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Utah awards medical cannabis ‘pharmacy’ licenses

Posted at 4:28 PM, Jan 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-03 18:30:17-05

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Health has announced which companies it has awarded licenses to sell medical cannabis.

The health department says it intends to award 14 medical cannabis “pharmacy” licenses to 10 businesses. More than 130 applications from 60 different companies were submitted in a competitive bidding process to run a medical marijuana dispensary.

The companies and licenses being awarded are:

Eight of the locations may open as early as March, and six may open as early as July, the agency said. Seven of the companies are owned entirely or in part by Utah residents.

“We would like to congratulate the pharmacies that have been chosen to dispense medical cannabis in Utah. Providing Utah product to Utah patients has been highly anticipated from the beginning. As these final pieces of the Utah Medical Cannabis Act are put into place we are eager to watch all of the years of hard work pay off,” Desiree Hennessy, the director of the Utah Patients Coalition, told FOX 13 on Friday.

“We acknowledge that in the beginning things may be slow, but we are committed to work with all invested parties to make sure that Utah has a medical cannabis plan that provides quality, affordable products to patients across Utah.”

The naming of the companies and awarding of the dispensary licenses are a significant step as Utah attempts to get its medical cannabis program up and running by March. Voters legalized medical marijuana in Proposition 2, but the legislature overrode the citizen ballot initiative with its own bill that created more regulatory controls.

Utah lawmakers have taken to calling the businesses “pharmacies,” but some medical cannabis advocacy groups dispute that as federal law prohibits doctors from prescribing cannabis (they can only recommend it).

Until the state’s program is up and running, qualifying patients are left to find cannabis either through the black market or going across state lines — both technically illegal. A dispensary in West Wendover, Nev., recently opened and is a 90 minute drive from the Wasatch Front. Nevada voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2016.

The state is still being sued over the Prop. 2 replacement bill by Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education, the Epilepsy Association of Utah and some patients. The case is pending in court.

More legislation to modify the medical cannabis program is anticipated when the Utah State Legislature meets later this month.