THE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO BECOMING A UTAH MMJ PATIENT
Marijuana has been used as a medicine for centuries, but it was not until the late 1990s that individual states began to legalize marijuana for medicinal use. In 2018, Utah became one of the latest states to do so when voters passed Proposition 2, otherwise known as the “Utah Medical Cannabis Act” or HB 3001. This law made it possible for qualified patients to have access to medical marijuana, and for visitors of the state to receive a temporary card in order to access pharmacies (so long as they have an active medical card in another state).
One of the biggest reasons it passed was due to the Utah Patients Coalition, which has served patients tirelessly since long before the first Utah dispensary opened its doors. They remain extremely active in the cannabis community, and are constantly providing financial assistance, legal reform, and educational materials for the medical cannabis program as a whole.
This article will provide an introduction to Utah’s medical cannabis laws, including who is eligible to use it and where they can purchase it.
IS CANNABIS DECRIMINALIZED IN UTAH?
Now that medical cannabis is legal in the Beehive state, patients with qualifying conditions can use this service. Recreational marijuana remains illegal for citizens of the state. Small amounts would generally result in only a citation (misdemeanor) rather than incarceration if caught by the police. There are a lot of exceptions to this, including the context of the crime, and any other additional charges that have accumulated as a result of it. Larger amounts can and will still land you in jail if you’re not permitted to possess cannabis, and smoking paraphernalia is a separate charge altogether.
Residents with prior cannabis-related offenses can now seek expungement, however. Utah’s Clean Slate Law was passed in 2019 and provides automatic expungement for over 500,000 Utahns who meet the qualifications. This process takes time, and courts have not been able to identify a proper timeline for all records to be cleared. Some believe that it could be completed by the end of the year, while others are less optimistic. Surprisingly, the people affected will not be directly contacted by the state when their record is wiped (if applicable). The courts have decided that, since they do not have updated addresses for most citizens – and don’t want to send sensitive records to the wrong residence – it will be up to the individual to verify wether or not this has taken place. More information on how this process works can be found here.
In Utah, one in four people have a record. A record can impact someone’s ability to better employment, housing, and general upward mobility. For some, automatic expungement will not be available and further action is required to turn a new leaf. To help people understand the process, a public benefit company called Rasa often hosts free webinars that go over the expungement process, eligibility, Clean Slate policies, and legislative updates about government fees (which are waived for the year 2022). The Rasa team aims to help people move forward with their lives by providing low-cost manual expungement services for those who qualify. “A record no longer needs to be a barrier to this,” states Ciara Gregovich, Rasa’s Community Outreach Director. “Rasa can clear up to 3 cases for $500, compared to other expungement services which typically range from $2,000-3,000.”
Furthermore, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act of 2021 would decriminalize cannabis in the US and provide for expungement of cannabis offenses nationwide. The purpose of this act is to “reinvest in certain persons adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.” Recently, the MORE Act was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. This latest development is sure to continue the debate over recreational legalization, although most would agree legalization without justice is “half baked”. A statement provided by the ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s cements the objective of this mission:
Legalization must have equity at its heart. That’s why we’re calling on people to tell their senators to legalize cannabis and expunge the convictions of those who have been hurt by its criminalization. While expunging convictions won’t undo the history of systemic racism in cannabis-related arrests, it’s the first step in dismantling it.– Ben & Jerry’s 4/20/22 “Call to Action”
A brief history of legislation
Although the Medical Cannabis Act passed with a 53% majority, the program continues to be shrouded in controversy. Some Utahns are still unaware that such a program exists, or that it’s as accessible as it is. This information gap did not cease when lawmakers passed the bill allowing qualified patients to use the drug. Instead, patients and lawmakers continue to struggle to advocate for their rights under the strict policies enacted by the legislature. The stigma continues despite the state’s appropriations for the cannabis plant’s medicinal use.
