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Utah is happily average when it comes to the price of medical marijuana

FILE - In this Friday, Oct. 4, 2019 file photo, a woman using an electronic cigarette exhales in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. Oregon regulators enacted a six-month ban Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, on the sale of flavored vape products in stores and online statewide amid an outbreak of illnesses that has sickened nearly 1,300 people nationwide and killed more than two dozen people, including two in Oregon. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which regulates the recreational marijuana market in the state, voted unanimously to approve the temporary sales ban. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)
Tony Dejak
AP, file
FILE - A report delivered to the Utah Legislature found that Utahns purchase more cannabis vapes than any other product. Flower came in second, followed by THC gummies.

Utahns aren’t paying more for medical cannabis than they would in other states.

A group of state lawmakers met Monday to compare the cost of three cannabis products in Utah to 19 other states with medical marijuana programs. The result: Utahns are forking over about the average price for cannabis flower (bud), gummies and vape cartridges.

The Legislature’s Medical Cannabis Governance Structure Working Group listened to presentations on the analysis from the Utah Cannabis Association, Utah Cannabis Co-Op and the Center for Medical Cannabis under the Utah Department of Health and Human Services.

There are 37 states with medical cannabis programs. Alyssa Smailes with Utah Cannabis Association and Scott Erikson with Utah Cannabis Co-Op selected 19 states with various cannabis markets in different stages of progress to compare with Utah. For example, some states like Nevada and Colorado have recreational markets and Alaska has had a medical program since the late 1990s.

“We were asked when working with the policy analysts to compare apples to apples, but with all of the different nuances in the different states, it really is a difficult task,” Smailes said.

They also collected one week of July 2022 sales data from the 19 states plus Utah. The analysis did not take into account any cannabis specials or promotions.

Utahns spend an average of $49 for a 0.5 gram vape, according to data collected by the Utah Cannabis Association and Utah Cannabis Co-Op. That price tag is actually cheaper than 11 other states, with New Jersey ranking the highest at nearly $100 for one 0.5 gram cartridge.

Louisiana was a close second at $85 per 0.5 gram vape, but that’s partly because of that state’s unique cannabis market.

“In Louisiana, it's two companies, period, that do anything. It's a duopoly there that the state created,” Erikson said.

Utahns cough up around $28 for gummies containing 80-120 mg of THC. That price is almost exactly the same as the average of all 19 states.

Utahns do pay more for flower than 15 other states analyzed. On average, Utahns with medical cards spend $52 for 3.5 grams—or an eighth—of flower. Most medical users in the states included in the report bought an eighth for around the $45 mark.

But Utahns don’t seem to like flower as much as they like vapes.

A report by Richard Oborn, the director of the Center for Medical Cannabis at the Utah Department of Health, found Utahns purchase more cannabis vapes than any other product. Flower came in second, followed by THC gummies. He collected data from Jan. 1, 2022, to Aug. 4, 2022.

Vapes make up 38% of Utah’s cannabis market, compared to flower 35% and gummies 25%, according to Utah Cannabis Co-Op and Utah Cannabis Association.

Erickson said he isn’t sure why Utah’s flower market is noticeably lower than the 36 other states with medical cannabis programs.

“Most states the amount of flower is over 50%. Some states it's as high as 60%,” Erikson said. “There are all sorts of speculation as to why.”

One of the theories, Erikson said, is the cultural influence of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church doesn’t approve of smoking tobacco products but has said the use of marijuana is permitted under medical circumstances.

All in all, Utahns spend a little under the average cost for cannabis products. The real cost to the Utah patient is around $130 a trip while the median of states studied is $134. And that’s seen as a victory for Republican Rep. Raymond Ward.

“We're in the middle of the pack compared to what other places are doing. We're not way out of line with this,” Ward said. “We just need to act to make the program work as well as we can here for our folks that are using it.”

Saige is a politics reporter and co-host of KUER's State Street politics podcast
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