History of Medical Cannabis in Utah

In 2014, Utah passed HB 105, which created a legal right to possess and use CBD-rich extracts of the cannabis plant for patients diagnosed by a neurologist with intractable epilepsy and are registered with the state. The law requires that extracts must contain at least 15 percent CBD, have no more than 0.3 percent THC, and be free of other psychoactive substances. Unfortunately, the legislation did not provide a legal mechanism for patients to obtain CBD the state authorized them to access.  Utah lawmakers organized an unworkable access system for patients in 2017, approving HB 130 that aimed to provide patients with access to CBD.  Under the law only a person who obtains U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approval for an Institutional Review Board study may import and distribute authorized cannabis and cannabis products.  

Frustrated Utah patients organized Proposition 2 in 2018, which was approved by voters in November of that year. However, the initiative language was quickly replaced by the legislature through HB 3001, which authorized seven commercial medical cannabis retail operators for patients to access, a state-operated filling center that county health departments could access to distribute authorized products to these facilities. Under the legislation medical cannabis cards could be issued to qualifying patients as early as March of 2020.  

State lawmakers approved legislation (SB 1002) in 2019, which increased the number of medical cannabis businesses authorized to dispense cannabis from 7 to 14.  In March of 2020, the first medical cannabis dispensary opened its doors.  

Before turning to COVID emergency response legislation, Utah enacted SB 161 SB 121, and HB 425.  This package of legislation prohibits discrimination against cannabis patients in family court proceedings, protects patients who are state employees, allows physicians to maintain a higher caseload of cannabis patients and authorizes reciprocity for out-of-state patients visiting Utah.  The measures also provide for expungement of cannabis-related criminal records before the 2018 passage of Proposition 2, modify dosing parameters to give doctors greater flexibility in determining the best treatment options for patients, and extend the active period of state medical patient cards.