While there is a Utah medical marijuana program, it’s basically a “program” in name only. It is only available to patients with severe epilepsy and is limited to “hemp extracts,” such as cannabidiol (CBD) oil, that must contain at least five percent of CBD and less than 0.3 percent of THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis. The law also allows certain research institutions throughout the state, as well as the Utah Department of Health, to only cultivate industrial hemp for research or agricultural purposes. It doesn’t allow any sort of cultivation for medicinal purposes, forcing patients or their families to go out of state to obtain CBD oil to find relief from their symptoms.
To qualify to use medical marijuana in Utah, patients must be a resident of the state and be 18 years of age or older. However, minors can also use the extract as long as their parents or guardians assume responsibility for how children use it. Patients must also obtain hemp extract registration cards to use CBD oil. They must have a signed statement from a physician that they not only have severe epilepsy, but that they can also benefit from using the extract.
Unfortunately, like other states that claim to have medical cannabis programs, Utah state leaders have established a system that is basically unworkable. There is no specific provision that states how a patient can access CBD oil in the state. There are no dispensaries, and the only entities that can legally grow industrial hemp are, again, certain research institutions as well as the state health department.
But it gets even more complicated for those trying to access medicinal CBD oil in Utah. Even for those who are able to go out of state obtain the extract, the process of legally possessing it is incredibly burdensome. First, the container that holds the oil must be sealed, and it must have a label that indicates where it came from. It has to be accompanied by a certificate of analysis from a testing laboratory in the state from which it was obtained. The testing lab cannot in any way be affiliated with the producer of the oil, and it must transmit the certificate to the Utah Department of Health.
This certificate must have a specific number that correlates exactly to the one found on the container, and it must also include the exact percentages of CBD and THC. Since most states with true medical cannabis programs limit availability to in-state residents, and since it is also very unclear how many — if any — laboratories would be willing to comply with these onerous conditions, it is nearly impossible for patients to legally obtain CBD oil as the law is currently written.
In 2017, Utah legislators considered a bill that, on the surface at least, seems to create an actual, workable medicinal cannabis program. But the truth is far different.
The bill made it out of the committee stage and was heading to the Senate floor for a vote, but that vote had not occurred as of this writing. Even if the bill were to pass, though, it would be basically worthless when it comes to making it easier for patients to access therapeutic weed. The bill fails to spell out the conditions that would qualify for medical marijuana, and it doesn’t even specify what particular marijuana products would be accessible.
The wording of the bill is seemingly crafted to make it impossible for a true program governing the use of medical marijuana in Utah to exist. For example, it states that doctors can only recommend cannabis-related products that are approved by the legislature — but the bill, again, fails to approve any products. How can a doctor recommend an approved product when it doesn’t exist? The bill allows people to legally possess products approved by the legislature, but doesn’t approve any specific products. The wording of the bill creates an entire regulatory framework based on a product that is nonexistent.
But those aren’t the only reasons this bill is basically a waste of time for patients. It places a cap on the number of patients a doctor can recommend marijuana to. So if a doctor can only recommend marijuana to a certain number of patients, what about the others who could benefit?
And the bill also makes the process of actually paying for medicinal marijuana incredibly complicated. To conduct transactions involving the purchase of cannabis, a payment processor will first have to obtain a license from the state. The processor has to prove that it has an agreement, contract or partnership with a depository institution (a bank, credit union, savings and loan association, etc.) insured by the federal government. That institution has to agree that it will clear transactions involving cannabis-related products.
Finally, applicants for licenses will have to post a large bond that could be forfeited if the license is ever revoked for any reason. This would require finding a surety services provider that would insure a cannabis-related business — finding one of those in Utah would be difficult to say the least.
In a nutshell, this system is basically designed to make it impossible for patients to pay for medical cannabis. It’s very doubtful that any payment processors would be interested in applying for a license under the regulations mandated by the state, and it’s also doubtful that any federally-insured institutions would be willing to be involved in Utah marijuana transactions.