Medical Cannabis had fallen short up until that time, so passage was needed to force the state’s hand. Could we be headed for something similar with medical psychedelics?
Other states have already begun looking into psychedelics for medical purposes. All the typical suspects are on board including Colorado, Oregon, and California. But Utah could end up joining them at some point down the road.
Remember that Governor Cox signed a bill earlier in 2022 that effectively created a task force to look into psychedelic therapies. The task force is supposed to study psychedelics before making recommendations about their therapeutic benefits at a later date.
One of the biggest hurdles to cannabis and psychedelic reform in Utah is our traditionally conservative mindset. As you know, the state is heavily influenced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But its influence over Medical Cannabis and therapeutic psychedelics may be waning.
Mormon bishop and former Republican state representative Brad Daw has come out publicly in favor of both psychedelics and Medical Cannabis. In a recent appearance on the Jimmy Rex Show, he explained how he went from being anti-cannabis to a proponent of both.
You may not remember, but Daw was against Medical Cannabis as late as 2018. So what changed his mind? You’ll have to listen to the previously mentioned podcast to find out. If you do, you will also learn that Daw traveled to Costa Rica in order to experience an ayahuasca ceremony for himself.
Daw’s Costa Rican trip was partly motivated by a church member who confided in him about her own psychedelic use. He decided to experience it for himself. Needless to say, the ceremony completely changed his mind about psychedelic therapeutics.
As for cannabis, he remains dead set against recreational consumption. However, he is now a full proponent of Medical Cannabis. If you’re surprised, you are not alone. Few thought that highly conservative state lawmakers would ever get on board.
As for the future of therapeutic psychedelics in Utah, all eyes are now on the state task force. They have a big job ahead of them. Their findings should result in recommendations lawmakers can consider over the next couple of years. Will there be anything to talk about in 2023? We’ll have to wait and see.
Meanwhile, we do know that lawmakers are continually looking at Utah’s Medical Cannabis law for ways to improve it. Our program is by no means perfect. However, numerous modifications over the years have made it better. Utah patients are in a far better place now than they were back in 2020.
If psychedelics are eventually approved for medical purposes, they will give patients yet another option. To us, this is most important. Prescription medications and traditional Western therapies are not always the right course of action. Patients need as many choices as possible.
Five years ago, there was no shortage of people who were convinced that Medical Cannabis would never come to Utah. Yet here we are. Thanks to public education and a well-worded ballot proposition, Utah patients now have access to Medical Cannabis.
Could psychedelics be next? Anything can happen. A few years from now, we might be writing blog posts about the benefits of psychedelics for a whole range of diseases and maladies. Stay tuned. We should know more about the fate of psychedelics in Utah within the next year or two.
The world lost someone truly special when 73-year-old Olivia Newton-John succumbed to cancer in early August 2022. Newton-John was very public about her disease and treatments. We could all learn a lot from her and the bravery she showed over many years of being ill. In particular, the cannabis community can learn a lot from her example.
Olivia Newton-John became a household name after starring alongside John Travolta in the 1978 musical Grease. She was also a Grammy award-winning singer with tons of hits. But in 1992, Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her remission lasted until 2013, when the cancer returned in her shoulder. It eventually found its way to her spine.
Cancer pain can be debilitating to some people. So it’s no surprise that in 2018, Newton-John made public the fact that she was using Medical Cannabis to treat her cancer pain. Back then, she called cannabis a “magical, miracle plant” that helped her manage daily pain.
You probably already know that chronic pain is a qualifying condition for Medical Cannabis in Utah. So is cancer. So between the two, patients suffering similar to how Newton-John suffered are eligible to get Medical Cannabis Cards in the Beehive State.
We also reported earlier this year that state lawmakers added acute pain to the qualifying conditions list. This is pretty big, especially for medical providers and patients who would otherwise settle on opioid painkillers following a surgery, some sort of accident, etc.
Knowing what we know about Olivia Newton-John’s battle with cancer, she would probably encourage Utah patients suffering from cancer or chronic pain to get their Medical Cannabis Cards. She was the living embodiment of the principle of not letting physical health fully dictate one’s life.
Newton-John was not ashamed of using Medical Cannabis to manage cancer pain. She was open and honest about it. She also made it clear that it was her husband who introduced her to the idea. Thankfully, he wasn’t afraid to share his knowledge on cannabis with his wife.
We sincerely hope that you aren’t avoiding getting a Medical Cannabis Card because you associate negative thoughts or emotions with cannabis. Medical Cannabis patients have nothing to be ashamed of. Their medicines are no different to any other prescription medications.
If you are dealing with cancer and the pain that comes with it, you have enough to worry about. You need relief from pain that is just making it harder for you to deal with cancer and its treatment. Medical Cannabis could work very well for you. At least talk to your medical provider about it.