Advertising its existence, for example, has proven extremely difficult for the program from its very fruition. Providers are not allowed to use words like “marijuana” or “cannabis” when displaying their services, and medical cannabis information will not be easily accessible to those who need it. Pharmacies have been isolated from other storefronts and places of business, often found tucked away from society in industrial pockets along Interstate 15.
Shortly after the Utah Medical Cannabis Act came into effect, groups such as the Mormon Church and Utah Medical Association voiced their opposition. Because of this, a deal was negotiated to amend some of the language and permissions provided within that original legislature. The “compromise” bill that arose from this lowered the renewal requirements for medical marijuana cards, made it more difficult to become a caregiver or parent, allowed further commendations for medical patients in their places of employment, and set perameters for how, when, and where medical cannabis can be used. The compromise bill was passed by the legislature on December 3, 2018, some months after the initial cannabis act.
Utah has changed its cannabis laws here and there since then. Some restrictions have been eased and others have been tightened. For example, HB 195, which was also signed in 2018, let people who are terminally ill try medicinal marijuana. Some marijuana-related convictions could be erased under HB 121, which was signed in 2020. It also required tracking of the plant from seed to sale, among other things. When the coronavirus pandemic hit in 2020, HB 425 made it much easier for patients to get medical marijuana. It also made it easier for them to get ID cards.
While the Board of directives tasked with distributing the pharmacies did in fact place at least two locations in all four quadrants (as pictured below), the majority are within about a 70-mile radius of each other. As you can imagine, this leaves a good majority of patients out of range for convenient pick-up options. Some Utahns are only able to visit a pharmacy once a month, driving four or five hours roundtrip in order to pick up and transport their medication back home. Patients are also required by state law to see a new provider in-person whenever applying for or renewing their cannabis card, although renewal appointments with existing Quality Medical Providers (QMP’s) can take place via telemedicine wherever available.
Since delivery systems have been implemented in the state, it has alleviated some of the concerns voiced by patients and pharmacies alike about this proximity issue. Both Dragonfly and WholesomeCo offer fantastic delivery options which cater to 99.9% of the entire state, and delivery fees are waived. Online ordering is easy, and an up-to-date menu of products is available on most pharmacy websites. Medical cannabis delivery does not come without its own speed bumps, though. A patient must be home to receive their medicine, the address delivered to must match the address the patient provided to the state, and the wait times can be detrimental in the event a patient requires medication ASAP.
A list of Utah’s 14 medical cannabis pharmacies is available to view here.
HOW DO I BUY cannabis?
Medical cannabis is a viable option for Utahns 21 and older, and medical records are generally not required in order to be approved. A caregiver or guardian can assist a minor patient (under 18) in the application process, and accompany them to buy medical marijuana from a state-approved location. Patients under the age of 21 will need to go through the Compassionate Use Board in order to be approved, and extensive medical records are required in order to do this.
The only additional tax implemented on medication in Utah pharmacies is a $3 state fee per order, no matter the amount being purchased. The Utah Medical Cannabis Board uses this money to administer the medical program, and it’s a flat fee as opposed to a percentage. Fortunately, the state is limited to only the cannabis program to spend this money, so patients benefit hand-in-hand.
Each person who buys marijuana should have a medical marijuana card, and it should also be renewed every 6 months (or a year, if the patient has been in the program for at least 365 days). Further information on how to start the process is outlined below, but first let’s go over the basics:
What are the qualifying conditions for a Utah medical cannabis card?
- ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease)
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
- Epilepsy or a similar condition that causes “debilitating seizures”
- Multiple sclerosis or persistent and debilitating muscle spasms
- Nausea (must be persistent)
- Chronic Pain lasting longer than two weeks that is not adequately managed despite treatment attempts
- PTSD that is being treated or monitored by a licensed mental health therapist (medical records required)
- Any terminal illness where life expectancy is less than six months
- Any condition resulting in hospice care
- Any rare condition that effects fewer than 200,000 persons in the United States as defined by Section 526 of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and is not adequately managed despite treatment attempts
Patients who do not have a qualifying medical condition as per listed can still apply for a card, although they will need to have their case petitioned by their medical provider. The Compassionate Use Board reviews these petitions, and extensive medical records are required in order to do so. Additionally, the patient must provide written confirmation that their care team is aware of their choice to seek medical cannabis, and the QMP who petitions them will need to show evidence as to why medical cannabis is the only viable treatment plan available to that patient. Usually, this means that the patient has tried several other medications and/or treatment plans for the condition they wish to be approved under. Documentation as it pertains to this medical history will also need to be provided by that patient’s care team.
