Medical Cannabis FAQ

What conditions are approved for the use of medical cannabis?

See this post for the approved condition list.

Note that to qualify under pain, you do not need to use opiates. If an aspirin is not sufficient to stop the pain after two weeks, for example, then you qualify under this condition and your physician can legally recommend the use of cannabis. You are not required to have any other condition to qualify for the pain condition.

Further, if you do not suffer from prolonged pain and your condition is not otherwise listed, you will be able to apply to the Compassionate Use Board for a one-off approval. More information on this board is below.

What types of cannabis are allowed?

    • Flower/bud is allowed as long as it is in a blister pack (separately packaged and sealed containers).
    • An edible gummy or lozenge if in a cube or rectangular shape
    • Wax/resin
    • Oil
    • Tablet
    • Capsule
    • Liquid suspension
    • Topical treatment
    • Transdermal application
  • Sublingual

Why does flower have to be in a “blister pack”?

Prop 2’s opponents wanted a more “medicinal” program where regimated and measured amounts could be predictably dosed in order to increase understanding about what amounts help with certain conditions for certain people. The “free for all” nature of Prop 2, where patients could buy whatever they wanted and consume in any amount that was not measured or tracked, limited this option. It was felt that by creating consistent amounts of flower for patient use, physicians can increase understanding over time as to how it provides benefit.

Further law enforcement was concerned about being unable to distinguish between “illegal” bud and that which was lawfully purchased at a dispensary. It was felt that a pre-packaged, sealed container would allow for a distinction, while still preserving the ability to purchase and use flower—when much of the opposition preferred to ban it completely.

Why do edibles have to be in a cube or rectangle shape?

Prop 2 opponents argued that medicine is almost always not consumed as an edible; it is hard to measure specific amounts of something like THC when you simply take a bite out of a cookie, brownie, or other product.

To defend against eliminating edibles completely, we proposed retaining a format of edible where there was a specific amount of THC in each item. Prop 2 already banned candy-like products, such as gummy bears and the like, so the final result ended up as a cube or rectangle shape gummy or lozenge.

Is there a limit on how much THC I can have?

There is no limit to how much THC can be in a medical cannabis product.

There is a 14-day purchase limit, just as there was in Prop 2; two ounces of flower or 10 grams total composite THC (in other words, THC or THC-A).

There is a maximum possession limit of twice that amount: 4 ounces flower or 20 grams THC.

But then why does HB 3001 limit THC to .3%?

The bill amended several parts of the industrial hemp and retail CBD law, which requires THC to be below .3%.

This provision does not relate at all to the medical cannabis program, even though it was in the same bill. They are separate sections of the law; there is no THC limit for the medical cannabis program.

Which medical providers can recommend?

MDs, DOs, APRNs, and PAs can all recommend the use of cannabis so long as their license is in good standing and they have authority to prescribe controlled substances.

What if my doctor won’t recommend medical cannabis for me?

This program is optional for medical providers—they are not required to participate. As such, many physicians will prefer to abstain from recommending a federally illegal substances. In some cases, their employer may require them to.

As such, some patients may have to find a new physician who is able and willing to recommend the use of medical cannabis for their condition.

Isn’t “dosing” illegal, meaning this entire program is designed to fail?

Under the new law, once the program is online in 2020, physicians will be able to issue a recommendation for a patient by logging onto an online service. While filling out the form, they will be given the option to indicate a specific form and amount of cannabis to be used by the patient.

This is optional. Should the patient elect not to do so—which will likely be common—then under state law, the patient must consult with an on-site pharmacist at the dispensary (or “medical cannabis pharmacy”). Physicians maintain a DEA license to prescribe controlled substances and may jeopardize their status by actively dosing a schedule I substance.

State-licensed pharmacists do not maintain a DEA license as individuals, and therefore do not run a similar risk by participating in the program.

How soon will I be able to get a medical card?

By state law, the card system will be operational before March 1, 2020.

The delay is because now that the law has passed, the administrative agencies have to begin their rulemaking process to provide specificity to vendors, applicants, and others looking to actually engage in this industry. The rulemaking, once drafted, has to be submitted for 30 days of public comment. Finally, an RFP has to be issued for the electronic verification system, it has to be developed and tested, etc.