Should you decide to get a Medical Cannabis Card, the process isn’t difficult. You create an account on the state website and initiate the process by filling out your portion of the card application. Then you visit with your provider. They complete the other half of the application, you pay your fee, and then wait for your card to arrive electronically.
If you are still unsure, learn a little bit more about Olivia Newton-John and her brave battle against cancer. Being a cancer patient for some 30 years, she had plenty of insight to offer. We could all learn from her inspiring story.
Olivia Newton-John’s passing has had a profound impact on a lot of people. Those of us in the cannabis community can draw inspiration from her story and example. Her life was proof that Medical Cannabis is something to be celebrated rather than kept hidden in the shadows.
Israeli researchers recently published the results of a study looking at the effectiveness of aerosolized THC as a treatment for chronic pain. Though the study is considered small scale, its results were what many expected: patients reported less pain and a higher quality of life after inhaling microdoses of THC with a specialized inhaler.
What makes the results of this study so encouraging is the fact that the researchers could use such small amounts of THC and still achieve positive results. The amount of THC delivered via their aerosolized inhaler are “a fraction of the amount of MC [medical cannabis] compared with other modes of delivery by inhalation,” according to the published report accompanying the study.
Researchers enrolled 143 patients between the ages of 17 and 62; 54% were male and 46% were female. All were diagnosed with chronic neuropathic pain. The neuropathic pain qualifier is important because of the nature of this type of pain. Neuropathic pain is the result of nerve damage caused by trauma, disease, or an underlying health condition.
Participants were provided with the inhaler and medicine and instructed to use it over several months. Some patients reported mild side effects during the initial stages of the study, but those side effects subsided over time. As the months passed, patients gradually reported less pain and a higher quality of life.
The results led researchers to speculate that low-dose THC delivered via an aerosolized inhaler could offer long term pain relief for chronic pain patients. As in most other cases, the researchers were quick to point out the small scale of their study indicated the need for more research to verify their findings.
The implications of this research are important on many levels. Right off the top is the difference between aerosolized THC and cannabis smoke. Here in Utah, smoking Medical Cannabis is illegal. Plant material can only be used as a medicine by dry heating it or using it to make edibles at home.
Dry heating is the process of heating plant material in a specialized vaporizer in order to decarboxylate it. Decarboxylation activates cannabinoids and releases them from plant material. In order for this delivery method to work, the plant material needs to get hot enough to release cannabinoids – but not hot enough to combust.
In an aerosol environment, THC and other cannabinoids are suspended in a pressurized liquid. Forcing that liquid through a nozzle upon release transforms it into an aerosol that can be inhaled. The process is similar to forcing liquid window cleaner through a small nozzle to create a mist.
The main benefit to this sort of delivery method is that there is absolutely no risk of inadvertently creating toxic chemicals that could be inhaled along with the THC. Patients are getting just the medicine they need and nothing more.
We are excited to hear about this research out of Israel. It could ultimately lead to an entirely new delivery method for the future. Giving patients yet another choice allows them the ability to find the delivery method that works best for them. We are fully on-board with that.
Here’s hoping future research shows similar effectiveness of low-dose THC via aerosolized inhalers. If we can help patients find the relief they need with the lowest possible doses of THC, we will be advancing the cause of Medical Cannabis as an effective treatment for chronic pain. That can only be a good thing for pain patients in the long run.
A couple of us here at UtahMarijuana.org recently ran across an interesting initiative designed to encourage cannabis users to donate blood. The initiative is known as Bud for Blood, and it is being spearheaded by Kristen Yoder, a well-known figure in the cannabis community. We are only sorry we didn’t learn about it earlier. It only runs through July 10, 2022.
Bud for Blood’s message is pretty straightforward: consuming cannabis does not automatically disqualify a person from donating blood. So even as a medical cannabis patient, your blood could prove invaluable to someone else who desperately needs a transfusion.
To incentivize cannabis users to give blood, Bud for Blood is giving away free hemp t-shirts to participants. To get your t-shirt, you need to fill out a form, actually donate blood, and provide a picture showing you doing just that. You can find all the details on the Bud for Blood website.
Yoder launched Bud for Blood when she realized that the U.S. was in the midst of a profound blood shortage. Blood donations have been down since the start of the COVID pandemic. And even though the pandemic is largely over, people are still hesitant about donating.
Apparently, cannabis users are sometimes under the false impression that they are automatically disqualified. Perhaps this is due to the intense demonization of cannabis over the last century. But the people behind Bud for Blood assure cannabis users they have nothing to worry about.
As for the blood donations themselves, interested cannabis users can donate anywhere in their local areas. The American Red Cross usually collects blood at their local facilities five days a week. They are also known to do mobile blood drives. Interested parties can also call their local hospitals to inquire.