What are the patient possession limits?
- Medical cannabis products may be dispensed as “tablets,” “capsules,” “concentrated oils,” “topical preparations,” “transdermal preparations,” “sublingual preparations,” or in a” a liquid suspension,” or as a “a gelatinous cube or lozenge.”
- State-mandated “legal dosage limit” for medical cannabis products that shall not exceed 20 grams of THC per single dose.
- Raw cannabis” must be dispensed in a “tamper-resistant” sealed container with a 60-day expiration date.
- Patients may obtain up to a 30-day supply of medical cannabis products. A 30-day supply of “unprocessed cannabis” should not exceed 113 grams by weight.
Is Utah a safe state to consume marijuana as a medical patient?
Patients can’t consume marijuana in public unless it’s for medical reasons, and even then there are considerations to be made. Consuming on the job, while operating heavy machinery, or near a zoned location such as a school or daycare, are all prohibited across the board. The compromise bill that was implemented after the initial Medical Cannabis Act allows for some further context to how employers should interact with employees who are also patients of the medical program; of the many groups and industries affected, city and state employees are currently afforded the most protections under this bill.
Utah’s medical cannabis law is fairly comprehensive when it comes to commendations for patients. It allows for the ingestion of marijuana in many forms, including topicals, tablets, liquids, oils, and capsules. It also allows for the vaping of flowers, wax, and resin. The state also allows people to vape flower, resin, or wax, as well as buy vaporizers and vape pens so they can consume raw cannabis flower in a safe and legal fashion. The use of open flames, such as lighters, matches or blowtorches, is strictly prohibited as it has no medicinal value.
Does Utah allow home cultivation?
Utah does not allow home cultivation of cannabis.
How does Utah regulate their medical cannabis program?
The state’s Department of Health is in charge of the electronic verification system or registry, which keeps track of patients, guardians, pharmacies, and medical care providers. This system is called a “registry.” The provider you have your consultation with will ask that you submit your medical cannabis application on this website. Utah’s official Medical Cannabis Program website has all the information necessary to achieve this step, which can be done before or after a successful appointment.
Once this is complete, your provider will look you up in the registry in order to add your recommendation, which equals 180 days worth of medication prescription days (or 6 months). Each patient will be prompted to pay a $15 state fee; once submitted, it generally takes anywhere between 1-3 business days for their card to be sent to them.
Once the patient has their card, they are welcome to visit any medical cannabis pharmacy in Utah in order to purchase medication. It is important to note that patients will want to call the certified location of their choosing ahead of time if it is their very first time visiting a pharmacy as a patient in Utah. The pharmacy team will want to give new patients a tour of the facility, as well as all of the products they have to offer. The lead pharmacist will also consult with the patient on what medication may work best for them.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU QUALIFY
To apply for a standard card, you must live in Utah. You do not need to have a state-issued Utah license, although you may be asked to show proof of residency if you have an ID from a different state. Although medical records of your qualifying condition are recommended, they are not required unless you are under the age of 21 or your only qualifying medical condition is PTSD. In this case, you would be asked to show verification of a continuity of care (meaning you have been diagnosed with PTSD, and have had an appointment regarding the treatment of this condition within the past 6 months).
