State legislators have steadily been working to improve Utah’s medical cannabis program. We like to call their regulatory improvements ‘upgrades’ in keeping with the modern vernacular. With that in mind, two of the more recent upgrades are actually among the most important we have seen thus far.
Those upgrades are:
- extending the term of a patient’s initial medical cannabis card
- launching the limited medical provider (LMP) program.
The combination of these two upgrades together should make it easier for medical cannabis patients in Utah to obtain and renew their medical cannabis card. Both upgrades have been a long time coming. Though many of us wish it hadn’t taken so long to get to this point, we are glad to be here now.
Longer Card Terms
Medical cannabis cards were a mixed bag when our program first launched a few years ago. In the early days, patients could visit a cannabis dispensary with either a state card or letter of recommendation. The latter was eventually phased out, the goal being to get all patients on state cards and entered into the electronic verification system (EVS).
The original medical cannabis card had an initial term of three months. You would see your medical provider, get your card, and use your medicine for 90 days. At some point prior to expiration, you would go back to see your medical provider to get a renewal. Patients still must renew their initial medical cannabis cards, but now the initial term is six months.
Longer terms also apply to renewals. As of 2021, it became possible for some patients to renew for one year as long as certain conditions were met. So the sum total of all of this is that medical cannabis cards in Utah now have longer terms. That is good because it improves efficiency and helps to reduce backlogs.
More Participating Medical Providers
The launch of the LMP program has finally arrived. It was supposed to be launched in fall 2021, but technical glitches and staffing problems delayed things. Thankfully, as of mid-February 2022, the program is now live. It offers the opportunity for any physician, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, and podiatrist with prescribing authority to recommend medical cannabis to up to fifteen patients.
In theory, this means more participating medical providers throughout the state. This helps those patients living in a rural portion of the state whose GPs or other providers are willing to recommend medical cannabis. Doing so mitigates any need for those patients to drive more than an hour into one of Utah’s urban centers.
The LMP program is brilliant in its implementation because it allows medical providers to recommend medical cannabis without having to undergo specialized training,pay for an expensive annual license, or learn to navigate the EVS software. They can recommend medical cannabis by virtue of already possessing prescribing authority in the state of Utah.
Increasing Medical Cannabis Access
Combined, the two upgrades increase medical cannabis access in Utah. As a result, we hope to see more patients visiting our Brigham City and Salt Lake City pharmacy locations. Greater access should easily translate into more valid cardholders getting the medications they need.
Utah’s medical cannabis program is by no means perfect. But every time lawmakers upgrade it, it gets better for patients, medical providers, pharmacies, and the rest of the industry.
We have long advocated for patience among those who have been frustrated by the restrictive nature of our program. Patience is winning the day, as gradual upgrades continue to improve the program. It is quite good now, and it stands to only get better in the future.