SALT LAKE CITY — A conference on medical cannabis will include something new this year — a place where patients can use, if they need to.
The Utah Cann conference this weekend at the Utah State Fairgrounds will have a "respite tent." It's a special area where medical cannabis patients can go for emergency use of their medicine.
While use of medical cannabis in public is illegal, Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education executive director Christine Stenquist told FOX 13 News there is a provision for emergency use. That was included in both Proposition 2, which legalized medical cannabis in Utah, and the legislature's replacement of it.
"It’s not up to the promoter, it’s not up to me, the state or anybody to dictate what is an emergency for a patient," Stenquist said, adding: "It should be perfectly legal. It’s under our law and in our statute."
The law states that people cannot use medical cannabis in public view unless they are experiencing an emergency medical condition. The respite tent will have walls to shield patients from public view. Stenquist said it makes sense, particularly at an event with people who use cannabis as medicine to treat a number of conditions.
"Providing an avenue for patients to do in a privacy setting, we don’t have patients just walking around the venue and using it willy nilly," she said. "So I definitely think it is a responsible use situation."
Utah Cann's organizer, Pete Saltas, who is also the publisher of Salt Lake City Weekly, said he did speak to Utah's Department of Health and an attorney about it. He insisted the conference is proceeding cautiously with the appropriate checks in place.
"It’s a space where we’re going to have somebody there checking people’s cards to ensure that it isn’t somebody going there for [recreational use]. It’s medical use only. Get in, get out, there’s a couple chairs there a little water station and that’s it. It’s not a place where people go and watch TV and eat gummy bears," he told FOX 13 News.
The Utah Cann conference has taken place annually since 2018, with a multi-year hiatus because of COVID-19. This year, the event is back in person and Saltas said they expect several thousand to attend. The event features vendors, medical professionals, state officials and others discussing medical cannabis access and education.
Utah's Department of Health (soon to be named the Utah Department of Health & Human Services) confirmed it was notified about the "respite tent."
"We are looking forward to a forum where the science and importance of medical choices and responsible and legal use of cannabis are discussed," Richard Oborn said in a statement to FOX 13 News. "We have informed the conference organizers that any permissive use of medical cannabis at the conference requires the consultation of their attorney to ensure it follows the law."