The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food announced Friday that it will award licenses to grow medical cannabis to eight cultivators.
Agriculture Commissioner Kerry Gibson said in a news release that half of the cultivators already have businesses in Utah. The other four are “out of state but have Utah ties. All grows will be located in Utah.”
The licensees are Dragonfly Greenhouse, Harvest of Utah, Oakbridge Greenhouses, Standard Wellness Utah, True North of Utah, Tryke Companies Utah, Wholesome Ag., and Zion Cultivars.
Two growing sites are planned for Box Elder County and the rest will be located in Weber, Davis, Tooele, Carbon, Sanpete and Washington Counties, though Rigby noted that not all are finalized.
The Department of Agriculture and Food could have awarded ten licenses under Utah law. Andrew Rigby, the agency’s medical cannabis program director, said the decision to only award eight was made “to avoid an oversupply of product, while still maintaining a healthy diversity of cultivators for purposes of competition of product quality and patient pricing.”
“Those are some of the situations that we’ve seen in other states for years now, and we want to avoid that. So it was a delicate balancing act to figure out how many licenses we wanted to issue to ensure that we didn’t run into that problem,” Rigby said.
Christine Stenquist, executive director of the patient advocacy group TRUCE, said she was disappointed that the state did not award all ten licenses.
“We’re not Oregon. We’re not going to see an overabundance” of product, she said, adding that she worries about patients having access to affordable products.
Eighty-one companies applied to grow the crop. Each license will cost the awardees $100,000.
The agriculture department will soon begin accepting applications for an unlimited number of medical cannabis processing licenses. Rigby said licensed cultivators will be allowed to apply for processing licenses, too.
One of the newly-licensed cultivators is Standard Wellness, an Ohio-based company which plans to begin its first venture outside of its home state now that it has been granted a Utah license.
“Standard Wellness Utah is thrilled to learn that we have been awarded one of the eight cultivation licenses,” said Brandon Lynaugh, the company’s director of external relations.
The medical cannabis company plans to build a “state of the art” greenhouse in Box Elder County for its Utah operation. Lynaugh said the company’s first cannabis plants will grow in temporary “pods” while the greenhouse is under construction in Corinne.
“We’ll be able to get plants in the ground soon and start the grow cycle so we’ll be able to meet the needs of Utah patients on the schedule that the state is looking for,” Lynaugh said.
Standard Wellness also plans to apply for a processing license to turn its cannabis plants into consumable products.
The company plans to provide a range of pesticide-free cannabis flower products. If it is granted a processing license, Lynaugh said it will also have “a full line of infused products,” including edibles, water soluble drops, tinctures and other concentrates that are aimed at treating specific ailments.
The agriculture department said it will grant final approval after background checks are completed on company owners, managers and employees, a process Rigby hopes will be completed by August 1.
After that, the awardees will be able to plant seeds to grow cannabis in Utah. The agriculture department has said it wants to have products available for purchase by qualified medical cannabis cardholders by March 2020.
This story was updated from an earlier version.