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Medical Cannabis Cards are available in Utah

Farm To Pharma has learned of Utah a local team of patient advocates who are helping patients get their Medical Cannabis Cards which are called “Affirmative Defense Letters”. Now available in Utah.

To schedule review for a Utah Medical Cannabis Card with a medical provider, call: 435-513-6386

Or visit the Empathetix website for more details and get started with the process.

Indoor hemp farm
Indoor hemp farm

As of September 23rd 2019
Marijuana is Legalized in Utah

I have worked in healthcare here in Utah since 2002 and have been a resident almost all my life.  I didn’t think I would ever see medical marijuana legal here, especially not as early as 2019!  Though it’s beyond surprising for me to see decriminalization this soon, for thousands of Utah patients this couldn’t come soon enough.

Hemp farm in Delta Utah
Hemp farm in Delta Utah

Some Utah lawmakers claim there are as many as 50,000 Utah patients who are already medicating with marijuana or who would opt for cannabis treatment if it were allowed by law.

Cannabis vs Pain

The majority of Utahn’s who choose Cannabis as a natural—and safe—alternative, use it to treat chronic pain.  The types of pain treatable by cannabis range from traumatic injury to debilitating nerve degeneration.  Before using this previously illegal treatment, many of these patients used of a number of different opioid varieties; the problem with this intervention, of course, is that it is very easy to cultivate dependency in the user.  After suffering traumatic injury, I found myself dependent on these drugs for two decades. Research is now showing us that there is a cannabinoid receptor at each pre-synaptic nerve junction throughout the human body.  This is why marijuana has such a remarkable ability to help regulate pain.

What is an Endocannabinoid System?

Cannabis efficiently generates a family of molecules called cannabinoids.  The human body interacts comfortably with cannabinoids.  The ECS (Endocannabinoid System) is the longest interconnected system of receptors in the body.  We even make our own cannabinoids like Anandamide (plentiful in mother’s breast milk) and HG2 (known as the “runner’s high” or “bliss” molecule). While, on average, six Utahns lose their lives each week from opioid overdose death, “the Devil’s lettuce” has yet to doom a single resident to this fate.

The Endocannabinoid System
The Endocannabinoid System

Learning Utah Cannabis Laws

I thought I was well informed on the important cannabis laws, until a patient of mine brought me a letter from his primary care provider.  It was a brief letter that basically said that this person meets the criteria set forth in the Utah Medical Cannabis and could now possess and consume medical cannabis.  I was stunned to read it!

I spent the next three nights reading through an amazing series of Utah State Government Medical Cannabis policies and addendums that are very new and very little known. The most important part of the act for my patients (the majority of whom are suffering from narcotic dependency) are the following sentences:

  • allows physicians, osteopathic physicians, advanced practice registered nurses, and physician assistants to recommend medical cannabis
  • allows an individual with a qualifying condition to obtain a medical cannabis patient card on the recommendation of a certain medical professional to gain access to medical cannabis.
Utah Department of Health Logo

Understanding Prop 2

It had always been my understanding since Prop 2 passed, that recommendations would be available eventually, but I was stunned to learn that there is—already—as of September 23rd 2019, a legal path to marijuana decriminalization in Utah. There is a new law in the Controlled Substance Code that allows for all Utah patients needing one of these cards to visit a medical provider in Utah (they are called QMP in the Health Department language).  A Qualified Medical Provider is any licensed professional that can prescribe controlled substances.  Medical professionals like MDs, DOs, Nurse Practitioners, PAs, and Nurse Anesthetists can all potentially be eligible for this authority.  Eventually, the Health Department will have a 4 hour online training for any provider who wishes to write recommendations for the natural medicine.

Who can be qualified as a Qualified Medical Provider AKA Marijuana Doctor?

Until March of 2021, there is only a brief audio training available on the Health Department’s website.  Currently there is no fee, and no registration required for this credential.  Any provider in the state of Utah who can write a script for Lortab can now write a recommendation for Medical Marijuana. However we are only aware of about a dozen provides in the state who are currently writing these letters. Most we have reached out to want nothing to do with it, and they are not required to do so.  The actual medical card won’t come until the Health Department has that program in place in March 2021.  Until then, the letter the doctor writes for the patient is to serve as the Medical Card.

