SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — As Utah prepares to launch its healthcare marijuana system subsequent year, residents who want to use the drug in the meantime are encountering skeptical physicians and the quandary of exactly where to get the plant.

A law passed by the Utah Legislature in December
2018 enables residents to use healthcare marijuana prior to patient cards are
officially doled out, which is anticipated to take place in March 2020 at the
earliest, but they need to receive a signed letter of recommendation from a
medical doctor, physician’s assistant or other healthcare provider.

Locating a
medical doctor prepared to do that has been tough for the reason that of stigmas and
worry surrounding healthcare marijuana, mentioned Christine Stenquist, the
director and founder of advocacy group Collectively for Accountable Use and
Cannabis Education, or TRUCE.

And, the doctor’s letter does not
specify how sufferers can legally receive healthcare marijuana. While
growers are starting to cultivate the plant all through the state,
residents nonetheless cannot legally acquire healthcare marijuana in Utah,
forcing them to drive quite a few hours to states exactly where the drug is legal or
turn to the black industry.

Mitch Hill, 48, started applying healthcare
marijuana two months ago to treat the extreme back discomfort he’s dealt with
for 10 years. It took Hill six months and 3 physicians to receive a
signed recommendation letter.

“Our loved ones medical doctor didn’t even want
to speak about it, they wanted practically nothing to do with it,” mentioned Hill, a
building superintendent from the Salt Lake City suburb of West

Hill drives 5 hours to the nearest dispensary in Colorado a couple of instances a month to acquire healthcare marijuana.

Juggling operate, youngsters and his throbbing back, the trip is “a huge discomfort in the butt,” he mentioned.

turned to marijuana for the reason that he mentioned opioids and other painkillers
turned him into a “walking zombie,” feeling groggy, fatigued and
nauseous. Health-related marijuana aids his discomfort dissipate and unwind, Hill
mentioned. He’s in a position to be additional productive in his job and take care of his

“The letter has been a excellent factor for our loved ones,” Hill mentioned.

wellness officials are not tracking how numerous individuals have doctor’s letters
permitting them to use healthcare marijuana, but it seems there are
thousands at least primarily based on data from key healthcare providers and

The letters are a “stop-gap measure” prior to the
state’s official healthcare marijuana system is launched, Evan Vickers,
the Senate Republican Majority Leader, mentioned.

“We wanted to attempt and give sufferers access to the medication as quickly as probable,” he added.

mentioned the formal system will make it a great deal a lot easier for individuals to get and
use healthcare marijuana, eliminating trips to neighboring states and extended
searches for prepared physicians.

Individuals need to meet a list of
qualifying circumstances_cancer, chronic discomfort and epilepsy are amongst the
most common— and have the item in the appropriate dosage. Beneath the
existing law, this would most likely be an oil or capsule. Subsequent year, sufferers
need to nonetheless stick to the dosage needs but can appeal to a board of
healthcare providers if they do not meet one particular of the qualifying circumstances.

is one particular of at least nine states that permitted recommendation letters to
shield unregistered sufferers, according to information from the Marijuana
Policy Project, a Washington-primarily based group that advocates for

Chris Lindsey, senior legislative counsel with the
Marijuana Policy Project, mentioned the states dealt with related legal
challenges and named the letters a “double-edged sword.”

aids sick individuals get relief, but it can generate a false sense of
safety,” he mentioned. “Moving a controlled substance across state lines is
nonetheless against federal law, and then it is up to the sufferers to defend
themselves in court.”

Marijuana is banned at the federal level,
even though a congressional amendment blocks the Justice Division from
interfering with states’ healthcare marijuana applications.

Individuals are
placing themselves at possible threat of becoming arrested for drug-associated
crimes, advocates mentioned, but it is unclear if law enforcement agencies
are citing sufferers who have letters.

Salt Lake County District
Lawyer Sim Gill, the prosecutor in Utah’s most populated county, mentioned
he sees the letter as a essential legal tool in deciding irrespective of whether to press
charges in drug-associated crimes.

“I have zero want to prosecute a
patient in need to have for possessing healthcare cannabis, and I’ve advised
prosecutors the identical,” Gill mentioned.

Amongst Utah’s physicians, the letters have received sturdy, mixed reactions.

Healthcare, the state’s biggest wellness provider, started permitting its
physicians to create letters in February. Even though some physicians applauded the
move, other individuals mentioned they are not comfy writing the letters, citing
lack of study into healthcare cannabis and its federally illegal status,
mentioned Mark Briesacher, the hospital’s chief doctor executive.

expanding national outbreak of lung harm linked to unregulated vaping
solutions containing marijuana’s higher-inducing ingredient THC have
additional compounded issues, he mentioned. In Utah, one particular individual died from a
vaping-associated injury.

Stenquist expressed aggravation with the
challenges Utah’s healthcare cannabis system has faced but mentioned she’s
hopeful for a smooth rollout subsequent year.

“Patients do not want to break the law, they’re just attempting to get access to medication,′ she mentioned.

By Morgan Smith