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Is Getting a Medical Cannabis Card in Some States Too Easy?

I was recently conducting my regular perusal of state-legal marijuana news when I ran across a piece with a headline that read “Utah health officials see spike in medical marijuana cards”. It obviously got my attention. After reading the article, I was left with a question: is getting a medical cannabis card too easy in some states?

It is a legitimate question given the fact that the Beehive State has seen a 19% year-on-year spike based on data gathered at the end of March. Utah now has more than 83,000 cardholders. That is not necessarily a big deal until you realize that the state population as of 2022 was 3.38 million.

Do the math and you discover that roughly 2% of Utah’s population now uses medical cannabis. And that leads back to my big question.

Strict but Still Easy

Green Team Doctors Medical Director Abby Galloway told KSL News Radio that getting a medical cannabis carved in the state is “fairly simple.” She went on to say that patients only need to be 21 years old and have a qualifying condition. There are fifteen such conditions with the two most commonly cited being persistent pain and PTSD.

Galloway also pointed out that no medical documentation is required to prove eligibility with one exception: using medical cannabis exclusively for PTSD. When PTSD is the only diagnosis, additional documentation is needed.

What we have here are state regulations that are pretty strict but still easy to fulfill. Indeed, Utah’s medical marijuana laws are some of the strictest among the more than three-dozen states with active medical cannabis programs. But the actual process for getting a card is really, really simple.

How It Works

Zion Medicinal is a medical cannabis dispensary located in Cedar City. As the most recently licensed dispensary operation, Zion Medicinal serves patients in the Cedar City and St. George areas. Here is their explanation of how getting a medical cannabis card in Utah works:

  1. The patient creates an account on the state’s electronic verification system (EVS) website.
  2. The patient then schedules a medical evaluation with a qualified medical provider (QMP) or limited medical provider (LMP).
  3. During the medical evaluation, the medical provider completes their portion of the patient’s application.
  4. The patient then completes the application and submits it, along with the registration fee.

That is pretty much it. Most of the time, the hardest part about getting a card is finding the time to work a doctor’s visit into one’s schedule. Some rural patients have the added difficulty of finding a medical provider willing to conduct the evaluation.

Different Types of Cards

The process described above pertains to a type of card known as the Patient Card. Yet Utah issues other types of cards including specialized cards for caregivers, parents and guardians of minors, and visitors to the state. The process for getting each of these special cards is slightly different but still not difficult.

On the one hand, I see the point of making it as easy as possible to obtain a medical cannabis card. People do not have to jump through hoops to get a prescription antibiotic or NSAID; they shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to obtain medical marijuana. On the other hand, a prescription is a one-off thing while a medical cannabis card gives a patient perpetual access.

I don’t know whether it is too easy to get a medical cannabis card in some states. I do know that Utah officials seem surprised by the number of card holders in their state. That is worth further investigation.

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