Will Utah become the “promised land” of medical cannabis?


Utah. Although religious leaders have strongly opposed cannabis, the state begins to implement the new law of medical marijuana

Utah. In the most religious and conservative state of the country, medical cannabis is growing in number of citizens in favor of a broader law that can benefit a greater number of patients.

After Utah lawmakers passed a medical cannabis law in December last year, prompted by voter demand, officials have taken the necessary steps to create an effective program for patients with debilitating diseases.

At the end of the state legislative session earlier this year, Gov. Gary Herbert (Republican) signed Bill 161 with the purpose of making a series of modifications to the state’s medical cannabis program, such as prohibiting discrimination against cannabis patients in family court matters.

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food reports that more than 80 farmers have applied for a license to supply medical cannabis in the state. The department can grant up to 10 licenses according to the current law. The Utah Senate has also confirmed that seven doctors will be part of the Compassionate Use Board, which oversees the program. The Utah Patient Coalition seems to agree with the selection.

On November 6, 2018, Utah citizens voted in favor of Proposition 2, which legalized the use of medical cannabis for qualified patients. The law entered into force on December 1, 2018 However, shortly thereafter a special legislative session was held. The legislators replaced the already passed Proposition 2 by a bill of “commitment” accepted by both proponents and by opponents of Proposition 2. The new law includes stricter restrictions on access of patients to medicinal cannabis and a greater level of state supervision.

The 81 farmers requesting the license for one of the few places coveted for the cultivation of medical marijuana hope to fill their greenhouses with hemp plants in September.

Although many religious leaders oppose medical marijuana, the fact is that many fervent farmers who have complied with religious mandates have realized the great business of medicinal cannabis and have also investigated the benefits of relieving the pain of the plant.

Some of the farmers who hope to obtain the license have more ambitious plans than the mere fact of growing hemp. The same thing happens to some out-of-state growers, who also want to be able to grow crops in Utah to then process cannabis and obtain CBD oil and other products related to the plant. It is estimated that state officials begin to grant up to 10 more licenses later this month.

The state of Utah recently began a licensing process for out-of-state growers; something that local producers do not like. One of them tells the media that that cannot be good for Utah growers.

Some applicants are concerned that this fact will benefit large cannabis growers, such as “Big Weed”, who come from other states in which marijuana is legal for a long time and, therefore, have a lot of experience. The application for a cultivation license costs $ 2,500 and the presentations have hundreds of pages. The lucky ones who get a license pay $ 100,000 every year to keep it and also have to buy all the tools and facilities, which can cost millions.

Department of Agriculture officials say they take into account when granting licenses to applicants with community ties when studying applications. Eight applications have sold from out-of-state growers. The state is looking for farmers with the ability to expand their operations as demand increases, keeping costs down and cultivating healthy plants free of mold and pesticides.

In an indoor facility in North Salt Lake, Troy, an ambitious farmer, has an indoor growing of hemp plants lit with LED lights designed to encourage growth before taking plants outdoors. This farmer grows industrial hemp, a cousin of non-psychoactive marijuana, legalized in Utah last year.

This grower is one of the producers who have invested in equipment and have set aside money in hopes of receiving a license to grow medicinal marijuana.

Another 52-year-old grower says that growing medical marijuana is fun for him, but that he also lost his mother when he died because of the opiate addiction doctors prescribed.

Cannabis in its various forms is a challenge to grow and requires a lot of experimentation, he said. “If she had had access to a less destructive drug to relieve pain, like marijuana, she said, maybe she would still be alive.”

It is proven that marijuana is effective in relieving chronic pain and therefore, legalization could reduce the prescription of opiates. “It’s a matter of necessity; not to seek to experiment with psychoactivity, “he says.

Another important processor of hemp has a large warehouse in Salt Lake City equipped with equipment designed for cultivation and also has a team of experts in cultivation prepared to grow medical marijuana. A warehouse room is filled with everything necessary to produce the CBD oil. At the moment the hemp is a secondary job since during almost all his time he works in construction. But he is aware that the cultivation of marijuana is a wise long-term investment. “Once medical marijuana ceases to be a taboo and people prefer a medicine that is not based on opiates, we will see greater demand and a stronger market,” he said.

It is estimated that revenues from the state’s medical cannabis program reach up to $ 5.4 million in 2020 and then increase to $ 16.2 million in 2021, said Richard Oborn, director of the Medical Cannabis Center of the state health department.

Utah joined the 33 states that legalized medical marijuana after voters approved a new law last year.

The religious leaders of the predominant faith in Utah initially opposed voter approval of medical marijuana. But in the end they agreed to an agreement with some defenders to allow the medicinal use of the drug as long as it has more regulation.

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