It goes without saying that the need for blood donations is great. COVID notwithstanding, blood is something that cannot be stored forever. It has a limited shelf life. Moreover, there are different blood types. At any given time, the national blood supply could be short on a particular type.
The other thing to remember is that synthetic blood is off the table – it doesn’t exist. Ongoing efforts to solve that problem haven’t produced a lot of favorable results over the years. Blood is one of those biological components that can only be produced by human bodies.
Spoilage and a lack of synthetic alternatives create an ongoing need for donated blood. Blood donations make surgical procedures possible. They save lives in the emergency department. When there isn’t a large enough supply of blood available, medical providers need to make difficult decisions about who gets blood and who doesn’t.
As a Medical Cannabis patient, perhaps you can empathize with someone in desperate need of a blood transfusion. A successful transfusion could make the difference between life and death. Would you be willing to donate blood in order to save a life or facilitate a necessary surgery?
Convincing people to donate blood has always been hard. Local blood drives are held because people need to be made aware of the need to remind them to donate. Bud for Blood aims to do much the same thing. The initiative is designed to remind cannabis users that the need for blood is real.
Being a cannabis user does not automatically disqualify you from donating blood. If you are inclined to donate, do so before July 10 in order to get your Bud for Blood t-shirt. Then keep on donating even after the initiative has ended.
All medicines have side effects, right? We generally think of side effects as being negative. Yet sometimes they can be positive. For example, have you noticed that Medical Cannabis has made the bedroom experience better? You can look at that in one of two ways. Some people say that cannabis helps them sleep better. Others say it works as an aphrodisiac.
Perhaps you use cannabis to help manage chronic pain. Maybe you just started using to help with acute pain. The Medical Cannabis laws in Utah now allow for treating certain types of acute pain with cannabis. At any rate, it wouldn’t be surprising to for us to learn that you are sleeping better, enjoying better sex, or both.
We know enough about the human endocannabinoid system to confidently say that it helps regulate mood. The human endocannabinoid system is instrumental in determining how a person reacts to stressful situations. And even without scientific data proving interaction between the human endocannabinoid system and the mood-regulating portions of the brain, common observation demonstrates that people feel more relaxed and comfortable after using cannabis.
Cannabis’ ability to help reduce stress and anxiety could explain why it helps some people sleep. Stress, anxiety, and all sorts of negative emotions have been known for centuries to keep people awake. Anything that helps relax can help stressed-out people sleep better.
Likewise, it is not unusual for people to experience performance issues in the bedroom due to stress and anxiety. The same negative emotions capable of inhibiting sleep can also inhibit sexual function. Therefore, it would stand to reason that finding a way to relax and chill out should improve sexual function.
Utilizing cannabis as an aphrodisiac goes beyond improving mechanical function. People who swear by it say that cannabis improves the actual experience, too. That would line up with study data suggesting that THC and other cannabinoids enhance sensory perception. The more heightened one’s senses are, the more the intense the experience at hand.
There is also the question of dopamine, the primary chemical in the brain responsible for producing pleasurable feelings. Research seems to suggest that cannabis can increase dopamine production. If this is the case, any pleasurable feelings produced by the sexual experience may very well be enhanced by cannabis.
Utah law doesn’t allow QMPs to recommend Medical Cannabis for sexual dysfunction. It cannot be prescribed as an aphrodisiac. However, discovering that it enhances intimacy is a bonus. It is like a BOGO deal. Buy Medical Cannabis to treat pain and get a better experience in the bedroom at the same time.
If nothing else, cannabis’ usefulness as both a sleep aid and aphrodisiac just proves that a plant we have demonized for so long brings a lot to the table. It’s too bad it has taken our culture so long to begin rolling back prohibitions that probably should never have been put in place to begin with.
But roll back we have, and in some pretty significant ways. For example, this post previously mentioned that acute pain has been added to the qualifying conditions list in Utah. That’s big. Acute pain is generally not considered a long-term thing. All the other conditions on the state list are.
If you use Medical Cannabis, have you noticed that it makes the bedroom experience better? If you are sleeping better or enjoying better sex, consider it a positive side effect of your medication. Enjoy it. Positive side effects are not always the norm with medications.
Professional athletes tend to have a reputation for being extremely healthy. They need to be able to stay at the top of their games. That being said, would you be surprised to learn of top athletes using Medical Cannabis? We are just starting to see their stories trickle out. They are apparently beginning to look to cannabis when things aren’t physically right.
It makes perfect sense when you step back and think about it. Professional athletes have long thought outside the box in terms of their health. For example, they were among the first to seriously consider platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and autologous stem cell injections to treat sports injuries. Why would they not be willing to consider Medical Cannabis if it could keep them competing for longer?
