Utah saw its first-ever sales of medical marijuana in March and six months later, the state’s budding medical marijuana industry is going stronger than anyone expected. Utah voters originally approved a ballot initiative legalizing medical marijuana back in November 2018. State lawmakers later replaced the measure with a law that more tightly controls the production, distribution, and use of the drug, Dubbed the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, the law went through multiple changes before the medical marijuana program was finally launched in March.
“It’s been going well, as all new programs and people starting and really pushing to get up and going like they did early on, and now producers are starting to find their traction to be able to keep moving forward,” says Cody James, manager of the Utah Department of Agriculture’s Industrial Hemp and Medical Cannabis Program. “I don’t think that anybody had an idea as to the number of patients that Utah was going to see this early. I think we’re exceeding all of the studies that we had on the number of patients,” he says.
Under the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, 10,000 active medical cannabis patients have received medical cannabis cards, a number state officials didn’t expect to reach until one year into the program, says Richard Oborn, director of the Center for Medical Cannabis. “And this means fewer residents in Utah are possessing medical cannabis illegally. These are people that are suffering from qualifying illnesses such as chronic pain and cancer, epilepsy, MS, and terminal illnesses. So that’s exciting to see that there are more people that are not having to take their medication in the shadows anymore.”
Oborn adds that most of the hiccups that occurred with the patients’ registry portal early on have been ironed out, making for a smoother sign up process. Additionally, people in Utah are consulting with doctors and pharmacists about medical cannabis “more than they ever have.”
At 3,600, Utah County accounted for more patient cards than any other county, followed by Salt Lake County with 2,400 patients, Weber County with 854, and David County with 787. According to Oborn, more people in Utah County may have applied for their medical cannabis card than in Salt Lake County as the first pharmacy opened in Salt Lake City. Plenty of patients purchased medical marijuana at the pharmacy when the program began using a recommendation letter.
“We believe there’s a high number of those patients that have not yet converted to a medical cannabis card, that they are continuing until the end of the year to rely on just their letter.”
Analysts say entities like Sugarmade, Inc. (OTCQB: SGMD) are probably glad that record numbers of patients are now benefiting from medical marijuana in Utah.
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