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Updates to Accessing Medical Cannabis in Utah in 2020

Due to the disruptions in our medical and health care systems from COVID-19, the Utah State Legislature passed a temporary provision modifying who is able to access medical cannabis during 2020.

Under the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, patients must visit a Qualified Medical Provider registered with the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) for an evaluation. From this evaluation, a patient would be provided with a Recommendation Letter, which is then used to apply for a Patient Medical Cannabis Card.

However, the updated regulations in HB425, later signed by Governor Gary Herbert, mean that a patient can access medical cannabis with a Recommendation Letter provided by a licensed medical professional with whom you had a pre-existing provider-patient relationship. This can include your medical doctor, osteopathic physician, advanced practice registered nurse, or physician assistant. 

Until December 31, 2020, according to the Utah Department of Health, “qualifying patients who do not have a medical cannabis card but have a ‘recommendation letter’ from their medical provider may purchase medical cannabis.” 

Simply put, until the end of 2020, your doctor does not need to become a Qualified Medical Provider to provide you with a Recommendation Letter, and you do not need a Patient Medical Cannabis Card to access medical cannabis options.

If your licensed medical professional determines that you meet the criteria for medical cannabis as prescribed by law, they will provide you with a Recommendation Letter. The Recommendation Letter should state that you have been diagnosed with a qualifying condition.

Once you have this letter, take it to your local medical cannabis pharmacy. The pharmacy will require independent confirmation from the medical provider that the Recommendation Letter is valid. Patients will need to present a valid form of photo identification to the medical cannabis pharmacy such as a driver’s license, a United States passport or passport card, or a United States military identification card.

However, be mindful of where you purchase your medical cannabis. “A patient who purchases medical cannabis using a recommendation letter must purchase all of their medical cannabis from the same pharmacy until they obtain a medical cannabis card from the Utah Department of Health,” said Richard Oborn, director of the Center for Medical Cannabis.

On January 1, 2021, Recommendation Letters will no longer be accepted at medical cannabis pharmacies. The Recommendation Letter will be necessary at that point to acquire a Patient Medical Cannabis Card, and you’ll submit this to the Utah Department of Health in your application for a medical cannabis card. Make sure to complete the application process for a Patient Medical Cannabis Card before that date.