Marijuana is really Legal!

Over the past several days I have called police departments, AP&P regions, government entities, school districts, and a few other bureaucracies.  Although the responses were not wholly consistent, the general theme that emerged was that if a Utah resident who holds a physical copy or an electronic copy of the doctor recommendation for medical cannabis, the person is allowed to possess their medicine, in a quantity of no more than 130 grams of dry weight of medical cannabis on their person. Cannabis immunity in Utah!

Exact wording of the Utah Decriminalization Act that just passed 2 weeks ago states:

Chapter 37Utah Controlled Substances Act
Section 3.7Medical cannabis decriminalization. (Effective 9/23/2019)
(3)An individual is not guilty under this chapter for the use or possession of marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, or marijuana drug paraphernalia under this chapter if:
(a)        at the time of the arrest or citation, the individual:
(i)         was not a resident of Utah or has been a resident of Utah for less than 45 days;
(ii)        had a currently valid medical cannabis card or the equivalent of a medical cannabis card under the laws of another state, district, territory, commonwealth, or insular possession of the United States; and
(iii)       had been diagnosed with a qualifying condition as described in Section 26-61a-104; and
(b)        the marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinol is in a medicinal dosage form in one of the following amounts:
(i)         no more than 113 grams by weight of unprocessed cannabis; or
(ii)        an amount of cannabis products that contains, in total, no more than 20 grams of total composite tetrahydrocannabinol.

So how do I get my Medical Marijuana Card in Utah?

If someone wants a medical cannabis card in Utah, they will have to settle for a “Affirmative Defense Letter” from their doctor until January of 2021.  But don’t worry, it carries all the same rights and privileges of the card that will be ready by the Health Department in a year and a half.

Who can get a Medical Marijuana Card in Utah?

The process is simple, you only need to undergo a Medical Record Review.  There is no exam, no questionnaire, and no blood test.  It is simply a review of your medical history to see if you meet the criteria set forth by lawmakers and defined by the Health Department. If you meet any of the criteria, a medical provider will write you letter that will allow you to legally possess medical cannabis in Utah (regardless of the fact that you won’t be able to purchase medical cannabis in Utah until next year).  The list of ailments that will get you a medical cannabis permission slip in Utah is full of diagnoses from things like Alzheimer’s, Cancer, Chrons, Epilepsy, Autism, and a terminal illness.

But by far the most subjective of the criteria is found at the very end of the list and reads as follows:

  • pain lasting longer than two weeks that is not adequately managed, in the qualified medical provider’s opinion, despite treatment attempts using conventional medications other than opioid, opiates or other physical interventions

I believe the majority of patients who are able to access a recommendation will fall under this “pain lasting longer than two weeks” category.

How do I find a rare Marijuana Doctor in Utah?

The biggest sticking point between this great new law of decriminalization and reality, sadly, is the disconnect between the doctors who can write the recommendation and the thousands of patients who want them.  According to new state law, neither doctors nor clinics can advertise that they are offering medical record reviews to write medical cannabis recommendations.  So how is a patient suppose to find a doctor who will consider them for marijuana immunity?  We have found that there are a handful of services designed to bring patients and providers together.  Since insurance wants no part in this transaction, the out of pocket cost for this type of record review is $250 cash.  That may seem steep unless compared with the potential criminal consequences of being caught in Utah with cannabis without a letter.  This procedure is so new in Utah, you pretty much need to know of a provider willing to write these recommendations if you want to get your hands on one of these coveted Cannabis Letters.  We only know of one independent group who is facilitating this process and taking appointments to help patients get their hands on a Utah Medical Cannabis Permission Slip.

If you feel that you may meet the criteria set forth by the state, and if you are willing to buy your medicine out of the state, you may want to consider making an appointment for yourself.
You can schedule your own review with a Utah Marijuana Doctor through a private referral service call:  435-513-6386

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