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Utah Is On Track To Sell Medical Cannabis By March 2020, If Not Sooner

Image of medical cannabis bottle. / LvNL

Medical cannabis products could be ready to sell to Utah patients as soon as January 1, 2020, if all goes according to plan, state officials told lawmakers on the Health and Human Services Interim Committee Wednesday.

The two state agencies working on setting up a medical cannabis system say they’re on schedule, and the Utah Department of Food and Agriculture reports it could have cannabis products ready before the March 1, 2020 deadline.

Drew Rigby, the agriculture department’s cannabis program manager, said he wants to make sure licensed growers are able to have cannabis seeds planted by Sept. 1.

“Cannabis itself is about a 4-month crop,” Rigby said. “We’ve got to give these companies and individuals time to get plants in the ground, or in pots, greenhouses and so on.”

In a new rule earlier this month, the department opted to shorten the period for potential growers to become licensed. A public hearing on the rule is scheduled for June 5.

The department will accept applications from interested growers June 1-21 before awarding between 10 and 15 licenses July 1.

The state recently awarded a contract for an electronic verification system to a company called MJ Freeway that will be used to track cannabis plants from the time they are 8 inches high until they are distributed to a patient.

Meanwhile, licenses for seven private medical cannabis pharmacies are scheduled to be awarded in September. The state central fill pharmacy must be up and running by July 1, 2020. Rich Oborn, director of the Center for Medical Cannabis at the state health department, said it could be ready by April.

“It’s a model that hasn’t been set up in other states and we want to make sure it’s done in a way that’s smart,” Oborn said.

When the central fill pharmacy is operational, the state’s 13 local health departments will be able to distribute cannabis products to qualified patients.

Nicole Nixon holds a Communication degree from the University of Utah. She has worked on and off in the KUER Newsroom since 2013, when she first joined KUER as an intern. Nicole is a Utah native. Besides public radio, she is also passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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