Utah currently has a very restrictive “medical cannabis” program.
For one, the program is closed off to most people and unfortunately ignores cannabis plant science among other things.
It was the first state in the U.S. to pass a CBD-specific cannabis measure.
Only patients that suffer from intractable epilepsy can apply to be a registered patient.
The CBD-specific law in Utah does not provide for home cultivation, nor are there any state-licensed cannabis dispensaries in Utah.
Cannabis patients in Utah cannot have designated caregivers, and out-of-state patients are not recognized by the program.
Current medical cannabis law in Utah provides for protection against prosecution when extracts that contain more than 15 percent CBD and no more than 0.3 percent THC are involved. That’s it.
For most suffering patients in Utah, there is no protection, nor any safe access.
One of those patients spoke with Green Flower Media but did not want us using his real name for fear of persecution. For the sake of this article, we will simply refer to him as ‘Al.’
Suffering patients like Al have to break the law to find relief
Al has lived in Utah for most of his life, having been born and raised there and only left for a brief time in his late teens.
He is completely disabled from a motorcycle crash he was involved in several years ago and suffers from a number of conditions related to the accident.
Like many people, Al finds relief from consuming cannabis.
“I have a laundry list of conditions, but for the most part, it’s all about dealing with the pain from all of the conditions. That and trying to find a way to get regular sleep. Cannabis is the only thing that truly helps.” Al told Green Flower Media.
Doctors have prescribed Al a number of drugs for his conditions, which are mainly opioids and synthetic sleep aids.
“I know that when I am using cannabis that I am breaking the law, but it’s either that or use substances that are far more harmful. The risk is worth it, but I don’t know why I have to live in fear to find relief.” Al said.
Patients like Al have to risk a lot to find their medicine, which is extremely unfortunate and heartbreaking, and not all risk is the same.
Effective forms of cannabis come with an increased risk in Utah
“I tend to smoke cannabis more often than not, but I wish it didn’t have to be that way.” Al told Green Flower Media. “What works best is edibles and topical rub, but that’s nearly impossible for me to find in Utah.”
Al went on to point out that even when he can find topicals and edibles in Utah, he is scared to keep them around because it can result in a greater penalty due to the increased weight involved.
In Utah, all forms of cannabis are considered to be the same from a penalty standpoint.
“A pound of flower is something that I would never have lying around my residence, but having pounds of edibles is not an unheard of thing.”
Al’s current options are to either purchase various forms of cannabis from the unregulated market in Utah, or drive out of state to Colorado or Nevada, which could lead to a federal interstate smuggling charge.
What are Utah’s current cannabis laws?
Below is a summary of Utah’s current cannabis laws when an individual is not a patient with intractable epilepsy and the cannabis is not of the very low THC variety:
- Possession of less than 1 ounce is punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine
- Possession of 1 ounce to 1 pound is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $2,500 fine
- Possession of over 1 pound is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine
- Selling any amount of cannabis is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine
- Utah treats cultivation and possession of concentrates the same as flower
- Any cannabis conviction results in a 6-month driver license suspension
As Al pointed out, possessing over a pound of edibles is not an uncommon thing when a patient needs a lot of medical cannabis and can only obtain it on rare occasions.
It does not take that many brownies or other edibles to exceed a 1 pound (16 ounce) limit, especially when the edibles are homemade or if low dosage amounts are involved.
Clearly, Utah is in need of a much better medical cannabis program and law than what is currently in place.
Fortunately, there is a campaign effort underway that is seeking to make it happen.
What would the Utah Patients Coalition initiative do?
The Utah Patients Coalition is currently gathering signatures in an effort to get a comprehensive medical cannabis initiative on the 2018 ballot.
The campaign must collect signatures from at least 113,143 Utah voters by April 15, 2018. The signatures are required to be collected from across the state.
If the signature-gathering effort is successful, and the initiative is approved by voters, the measure would:
- Create a comprehensive medical cannabis program in Utah
- Dramatically expand the list of qualifying conditions that patients could qualify for
- Allow patients to designate someone as their caregiver
- Legalize the possession of cannabis by registered patients (not just high CBD extracts)
- Legalize home cultivation of medical cannabis in some circumstances
- Provide safe access points for patients to purchase medical cannabis
- Create a regulated cannabis industry in Utah
All signs point to the initiative being on its way to making the ballot, and polling shows that a whopping 76% of Utah voters would support it.
With that being said, nothing is a guarantee.
If you live in Utah, you need to do your part to help ensure that patients like Al can get the safe access that they need.
What you can do to help legalize medical cannabis in Utah
Here’s how Utah residents can help the effort to legalize cannabis in Utah:
1.Sign the initiative
2.Volunteer for the campaign
3.Sign up for alerts from the campaign
5. Ask where you can Donate to the campaign
6.https://www.utah.gov/government/contactgov.html to let them know that if/when the initiative passes, to respect the will of the vote
If you are able to do one or more of the above, please do your part so that patients like Al can have safe, legal access to medical cannabis!