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As Utah's medical cannabis program launches, some patients report problems registering

Posted at 10:42 AM, Mar 01, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — The day that Utah's medical cannabis program launched, qualifying patients reported some problems registering with the state.

Utah's Department of Health confirmed to FOX 13 that some patients were having trouble accessing a website set up by the state to register people. The agency had staff on hand Sunday to work through problems.

"There was a small glitch earlier, but it's working now," UDOH spokeswoman Charla Haley said.

Mario Enriquez, a qualifying medical cannabis patient, told FOX 13 that he spent about an hour registering because of some technical issues with the site. He said he anticipated problems, given that so many patients would jump on the site to register.

"I expected it to be busy. We had a feeling the system would be crashing with the excitement a little better," he said. "I think they’re doing the best that they can."

Enriquez said what many other patients were dealing with was discovering their physician has yet to register with the state for the medical cannabis program.

"There are some patients that have their letters that are finding the problem that the qualifying physician that wrote the letter aren’t QMPs," he said, referring to "qualifying medical physicians."

Under the law, patients can get a recommendation letter from their doctor that allows them to possess cannabis from another state or off the black market (if it is in the allowable form) until 2021. But to participate in the state's program and purchase from a state licensed dispensary, they must register with UDOH.

March 1 was the date mandated by Governor Gary Herbert and the Utah State Legislature to have a working medical cannabis program up and running. The legislature even pushed a bill through quickly making tweaks to the law in order for it to happen. The most recent bill eliminated a requirement that marijuana flower be packaged in blister packs, something medical cannabis sought. The bill also allows for faster testing, raises patient caps for doctors and allows patients to get prior marijuana convictions expunged.

Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers, R-Cedar City, has repeatedly cautioned that it would be a slow rollout. He and state health officials have previously told FOX 13 that only one state licensed "pharmacy" would be open and able to distribute medical cannabis to qualifying patients on Monday.

Voters approved Proposition 2, the medical cannabis ballot initiative, in 2018. However, the legislature overrode it with its own bill that came about as a compromise between initiative supporters and opponents, including the Utah Patients Coalition, the Libertas Institute, the Utah Medical Association and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Since then, the bill has been tweaked to become more patient friendly, while still maintaining rigid state controls.

This is a developing story. Updates on FOX 13 and as information becomes available.