To schedule review for a Utah Medical Cannabis Card with a medical provider, call: 435-513-6386
I have lived in Utah for most of my life. Since 2002, I have spent my career attending to the healthcare needs of other state residents beginning with seniors. I thought I would never see medical cannabis legally approved here, especially not as early as 2019! Though it’s beyond surprising to see marijuana decriminalized in such a conservative stronghold, for thousands of Utah patients this change couldn’t have come soon enough.
By some estimates there are at least 90,000 Utah patients who are currently either self-medicating with marijuana or would seek out cannabis treatment if it were allowed by law. The majority of that number use cannabis as a natural—and safe—alternative 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 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 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 manage pain.
Cannabis efficiently generates a family of molecules called cannabinoids. The human body interacts comfortably with these molecules. The ECS (Endocannabinoid System) is the longest interconnected system of receptors in the body.
Not only can we absorb cannabinoids, in certain contexts, our bodies can produce them. For example, a nursing mother will yield a cornucopia of them including: Anandamide and HG2 (known as the “runner’s high” or “bliss” molecule). While, on average, six Utahns lose their lives each week from opioid overdose, “the Devil’s lettuce” has yet to doom a single resident to this fate.
I have been promoting cannabis and CBD through my own companies for over two years in Utah. You can imagine my surprise when I learned of the “Affirmative Defense Letter” just recently. I thought I was up on the important laws in the state regarding medical cannabis. It took a patient of mine bringingme a letter he received from his primary care provider. It was brief, but said that our mutual patient met the criteria set forth in the newly passed medical cannabis act of Utah.
I spent the next three nights reading through an amazing series of Utah State Government Medical Cannabis policies. The most important part of the act to my patients (the majority of whom are suffering from some form of narcotic dependency) is the following:
It had been my understanding that recommendations would be available in due course—(most language in the act speaks about 2020 and 2021 as potential roll-out moments—but what delighted me was that a legal path to decriminalization in Utahalready exists right now. There is a provision allowing for all Utah patients needing one of these cards to visit a medical provider in Utah who has registered as a Qualified Medical Provider (or QMP).
A QMP 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 authorizing the carrying of cannabis.
One cool thing about this scheme is that until March of 2020, there is no training, no fee, and no registration required to secure this credential. Any provider in the state of Utah who can write a script for Lortab can now write a recommendation for pot. The necessity for an actual card won’t come until the Health Department has that program in place in March 2020. Until then, the letter the doctor writes for the patient is to serve as the Medical Card.
Over the past three days, I have called police departments, AP&P offices, government entities, school districts, and a few other bureaucracies. Although the responses were not consistent, a preponderance of authorities agreed that any 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 130grams of dry weight (quarter pound) of medical cannabis on their person.
Chapter 37Utah Controlled Substances ActSection 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 Section26-61a-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.
If someone wants a medical cannabis card in Utah, they will have to settle for a “Affirmative Defense Letter” from their doctor for the next 6 months. But don’t worry, it carries all the same rights and privileges of the card that will be ready by the Health Department by 2020.
The process for obtaining this card will be simple: you only need to undergo a Medical Record Review. There is no exam, no questionnaire, and no blood test. It will be a process where the doctor balances your medical record against the rules as defined by the Health Department. If you meet any of the criteria, you are allowed to possess and use medical cannabis in Utah (even though you can’t legally buy it here 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. For the most part, each criterion is quite objective. However, the most subjective one (and, for my purposes, the most important) 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 opioids or opiates or physical interventions Ironically, the majority of patients needing a recommendation will fall under this obscure directive.
The biggest sticking point between this significant new law and reality is, sadly, the space between the doctors who can write the recommendation and the thousands of patients who want the right to medicate with medical marijuana. According to the new policy, neither doctors nor clinics can advertise that they are offering medical record reviews.
So, how does a body find a doctor who will consider them? We have found that there are a handful of services designed to bring patients and providers together. Since insurance wants no role in this process, the cost for this type of record review is $250 cash.
The hour is so early for this program that unless you stumble across a provider in the State, you will find it difficult to get yourhands on the invaluable epistle. We only know of one entity thatis beginning to take appointments to help patients get their hands on a card or it’s equivalent.
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 call 435-513-6386 to schedule.