Medical cannabis is on sale for the first time in Utah, one of the most historically conservative states in the union.
Utah’s first medical dispensary is set to open Monday, Associated Press reports, as the state begins a slow rollout of a program allowing residents with certain health conditions to buy weed.
The online application process for people to get medical cannabis cards started on Sunday.
To get cards, people need a recommendation from one of 60 approved health professionals, said Rich Oborn, director of the state’s Center for Medical Cannabis. The group includes doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants who were trained to approve patient cards.
The first dispensary set to open is Dragonfly Wellness in Salt Lake City. According to AP, a second dispensary is expected to open in March and seven more by June. The final five dispensaries, which will be called pharmacies, will open after July, Oborn said.
In November 2018, Utah became the 33rd state to legalize medical cannabis after voters passed a ballot that legalized doctor-approved treatment for health conditions including cancer, chronic pain and epilepsy.
Although qualified patients have been able to use medical weed with a doctor’s letter since December 2018, they’ve had to go to other states to get it. Those letters will stay valid until the end of 2020, but they don’t allow patients to access Utah’s medical access program, AP reports.
Most people seeking medical cannabis cards are likely to cite having a chronic pain condition, defined as pain lasting longer than two weeks, Oborn said.
Following the original 2018 legislation, state lawmakers replaced the measure with a law they said puts tighter controls on the production, distribution and use of cannabis. It was part of a compromise involving The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose positions carry out-sized sway in its home state, AP said.
The faith, known as the Mormon church, had long frowned upon cannabis use because of a key church health code called the “Word of Wisdom,” which prohibits coffee as well as alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs. They also worried that allowing medical cannabis could lead to broader use in Utah.
But as opinion polls showed the majority of voters would approve the 2018 medical-legalization measure, leaders publicly came out in support of patients using the drug if prescribed by a doctor, saying it can alleviate pain and suffering.
Top image of Utah State Captiol building by Jkinsocial via Wikimedia Commons