By Julian Hattem
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah officials say they are months away from finalizing regulations needed to implement the state’s narrow new medical cannabis law. Before that process ends, however, voters will weigh in on a broader marijuana scheme that could send the regulators back to the drawing board.
Rules for growing and distributing medical marijuana for terminally ill patients and researchers are expected to be completed in March 2019.
Department of Agriculture Deputy Commissioner Scott Ericson predicted the state will contract with two growers to produce the plants, and will likely ask lawmakers to approve more than one dispensary in the state.
The Legislature passed laws on medical marijuana, cannabis oil extracts, and industrial hemp during its 45-day session in spring 2018.
The system approved by lawmakers is much narrower than the one envisioned by many medical marijuana advocates, who are campaigning for a broader initiative that will go before voters in November.
Their proposal would let people with a wider range of medical conditions use edible or topical forms of the drug but not smoke it.
If approved, the initiative would mandate that the state begin accepting applications for marijuana farmers by January 2020 and issuing cards to users that March.
Ericson said some of those deadlines might not be met.
The timeframe envisioned by initiative backers is “even faster than we’re moving right now,” he said.
DJ Schanz, director of the Utah Patients Coalition, which is supporting the initiative, said in a statement that the department should be able to implement the measure’s terms in the time demanded “without any dire problems.”
“My sense is if the people of the state want medical marijuana, they’re not going to be pleased with a seven-year rollout,” said Democratic state Sen. Jim Dabakis.
Under the law already approved by the Legislature, the rules for cannabidiol, or CBD, would require that products be registered and tested against the listed ingredients to ensure they don’t contain unexpected dangers. CBD is derived from cannabis and designed so it doesn’t produce a high.
“It’s helping a lot of people, but there have been some concerns that have risen as to the quality,” said Republican state Sen. Jacob Anderegg.
In recent months, as many as 52 people in Utah were sickened by products labeled as CBD but contained dangerous synthetics, public health officials said.