A new proposal from lawmakers in Utah would create a 15th cannabis pharmacy somewhere in a rural part of the state.
The proposal, presented by Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers, would aim to serve current patients who have to deal with long drives to buy cannabis. A recent survey found nearly 60 percent of medical cannabis patients in the state still purchase cannabis from illicit sources or from out-of-state. The proposal passed through the Senate Health and Human Services Committee unanimously, and now heads to the full Senate for consideration.
“If you look at the licenses that we have issued…they’re all lined up on I-15, north to south,” Vickers told the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. “On the west side of the state, it’s a little closer proximity, so we have some coverage. On the eastern side of the state and some of the more rural areas there, we don’t.”
Vickers’ proposal, however, would also put pressure on the existing pharmacies to open for business. Of the 14 approved cannabis pharmacies in Utah, only half have opened for business and the pharmacies that are open are having trouble staying stocked up. Under the proposal, approved retailers would have to be up and running by June 1 or risk forfeiture of their license. Utah first approved the expansion to 14 pharmacies near the end of 2019.
Utah is working on passing other legislation that would reduce issues with the current medical cannabis law. One bill, SB170, aims to allow any doctor to prescribe medical cannabis to up to 15 patients without becoming a qualified medical provider in the Utah Medical Cannabis Program.”We have a problem right now in the state with supply and demand, because the supply of providers willing to be a qualified medical provider is so constrained. Some I would say unscrupulous—but the law doesn’t forbid it—providers are able to charge very high cash amounts, $300, $500, $600 for a person who then doesn’t have another easy way to visit,” Representatives Ray Ward told members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday.