Utah is proposing a change to its medical cannabis system that will help patients to more easily obtain medical cannabis recommendations. The proposal allows any doctor in the state to recommend medical cannabis for up to 15 patients, according to the Deseret News. Currently, any doctor can recommend cannabis to their patients but at the end of the year they are required to pay a fee and take online training courses in order to be considered a “qualifying provider.”
Connor Boyack, president of Libertas Institute, a Utah-based medical cannabis organization, said, “There are many physicians who support their patients’ use of medical cannabis, but do not want to jump through the hurdles of becoming a kind of qualified doctor under the law, which requires paying a fee and doing a few hours of education and using a new computer system just for these users. What that means is that those patients then have to go out-of-pocket to a different clinic, and it just adds to the cost.”
Despite 500 doctors around the state having registered as a “qualifying provider,” advocates say the uncertainty around doctor recommendations has created a “bottleneck” in Utah’s medical cannabis system — where they say doctors are hard to find and some charge extra for medical cannabis recommendations.
“The concept there is twofold. One on the patient’s side: It would allow the patient to stay closer to home, maybe with their own physician … and the physician, if they don’t feel they have the expertise to do the dosing guidelines, they can work with the pharmacist and the cannabis pharmacy.” — Senator Evan Vickers (R) of Cedar City, via Deseret News
Utah’s legislature passed medical cannabis in 2018. Since then, the state has struggled to address access issues across the mostly rural state, but lawmakers passed temporary fixes earlier this year. According to UtahBusiness.com, Utah’s medical cannabis program serves roughly 8,890 patients, and over 6,000 patients purchased medical cannabis in Utah between March and July.
“So it’s always a balancing act. We want to have access to patients, we want to try as much as possible to allow them to go through the normal doctor-patient relationship to get medication,” Sen. Vickers told Deseret News. “That way we can assist them in getting involved and having patients be treated with medication.”