Utah House of Representatives approves “hijacked” medical cannabis bill

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

A ballot measure titled “Utah Proposition Number 2” – A.K.A. the “Utah Medical Cannabis Act” – passed in 2018. This ultimately led to the rollout of Utah’s medical cannabis market. However, the rollout was not without its speed bumps; it has taken over a year for the first dispensary to open its doors, due to the Utah State Legislature replacing the Act with a state-controlled system.

Following the recent launch of Utah’s medical cannabis program, Republicans have taken it upon themselves to streamline the process of obtaining medicine. On Friday, March 6, the Utah House of Representatives voted in unison to approve a “hijacked” version of Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost’s House Bill 425.

“Hijacked” was the term used to describe the amended bill, which was tweaked to improve the newly-launched medical cannabis program in Utah. Approval of the amended HB 425 emerged after Dragonfly Wellness – Utah’s first medical cannabis dispensary – struggled to serve patients who did not possess a state-issued medical cannabis card.

What was in the original version of House Bill 425?

Prior to the amended submission of HB 425, the legislation allowed patients who qualified for Utah’s medical cannabis program to make fewer visits to the doctor in order to obtain plant-based medicines. However, unable to meet demand from unregistered patients, dispensaries like Dragonfly were forced to turn away customers who had not yet received a medical cannabis identification card.

Based on the details of the amended bill, patients are allowed to show their doctor’s recommendation and defense letters to dispensary owners at actively-operating dispensaries; such as Dragonfly. The amended version of HB 425 will give Utah’s Department of Health the push to start issuing cannabis cards to qualifying patients.

Ahead of the “hijacked” bill’s approval, Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem thanked Rep. Dailey-Provost for their efforts in changing Utah’s medical cannabis bills. The Senate will now review the bill, before a final decision is made.

Utah’s first medical cannabis dispensary is open for business

Dragonfly Wellness was the first pharmacy out of a total 14 licensed stores to receive official licensing; making it the first choice for patients who require pharmaceutical-grade plant-based medicines. Utah’s first medical cannabis dispensary can be found on 700 South State Street.

“We can be confident the products that we are providing to our patients and our community are 100 percent safe,” said Narith Pahn of Dragonfly Wellness, which opened its doors on Monday, March 2.

The launch of Utah’s first medical cannabis dispensary represents significant progress in providing in-need patients with their medicine.

“All of our hard work has paid off. Not fully. This isnt the end,” said the director of the Utah Patients Coalition, Desiree Hennessy; her coalition sponsored Prop. 2. “This is the beginning, but we are seeing a beautiful beginning today.”

On the morning of Dragonfly’s opening, a total of 14 patients had been accepted into Utah’s medical cannabis program. Meanwhile, an additional 300 cards were being processed. This is according to the cannabis coordinator for the Utah Department of Health, Rich Oborn.

He says that the main issue with distributing cannabis cards among in-need patients was associated with a glitch in the state registration application process for physicians; an error on the website caused difficulty in processing applications from physicians.

New cannabis pharmacies in Utah are expected to open their doors soon.