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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — As Utah prepares to launch its healthcare marijuana system subsequent year, residents who want to use the drug in the meantime are encountering skeptical physicians and the quandary of exactly where to get the plant.

A law passed by the Utah Legislature in December
2018 enables residents to use healthcare marijuana prior to patient cards are
officially doled out, which is anticipated to take place in March 2020 at the
earliest, but they will have to acquire a signed letter of recommendation from a
medical doctor, physician’s assistant or other healthcare provider.

Locating a
medical doctor prepared to do that has been complicated simply because of stigmas and
worry surrounding healthcare marijuana, mentioned Christine Stenquist, the
director and founder of advocacy group Collectively for Accountable Use and
Cannabis Education, or TRUCE.

And, the doctor’s letter does not
specify how individuals can legally acquire healthcare marijuana. Though
growers are starting to cultivate the plant all through the state,
residents nonetheless cannot legally acquire healthcare marijuana in Utah,
forcing them to drive many hours to states exactly where the drug is legal or
turn to the black industry.

Mitch Hill, 48, started making use of healthcare
marijuana two months ago to treat the serious back discomfort he’s dealt with
for 10 years. It took Hill six months and 3 physicians to acquire a
signed recommendation letter.

“Our loved ones medical doctor didn’t even want
to speak about it, they wanted practically nothing to do with it,” mentioned Hill, a
building superintendent from the Salt Lake City suburb of West
Jordan.

Hill drives 5 hours to the nearest dispensary in Colorado a couple of instances a month to acquire healthcare marijuana.

Juggling operate, kids and his throbbing back, the trip is “a enormous discomfort in the butt,” he mentioned.

He
turned to marijuana simply because he mentioned opioids and other painkillers
turned him into a “walking zombie,” feeling groggy, fatigued and
nauseous. Healthcare marijuana assists his discomfort dissipate and unwind, Hill
mentioned. He’s in a position to be far more productive in his job and take care of his
kids.

“The letter has been a good point for our loved ones,” Hill mentioned.

State
wellness officials are not tracking how numerous individuals have doctor’s letters
enabling them to use healthcare marijuana, but it seems there are
thousands at least primarily based on info from big healthcare providers and
advocates.

The letters are a “stop-gap measure” prior to the
state’s official healthcare marijuana system is launched, Evan Vickers,
the Senate Republican Majority Leader, mentioned.

“We wanted to attempt and give individuals access to the medication as quickly as doable,” he added.

He
mentioned the formal system will make it a lot less complicated for individuals to get and
use healthcare marijuana, eliminating trips to neighboring states and lengthy
searches for prepared physicians.

Sufferers will have to meet a list of
qualifying situations_cancer, chronic discomfort and epilepsy are amongst the
most common— and have the item in the right dosage. Below the
present law, this would most likely be an oil or capsule. Subsequent year, individuals
will have to nonetheless comply with the dosage needs but can appeal to a board of
healthcare providers if they do not meet 1 of the qualifying situations.

Utah
is 1 of at least nine states that permitted recommendation letters to
safeguard unregistered individuals, according to information from the Marijuana
Policy Project, a Washington-primarily based group that advocates for
legalization.

Chris Lindsey, senior legislative counsel with the
Marijuana Policy Project, mentioned the states dealt with equivalent legal
challenges and known as the letters a “double-edged sword.”

“It
assists sick individuals get relief, but it can produce a false sense of
safety,” he mentioned. “Moving a controlled substance across state lines is
nonetheless against federal law, and then it is up to the individuals to defend
themselves in court.”

Marijuana is banned at the federal level,
even though a congressional amendment blocks the Justice Division from
interfering with states’ healthcare marijuana applications.

Sufferers are
placing themselves at possible threat of becoming arrested for drug-associated
crimes, advocates mentioned, but it is unclear if law enforcement agencies
are citing individuals who have letters.

Salt Lake County District
Lawyer Sim Gill, the prosecutor in Utah’s most populated county, mentioned
he sees the letter as a essential legal tool in deciding whether or not to press
charges in drug-associated crimes.

“I have zero want to prosecute a
patient in want for possessing healthcare cannabis, and I’ve advised
prosecutors the exact same,” Gill mentioned.

Amongst Utah’s physicians, the letters have received robust, mixed reactions.

Intermountain
Healthcare, the state’s biggest wellness provider, started enabling its
physicians to create letters in February. Whilst some physicians applauded the
move, other people mentioned they are not comfy writing the letters, citing
lack of investigation into healthcare cannabis and its federally illegal status,
mentioned Mark Briesacher, the hospital’s chief doctor executive.

A
developing national outbreak of lung harm linked to unregulated vaping
goods containing marijuana’s higher-inducing ingredient THC have
additional compounded issues, he mentioned. In Utah, 1 particular person died from a
vaping-associated injury.

Stenquist expressed aggravation with the
challenges Utah’s healthcare cannabis system has faced but mentioned she’s
hopeful for a smooth rollout subsequent year.

“Patients do not want to break the law, they’re just attempting to get access to medication,′ she mentioned.

By Morgan Smith



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