Running back Ricky Williams took the NFL by storm during his first season with Miami Dolphins. Over a five-year career, he rushed for more than 5,000 yards. His career was cut short by multiple suspensions for marijuana. Now at 45 years old, Williams is a big advocate for Medical Cannabis as an anxiety and pain treatment.
If he were a rookie now, cannabis consumption wouldn’t be such a big deal. But two decades ago, it was. Yet Williams chooses not to be bound by the past. Rather, he is content to tell his story in hopes of helping the cannabis movement stay on track.
Ironically, the NFL was okay with a veritable cornucopia of painkillers players were allowed to eat like candy. Williams took them. However, nothing offered the same type of pain relief he got from cannabis. After his first failed drug test in 2002, he began experimenting with different volumes of cannabis to see if it really worked as well as he thought. He discovered it did. He continued using even though doing so eventually ended his career.
Ricky Williams is undoubtedly not the only professional athlete who has used cannabis medicinally in the past. There are surely those athletes still playing today who use it. But there are coaches, too. Consider Damien Hardwick, an Australian rules football coach who leads the Richmond Tigers.
Hardwick has suffered with a chronic back problem for more than a decade. In an article in The Courier-Mail, he discussed how he recently started using Medical Cannabis to manage his pain. He swears by it. He insists he feels better despite so many opponents in Australia reminding the country that there is no conclusive evidence proving that cannabis is an effective pain reliever.
As a top-level coach, Hardwick is intimately familiar with pain and how it can inhibit performance. He also knows the importance of pushing through. He is determined to not let his back problem keep him away from football. If that means trusting medical cannabis for some measure of pain relief, so be it.
It is unfortunate that Ricky Williams’ career was artificially shortened by his league’s resistance to cannabis as a pain reliever. Likewise, it is unfortunate that so many in Australia continue to resist the concept of Medical Cannabis. Things would not be this way in a perfect world. The good news is that attitudes are changing – both here and elsewhere.
Athletes are beginning to look to Medical Cannabis as an alternative to opioid painkillers and other less-than-effective treatments. This should not be surprising given the nature of their business. They only get paid as long as they can keep playing. Medical Cannabis represents a way to manage pain so as to remain on the competitive field for as long as possible. The rest of us should accept that.
It is no secret that pain management is the number one reason people utilize Medical Cannabis. And for the record, it’s generally chronic pain that patients are dealing with. Both THC and CBD are believed to help manage pain, even if they don’t eliminate it completely. But now it appears as though there might be another option: CBDA.
Known formally as cannabidiolic acid, CBDA is basically the precursor to CBD. We will explain what that means in just a minute. But first, animal research seems to suggest that CBDA could be a more effective pain reliever than either THC or CBD. In terms of the latter, CBDA could be many more times effective.
Seasoned Medical Cannabis users know that CBD is one of the two most commonly known cannabinoids found in the humble cannabis plant. CBD brings quite a few health benefits to bear without the side effect of getting high. But all CBD starts out as CBDA. Before you can have the former, you need to have the latter.
As an acid, CBDA has a carboxyl group. That carboxyl group has to be separated in order to turn CBDA into CBD. This process is known as decarboxylation, and the easiest way to accomplish it is to apply heat.
What holds true for CBD is also true for the rest of the cannabinoids. Until you remove the carboxyl group, cannabinoids do not offer the most desired benefits. And yet, all the cannabinoids in acid form may have a ton of benefits we simply don’t know about yet. That is where research into CBDA as a pain-fighting cannabinoid come in.
THC and CBD do what they do by binding to the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors. They can only do that because they have been decarboxylated. This implies that CBDA does not bind to those two receptors. Science has proven as much. Instead, CBDA seems to bind to more than half-a-dozen other receptors, particularly those related to the serotonin system.
Animal studies show a lot of promise for CBDA as a pain medication. But that’s not all. Early data indicates it might also be an immensely powerful drug for treating:
We will not know for sure how effective CBDA is without further human studies. But such is the case with nearly all of the cannabinoids and their precursor acids. Fifty years of prohibition has seen to that by limiting the amount of research that has gone into the cannabis plant.
If human studies eventually prove that CBDA does work as a pain treatment, it will give Medical Cannabis patients yet another choice. It would be a choice of better pain management without the side effect of feeling high.
At the current time, a limited amount of data we have on CBDA tells us that it is not psychoactive. Like its decarboxylated counterpart, CBDA will not make you high. But it could help reduce stress and anxiety while also offering some measure of pain relief. Let’s hope studies bear out the current assumptions.
In the meantime, you do have options. If you live in Utah and suffer from chronic or acute pain that hasn’t been successfully managed with other types of medication, don’t be afraid to ask your medical provider about Medical Cannabis. Getting your Medical Cannabis card would give you access to all sorts of products that could help you manage your pain better.