If you are applying as a minor (under the age of 18), you will need to have a parent or legal guardian accompany you to appointments as well as the pharmacy in order to pick up medication. The use of vape or other cannabis lung inhalation uses are not recommended for patients under the age of 21. Using Cannabis by mouth, on the skin, or under the tongue cannabis use are recommended for these patients instead. There will be a Compassionate Use Board that will have to approve applications from people under the age of 21, and they meet once a month to review petitions. This process can take up to 60-90 days, even after the petition is submitted to the state for further approval.
Residents of Utah who are not patients of the program can be caregivers for people who are prescribed cannabis. They can help the patient with several different things, such as registering for the program, ordering, purchasing, picking up and transporting their medicine. It’s easy for people to get a medical marijuana card from our website.
On our website, Utah residents with a qualifying condition are invited to apply for a medical cannabis card. You can begin this application process by clicking here; once you are ready to schedule, click ‘Book Appointment’. The availability for all of our current providers will be visible to you, and once you select a time and date to come into our Cottonwood Heights (West Bountiful, UT) location, you will be prompted to complete a one-time intake form that the provider will review in order to provide their consent and issue a recommendation for medical cannabis in your name.
When you arrive for the consultation with your provider, you will only need your state-issued driver’s license or ID, any medical records you may have on hand, and a smartphone or similar device. First time patients are required to be seen in-office during their initial visit, but will be able to conduct follow-up appointments via our telemedicine service. Our patient support team is available within business hours, so don’t hesitate to give them a call at 801-382-9006 if you have further questions! You can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and someone will be in touch as soon as possible!
How to register as a patient:
- Create an account on the electronic verification system (EVS)
- Fill out a card application and await physician approval (after a successful appointment)
- Submit state fee payment of $15 for the registration fee
- For adults 21 and older, the Utah Department of Health will send you a copy of your card within 1-3 business days. For minors, it can take up to 90 days
- Once the application has been approved, patients can log back into the portal to print or save their cards. The first card is good for 180 days, and once a patient has been active for 365 days they can apply for a one-year renewal through their provider
- Add caregivers and keep track of your cannabis purchases with the EVS
Additionally, the Utah Department of Health published this step-by-step video breakdown, which provides a comprehensive overview of the program’s application process:
Utah’s Caregiver Clause, Explained:
A person with a medical marijuana license may identify up to two caregivers to help them order, pick up and transport their medication directly to them. These vetted individuals can buy, possess, and administer medical marijuana for a patient who needs assistance. The caregiver application is free of charge aside from the state fee, and further details on how to apply can be found on the Utah Medical Cannabis Program website by clicking here. Green Team Doctors will happily provide assistance in helping caregivers apply!
To purchase medical cannabis, a caregiver must bring their medical cannabis card and a valid form of photo identification, such as a driver’s license, with them to the pharmacy. Caregivers do not need to attend appointments unless the patient requires assistance in doing so. During renewal appointments, both the patient and caregiver will be prompted to pay the subsequent $15 state fee on the EVS website. Patients may complete the renewal process 30 days prior to your card’s expiration date, but they will not be issued or able to print their updated card until their card’s expiration date is met.
Caregiver Registration Process:
How to register as a Caregiver:
- Before or after the patient designates them as a caregiver, you must register on the electronic verification system (EVS) and establish an account
- Fill out the form
- For a primary patient, pay $68.25; and for a secondary one, pay $15. Additional breakdown of fees is as follows:
- Caregiver Card (first renewal): No charge
- Caregiver Card (primary patient subsequent renewals): $14
- Caregiver Card (secondary patient subsequent renewals): $5
- Fill out the required paperwork for a background check
- It takes up to 15 days after the background check is done for the Utah Department of Health to decide whether or not to accept or reject the application
- The caregivers can go back to the portal after their application has been approved and print their own card or even save it to their phone
- The first card is good for 90 days, and each renewal lasts for six months
Those who live outside Utah but qualify for medical marijuana can apply for reciprocity, as long as they follow Utah’s rules surrounding the subject. These cards are provided routinely for visitors of the Beehive state if they have an active medical cannabis card issued by another state in the U.S. The cards are good for 21 days at a time, and patients may be issued two 21-day cards per calendar year. The first step in getting a visitor card is to call the Utah Medical Cannabis help hotline at 801-538-6504.
