Utah Lawmakers Consider Medical Marijuana Expansion

Utah Lawmakers Consider Medical Marijuana Expansion

Legislation to significantly expand Utah’s restrictive medical marijuana program will soon be introduced in the state’s legislature, according to a recent report by Fox 13.

The proposal, which is being put forth by Representative Ray Ward and Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers – both Republicans – would allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana for up to 15 patients without having to go through hours of specialized training. If a doctor does go through said training, they can help up to 275 patients at any given time.

“We want to make the barrier to entry on the part of providers, prescribers, lower,” says Representative Ward.

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As FOX 13 reported last year, qualifying patients still struggle across Utah to find doctors willing to recommend medical marijuana. For example, some doctors don’t want to go through so much paperwork and licensing for a handful of patients, while others are uneasy about recommending cannabis.

“This bottleneck that we have here, it is forcing patients to go outside and try to doctor shop which was never the intention,” said Desiree Hennessy, the head of the Utah Patients Coalition, which sponsored Proposition 2 that legalized medical marijuana in Utah.

According to Fox 13, “In addition to allowing physicians to recommend for up to 15 patients, it also allows them to refer a patient directly to a medical cannabis dispensary (Utah calls them “pharmacies”).”

“The cannabis pharmacy can, at the physician’s discretion, delegate the responsibility to the pharmacist to get the patient on the system and make recommendations on dosage,” Sen. Vickers, R-Cedar City, told FOX 13.

“I would rather we have a large number of providers who are willing to participate in the program not because they are a pot specialty clinic,” he said.

“But the bill would also add cannabis to Utah’s controlled substances database, where all prescriptions for things like opioids are kept” states Fox 13. “Physicians and pharmacies can look at it to ensure that someone isn’t doctor shopping for pills, but so can law enforcement.”

That concerns Hennessy.

“I have heard from a lot of those patients,” she told FOX 13. “I worry like they do that this is something, do officers have to have a warrant to look at that? Is this common knowledge?”

Hennessy said she expected the legislation would have safeguards in place that require police to get a warrant to look at the database. Sen. Vickers said discussions about the controlled substances database has been emotional, but he supported adding cannabis to it — as did Rep. Ward.

“I regard that as a huge step in the right direction. I mean, we have said over and over again if this is a medicine, let’s treat it like a medicine,” said Rep. Ward. “And I would just invoke that over and over and over again. Other controlled substances are in the controlled substances database.”

The bill is set to be heard before the Interim Health & Human Services Committee on Wednesday.

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