The First Medical Cannabis Dispensary Opens in Utah
Utah’s first medical cannabis dispensary opened its doors on Monday — the same day the state launched a rollout program giving residents with certain medical conditions access to the plant’s healing powers.
Housed in the old Bank of Utah building in Salt Lake City, the opening of Dragonfly Wellness was greeted by thousands of excited supporters celebrating this huge milestone for cannabis activists and patients alike.
This is but one of 14 dispensaries scheduled to open in Utah; one more will be up and running in March, whereas the remaining pharmacies will start operating over the course of several months.
The medical cannabis ballot initiative legalizing the use of cannabis for certain health conditions was approved by voters in November 2018. Since then, the law was changed twofold — once to impose stricter production regulation, and more recently to remove controversial packaging requirements and raise doctor caps.
The first changes to the bill were introduced as part of a compromise with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Mormon church in Utah, which is still highly influential, has long opposed the use of medical cannabis. One of the church’s key health codes, called the “Word of Wisdom,” prohibits the use of illegal drugs, as well as alcohol and coffee.
However, after opinion polls showed that the majority of voters are in favor of the 2018 medical legalization bill, church leaders publicly supported patients using cannabis for pain relief.
Medical cannabis patients in Utah have been able to buy cannabis with a doctor’s letter since December 2018, but they had to go out of state to acquire it.
Under the new program, patients wishing to purchase medical cannabis must get a recommendation from one of the 60 state-approved professionals and qualify for a medical cannabis card.
The electronic verification system for medical cannabis users went live on Sunday. By Monday morning, 15 patients had received their cards and were ready to purchase cannabis for the first time in their home state.
Wade Laughter, director of cannabis wellness for Dragonfly Wellness, doesn’t believe that recreational adult-use cannabis is in the cards for Utah. According to him, legalization in other states, such as California and Colorado, had a negative impact on the states’ medical cannabis programs. In California, in particular, legalization upped the price of medical cannabis making it too expensive and practically illegal, Laughter said.
He added that by focusing on medical use only there is hope in shifting cultural perceptions in this conservative state and understanding that there is more to this plant than just “getting high.”