Can I start using medical cannabis right away?

Though the card system will not be operational until 2020, patients can begin using medical cannabis immediately.

Under Prop 2, this was done through what’s called an “affirmative defense.” In the new law, this has been modified slightly; a patient simply “is not guilty” of marijuana possession if he or she:

    1. was previously diagnosed with a qualifying condition;
    1. had a physician (MD, DO, APRN, PA) recommend the use of cannabis, whether verbally or documented in an email or letter; and
  1. possessed and used cannabis in one of the approved formats.

This protection is in place so that patients are not treated as criminals while we wait for the bureaucracy to get the program online.

Can children use medical cannabis?

Yes. The current patient protections do not discriminate based on age. A doctor can write a letter of recommendation for a minor patient right now, and that patient would not be guilty of marijuana possession.

Once the card system is operational, however, then individuals under 21 must get approval not only from their medical provider, but also from the Compassionate Use Board.

How will the Compassionate Use Board work?

As contemplated under Prop 2, this Board hears one-off requests from patients whose conditions are not included on the qualifying conditions list. For example, somebody with insomnia could appeal to the Board and, if approved, be able to receive ongoing recommendations through their medical provider directly.

The new law in Utah expands this Board and its duties, changing it from 5 to 7 people and requiring two pediatricians. The Board must approve all recommendations for patients under 21.

Required by law to meet at least quarterly, it is anticipated that the Board will meet monthly to review applicants. Patients will not be required to appear before the Board in person—a relief especially for those who are not near Salt Lake City. Instead, applications can be submitted on paper, patients can appear via Skype, etc.

Is smoking allowed?

No, nor was it under Prop 2. Vaping, however, is allowed.

Are there renter or employee protections?

There are no renter protections in the law; medical cannabis users are not a protected class. While Prop 2 contained renter protections, this did not apply to smoking (as it was not legal), and many landlords objected to vaping being done inside their properties. Once this provision was narrowed, it was felt that the constitutionality and legal exposure of keeping the renter protection in place—it was being used by Walter Plumb as the basis for his lawsuit against the ballot initiative—was not justified, since landlords will have no clue whether their tenants have a lotion, an oil, an edible, etc.

The new law does include employee protections for employees of state and local governments who are using medical cannabis. Their employers are required to treat their medical cannabis use the same way that they treat use of opioids. In other words, they will have to focus on impairment and job performance rather than the arbitrariness of having a marijuana metabolite in their system.

Will I lose my gun rights if I use medical cannabis?

In a word, no. Purchasing a new firearm from a federally licensed dealer would not be legal, as the applicant is required to certify they are not using any illicit drugs; marijuana remains a federally illegal substance.

However, this does not apply to private party purchases; Utahns are able to purchase firearms directly from one another, and no such certification of drug use is required at all.

Because medical cannabis use would be legal pursuant to state law, there is no threat to a person’s concealed firearm permit.

Will this state-run system be like the DABC?

No. The entire industry in Utah will be privately owned, with the exception of one of the pharmacies—the state central fill medical cannabis pharmacy. This state-owned facility—which will likely be contracted out to a private vendor—will distribute its products to local health departments where the patient can pick it up.

But the other dispensaries are all privately owned, as are all of the grows, processors, and inspection labs.

How many dispensaries will there be?

Seven, to start—likely one in each of the largest counties.

Aren’t pharmacies distributing cannabis illegal?

Though the dispensaries are technically named “medical cannabis pharmacies,” this is strictly a naming convention within state law. They are not actual pharmacies with a DEA certification of any kind. They do not sell other controlled substances.

In other words, they are still dispensaries just with a “nickname” within state law. As such, they can sell cannabis just like any other dispensary in any other state.

What happens if the central fill fails?

There are triggers in place to ensure that the central fill actually becomes operational, and if not, then there will be more privately-owned dispensary licenses handed out—up to 10 total according to the law.

If the central fill opens but then is later shut down through a court action or some other process, then the same trigger applies and more licenses will be awarded.

Can I still buy CBD oil and similar products at retail outlets?  Or only at a pharmacy?

