The Utah Medical Cannabis Act, a substitution for the voter-approved Proposition 2, became law in Dec. 2018. The bill reduces the means of obtaining medical marijuana, but had the support of groups like the Utah Patients Coalition because it was a step forward in the legalization of cannabis.
Rochelle Creager, WSU student wellness coordinator, and WSU Chief of Police Dane LeBlanc held a panel to inform the WSU community about changes in laws surrounding medical marijuana.
Creager said medical cannabis could be used therapeutically.
Cannabis has the ability to help those who have illnesses like muscle pain, chronic pain and inflammatory disorders. Additional research is needed to see if it can treat further illnesses.
Cannabis can negatively effect users. Symptoms can include short-term impaired body movement, altered sense of time and impaired memory, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
“Nine percent of people will become physiologically addicted to marijuana,” Creager said.
The addiction to cannabis has mild withdrawals like any other drug. One of the withdrawals is anxiety.
The passed act directs the Utah Department of Health to start the issuance of medical cannabis patient cards and the licensing of medical cannabis pharmacies. Although as of now patients with prior diagnosis of the qualifying conditions may receive a letter of recommendation from a qualified medical provider.
The state must have the program up and running by March 1, 2020, according to the Utah Department of Health.
Some medical providers are not comfortable issuing letters of recommendation because medical cannabis is still new to Utah. Providers would need to go through a course to be able to issue a letter of recommendations or medical cards.
By Jan. 2021 patients must have a valid medical cannabis card if found with possession of marijuana.
LeBlanc said this leaves Utah law enforcement in a gray area for the next two years. He said within the two years law enforcement cannot detain someone with an out-of-state medical card if seen possessing marijuana because they must honor other states.
LeBlanc and Creager discussed the federal legality of cannabis on school grounds. Despite the state having passed legislation surround medical cannabis, universities must still comply with the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act and the National Collegiate Athletic Association banned substances list.
Creager and LeBlanc are working together to educate those who have been caught with possession of marijuana on school grounds. Creager has made a course to educate first violators so they would not be detained by LeBlanc. This is a one-time course; if the possessor is caught again there are further consequences.
Despite the overhaul of the voter-approved proposition, the passed bill is the first step to make cannabis a legal drug in the state of Utah.