In the first 45 days that they live in the state of Utah, new residents can apply for medical cannabis so long as they are able to provide proof of residence. If a patient does not have a Utah ID, for example, they can provide proof of residence through a utility bill, rental agreement, insurance card, or similar which shows the Utah street address they reside in.
Required medical cannabis screening
The following are the requirements for testing cannabis and medical cannabis products, to ensure their medicinal efficacy and the highest quality possible:
- Foreign matter
- Cannabinoid content (potency)
- Heavy metals
- Moisture content
How long are medical marijuana consultations?
Most consultations are completed within 15-30 minutes. Of course, if you have lots of questions, we’ll always happily answer all of them as thorough as possible!
Will I be approved? What happens if not?
If you possess at least one of the state qualifying conditions and you’re a resident of Utah, we will 100% be able to get you approved for medical marijuana.
Not approved? No worries! Rest assured you will never pay a single penny if you’re not approved through one of our providers. A full refund will be issued; no questions asked.
Do you offer industry or veteran discounts?
Yes we do! Call or text 801-382-9006 to find out more about these discount prices (applicable identification is required in order to qualify).
Do I need to provide medical records?
Medical records are not required by the Utah Department of Health for qualifying patients ages 21 or older; however, they are recommended if applicable. Conditional (minor) patients, patients who qualify under PTSD (only), and patients who do not have a qualifying medical condition will need to provide medical history regarding their current/active medical problems, diagnoses, and/or any relevant consultative notes in order to proceed with their consultation.
The patients indicated would have their application sent out for further approval by the Compassionate Use Board and this would delay their recommendation/MMJ approval by an additional 12-30 business days.
Will insurance pay for the cost of my consultation or medical cannabis?
No, insurance providers will not cover any costs related to the medical marijuana industry due to cannabis’ current status as a schedule 1 substance under federal law. However, our office does accept FSA or HSA payments.
What are Utah’s PATIENT cannabis regulations?
Medical marijuana patients can purchase resin, wax products, vape, or raw cannabis flowers from a state-licensed pharmacy. Patients are required to adhere to the no-smoke law that exists in the Medical Cannabis program. The Utah Medical Cannabis Act does not protect individuals from criminal liability for possessing devices that facilitate the combustion of cannabis (otherwise known as Paraphernalia, which includes papers, bowls, and bongs).
While it’s evident that Utah’s Medical Cannabis program is ever-changing, especially amidst pending federal legislation, it’s important that patients stay up-to-date on updates to the program and the laws surrounding it. One way to do this is by following Green Team Doctors on social media, so you will be notified when change is on the horizon. Patients can also opt in to receive fresh discount codes or current sales going on in their favorite pharmacies, which may be more convenient than scraping each location’s website for a good deal.
You can also check out the official Utah Medical Cannabis website and sign up for email updates on the state program there, as well as find several useful resources, infographics, and links on educational materials for patients. The Utah Patients Coalition also provides several services to medical cannabis patients in Utah, ranging from collecting ballot signatures to negotiation patient rights and broader program policies. We also encourage patients to sign up for text alerts and email subscriptions through their local pharmacies, as they frequently send information on upcoming sales and important program information.
Furthermore, the Beehive-based cannabis culture magazine Salt Baked City has up-to-date information on the latest legislation, community news, upcoming events, cannabis science, and much more! If you have any questions about your prescription, medication, or laws surrounding your status as a patient, you are welcome to call the office that recommended you for the program (aka your MMJ licensing office), or the pharmacy you tend to go to, depending on the particular question you may have. The Utah Medical Board is also available via email or phone if you have questions pertaining to the EVS website, or the program as a whole.
Green Team Doctors | Utah Certified Qualified Medical Providers (QMP)
6975 South Union Park Avenue, Suite 600, Office 679
Cottonwood Heights, UT 84047