On Monday this week, the conservative state of Utah opened its first medical marijuana dispensary. This comes long after the state and the dominant Mormon religious group agreed on the need to legalize medical marijuana in the state towards the end of 2018.
So, how was day one?
Dragonfly is the first medical marijuana dispensary to be set up in Salt Lake City.
Well, the first day of legal cannabis sales at Dragonfly went as anticipated. Eager marijuana patients thronged the counters to make their orders of legal herb. Unfortunately, only a handful got served while the rest were turned away.
Only sixteen medical marijuana patients got their medicine while the rest were turned away for lack of a medical marijuana card. According to the shop owner, over 200 patients left with nothing.
Day two was even more disappointing as only one patient was able to buy medical marijuana from the dispensary. Increasingly more patients keep getting turned away at the door because they don’t have the medical marijuana card.
Medical Marijuana Legalization In Utah
Medical marijuana was legalized in Utah on November 2018 by ballot. Generally, Utah is a very conservative state that is significantly influenced by the Mormon religion which is predominant there.
According to the Mormon religion, any form of intoxication is forbidden; this partly explains the strong opposition to the legalization of marijuana. However, the Mormon church was able to reach a compromise on medical marijuana acknowledging that it could help relieve the suffering of people living with chronic conditions.
Before Dragonfly opened its doors to the public on 1st March, patients had to travel to other states with legal weed dispensaries to purchase weed. The patients also needed to get letters from authorized physicians in order to do so. Patients still have these letters which are valid until the end of 2020.
The process of applying for a medical marijuana card is yet to be streamlined. As it is, patients first need to be assessed by one of the sixty licensed healthcare providers who will then recommend the patients for medical marijuana.
Out of the sixty some are physicians, while others are nurses and physician assistants who are familiar with treating the conditions that have been approved for medical marijuana.
The state began taking online applications for medical marijuana cards on 1st March. So far, about 66 patients have been cleared as medical marijuana patients. Another 1200 applications are in the pipeline awaiting either a physician’s approval or for the patients to complete a part of the process. 700 more applications are awaiting certification.
Most People seeking medical cannabis treatment are doing so to relieve chronic pain. However, there are others suffering from cancer, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and other debilitating conditions.
The state of Utah plans to roll out its medical marijuana program in phases. One more dispensary will be open by end of March while seven more will be open by mid-year. In July an additional five should be open to bring the total number of legal marijuana dispensaries in Utah to twelve.
List of medical conditions that have been approved for medical marijuana in Utah
So far, the state of Utah has approved about 20 medical conditions that qualify for medical marijuana. This includes:
– Chronic pain
Is Dragonfly worried about the slow roll-out of medical cannabis in Utah?
Being the first weed dispensary in such a conservative state, Dragonfly will have many battles to fight. However they are positive about their ability to supply medical marijuana to every deserving patient without running out. For now, the slow release of medical marijuana cards is a discouragement. In the long run, Dragonfly is confident that they will pull through.
Speaking to Fox13, a business co-owner Hoang Nguyen voiced concern on the slow uptake of medical marijuana in Salt Lake City. Dragonfly dispensary has had to limit their operating hours. This means that the weed dispensary will be shut on Sundays and Mondays and on the other days it will be open half day. This definitely reduces labor and other operational costs. Dragonfly is housed in an old bank building where the vaults are still in place.
It seems that doctors and patients alike were misinformed about the medical marijuana program in Utah. Many assumed that patients would be able to make a purchase with a doctor’s recommendation without needing a marijuana card.
Temporary Fix To The Problem?
Pro marijuana lawmakers have proposed a tweak in the medical marijuana law to allow patients to buy marijuana with just a letter from any doctor. This should be a temporary fix to allow both medical marijuana patients and physicians the opportunity to comply with the requirements needed to obtain a medical marijuana card.
The backlog may go on for a number of months until the process is streamlined. However, Hong is positive that everything will work out in the end. This is amidst FaceBook rumors that Dragonfly is already on its knees.
Just like with anything new operation, upheavals are bound to come. But considering how conservative this state is, this first medical marijuana dispensary in Utah is obviously a step in the right direction.