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If Medical Marijuana Passes, It Might Be A While Before Patients Can Buy It In Utah


State Agriculture Department officials say that they may not have regulations ready in time to roll out a broad medical marijuana initiative if Utah voters approve it this November. Without governing rules in place, qualifying patients still could use medical pot, but they would have to get it out of state.

Scott Ericson, deputy commissioner of  the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, told state lawmakers Monday that the regulations likely won’t be published until after Utah voters weigh in on the medical marijuana initiative. The measure states that if dispensaries still aren’t open by 2021, Utah patients could then start growing their own marijuana.

Ericson pointed out that in neighboring Nevada, it took them seven years to figure out the rules.

“We are doing everything we can to make sure it doesn’t take seven years, but it can be a lengthy process,” Ericson said.

As written, the initiative would allow patients to ingest medical marijuana but not smoke it. Vaporizers would be allowed.

The department is working to finalize rules for the narrow medical marijuana and hemp laws that the Legislature passed this year. State law requires the department take public comment on new administrative rules and provides 45 days for the department to revise the rules. Every time a revision is made, another public comment period is required. The state would have to go through this process twice over if the medical marijuana initiative passes.

Christine Stenquist, who heads the pro-marijuana group Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education, or TRUCE, thinks the state has more flexibility than officials say. 

“At what point are they going to stop taking public comment, get rules implemented and get it up and running so we can see where the true problems lie,”Stenquist said.

Ericson estimates the rules guiding hemp and cannabidiol, or CBD, oil be in place by the end of the year. The narrow medical marijuana rules could be in place by mid-March of next year.  The initiative, however, involves multiple state agencies and affects more people, so it will likely take more time, he said.

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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