There was some concern that Prop 2 repealed the retail CBD law. The new medical cannabis law explicitly protects that law to keep it in place.

Who is going to get the licenses to grow and sell medical cannabis?

The agencies tasked with awarding licenses are going to develop administrative rules to provide additional specificity to the law that was passed, helping applicants know precisely how they can best qualify. The applications will be reviewed through a procurement process, where objective analysis will be done for each application, and points awarded based on how the application meets the criteria set out by the agency.

In short, licenses will not be awarded based on who is the most connected, or who has friends in government, or who donated towards the ballot initiative, etc. Any applicant who meets the criteria will be considered fairly.

Additionally, the requirement for proving sizable liquid assets that was in Prop 2 is no longer in the law. Instead, applicants are required to maintain a performance bond.

For those interested in applying for one of these licenses, more information will be publicly available this spring or summer once the agencies have developed their rules and processes.

Where can I read the new law?

Here is the bill — House Bill 3001 — that was enacted into law.

Can I cross state lines with cannabis products purchased in other states?

It remains a violation of federal law to transport cannabis across state lines. However, this is not being enforced against medical patients; Utahns have been doing this for years since the Legislature created a program for epileptic patients to use low-THC cannabis. It’s a “buyer beware” process to be engaged in (as it would have been under Prop 2) while we wait for the industry to open up in the next year or two.

Does a card or doctor recommendation from another state count in Utah?

Not for Utah residents. Recommendations for Utah residents must come from licensed professionals in Utah. The state does not have reciprocity with medical programs in other states.

For non-residents, or those who have been Utah residents for fewer than 45 days, there is a legal protection in place if the following criteria are met:

  1. the person must have a qualifying condition on Utah’s list (not merely the other state’s);
  2. the person must have a currently valid medical cannabis card or the equivalent of a medical cannabis card, from another state; and
  3. the medical cannabis in the person’s possession must be in a form approved under Utah law.

How many cards can medical providers give out?

There is no limit to how many recommendations a medical provider can issue during this initial phase as we wait for the system to come online.

Once the system is set up, general practice medical providers are limited to 175 patient recommendations. A variety of specialists—for example, anesthesiologists, gastroenterologists, neurologists, oncologists, pain doctors, etc.—have an increased limit of 300. Further, these specialists can petition to increase their patient limit to 600 through a review of their patient list and a small fee to offset the cost of that review.

What will be the cost of a card?

As envisioned under Prop 2, this regulatory system will be offset by the participants themselves; taxpayers will not be expected to subsidize the ongoing operation of this medical cannabis program. As such, once the system is online and actual expenses are known, we will have a better idea of the permit cost for patients—a cost that presents itself not only in the actual permit but in the cost of the product, which will have factored into it the license costs of all the businesses who need to recoup their investment.

Note that the law creates separate accounts for the government’s central fill program, so that the cost of this program will not be forced onto patients.

How often do I have to renew my recommendation?

The first recommendation has a maximum period of one month. Recommendations thereafter can be for up to six months.

How will my dose or what product I use be determined?

Medical providers will be given the option of providing dosing parameters for the patient, though this is unlikely to be done by most providers because it comes close to prescribing a prohibited substance.

In cases where the provider does not specify dosing parameters, the patient would then consult with a state-licensed pharmacist (who does not have a DEA license and therefore faces no federal repercussions like physicians do) to determine the best course of treatment based on their condition.

During this initial phase before the program is set up, medical providers recommending medical cannabis to their patients are not required to specify any dosing information at all.

What if I’m too far away to consistently get to a pharmacy for my medicine?

Each patient can specify up to two caregivers at the discretion of the medical provider, in order to assist with transportation for those who live remotely or are unable to drive or otherwise obtain their medicine themselves.

And if the central fill concept ever succeeds and becomes viable, this will increase the number of pickup points for the product.

Over time, we will be working to increase the number of medical cannabis pharmacies to ensure patients are not unduly burdened in accessing their legal medicine.

I’ve heard that the new law improves upon Prop 2 in some ways. How so?

See this post for some improvements.

What if my question wasn’t answered here?

Feel free to send us a message on our Facebook page. As we notice more questions being asked “frequently” that are not included here, we will update this post.