Utah’s Medical Marijuana Program More Popular Than Expected

Utah's Medical Marijuana Program Is More Popular Than Expected

It’s been six months since medical marijuana became legal to purchase in Utah, and the program is doing much better than expected.

The high demand has led to shortages in both products and doctors who are interested in recommending medical marijuana to patients.

“It’s been going. It’s been going well, as with all new programs and people starting and really pushing to get up and going like they did early on — and now (producers) are starting to find their traction to be able to keep moving forward,” said Cody James, manager of the Utah Department of Agriculture’s Industrial Hemp and Medical Cannabis Program.

“I don’t think that anybody had an idea as to the number of patients that Utah was going to see this early. … I think we’re exceeding all of the studies that we had on the number of patients,” James said.

Utah’s Medical Cannabis Act

In November 2018, Utah voters approved a ballot initiative that legalized doctor approved medical marijuana treatment for some health conditions. The following month, state lawmakers replaced that with a law that puts tighter controls on the production, distribution, and use of marijuana. Utah’s Medical Cannabis Act then underwent a few changes during legislative sessions before the program launched this past March.

Since then, 10,000 medical marijuana patients have received medical cannabis cards. Sate officials said they didn’t expect to reach this number until one year into the program, said Richard Oborn, director of the Center for Medical Cannabis.

“And this means fewer residents in Utah are possessing medical cannabis illegally,” Oborn noted. “These are people that are suffering from qualifying illnesses such as chronic pain and cancer, epilepsy, MS, terminal illnesses. So that’s exciting to see that there’s more people that are not having to take their medication in the shadows anymore.”

Around 220 individuals under the age of 21 have also received medical marijuana cards after getting approved.

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