SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Division of Well being has but to implement a vital a part of the state’s medical hashish program, leaving affected person advocates pissed off and lawmakers fuming.
“It was by no means supposed to take this lengthy,” mentioned Senate Minority Whip Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake Metropolis, who sponsored a invoice to dramatically broaden the variety of medical suppliers who can suggest hashish to qualifying sufferers.
The invoice was handed earlier this yr following a FOX 13 investigation into the issue in 2019. People who qualified for medical cannabis found too few doctors willing or able to recommend it. For some sufferers, they went out of state and smuggled hashish again in. Others went on the black market.
It additionally spawned a pop-up industry of some medical providers who are qualified charging someone anywhere from $300 to $600 per recommendation, till they reached their affected person cap and moved on.
“A affected person can’t get their common care doctor to do it, in order that they pay $300 and now they develop into a medical hashish affected person. Not as a result of they knew them, or as a result of they knew their historical past, as a result of they might pay the money,” mentioned Desiree Hennessy, the manager director of the Utah Sufferers Coalition.
The bill passed by the legislature allowed medical providers to recommend cannabis for up to 15 patients with out having to endure the “Certified Medical Supplier” coaching required by the state. A QMP can suggest hashish for as much as 275 sufferers (as much as 600 with particular permission from the Utah Division of Well being).
“The aim of that was to permit sufferers to have entry to their present doctor, and attempt to enable extra physicians into this system, attractive them to develop into QMPs,” mentioned Senate Majority Chief Evan Vickers, R-Cedar Metropolis, who oversees hashish laws for the GOP majority within the Utah legislature.
The restricted medical supplier program was presupposed to be up and working in September. However lawmakers have been shocked to seek out it had not been carried out in any respect. They found it at about the identical time FOX 13 started inquiring about this system.
“We needed to cease the predatory practices of charging this ridiculous quantities of cash to sufferers that want the care and entry to this medication,” Sen. Escamilla instructed FOX 13. “It’s very irritating and it doesn’t assist us deal with a client safety situation.”
In an announcement to FOX 13, the Utah Division of Well being mentioned there have been software program and staffing points that led to the delay.
“Laws handed in the course of the 2021 Legislative Session that enabled any doctor, APRN, or PA with a managed substance license in Utah to suggest medical hashish to as much as 15 of their sufferers. Implementing the laws required vital modifications be made to the software program used to run Utah’s medical hashish program,” the company mentioned.
“As our workplace scoped out the software program modifications essential to implement the laws, we encountered vital and unanticipated staffing challenges and this was a significant factor that brought about us to fall in need of well timed implementation of this laws. It is very important the division that this laws is carried out in software program that protects affected person info and that ensures full compliance with Utah legal guidelines. We’re persevering with work to implement the required software program modifications, and anticipate having the ability to take action by mid-2022.”
Sen. Escamilla referred to as the brand new timeline to roll out this system unacceptable.
“I’m not going to contemplate that an actual deadline,” she mentioned. “That should occur ahead of that.”
Sen. Vickers mentioned the delay will influence different medical hashish payments. Lawmakers can’t decide the right way to proceed if they do not know whether or not this system is profitable or not.
“We’re going to do all the things we are able to to work with the Division of Well being, together with placing slightly strain to see that we get the LMP up and dealing and attempt to get as many entry to sufferers and physicians,” he mentioned.
Sen. Escamilla mentioned that if UDOH wants extra sources, they are going to attempt to discover it.
“If it’s a system situation, repair the system and make the modifications,” she mentioned. “If it’s a staffing situation, let’s get that taken care of. It’s a prime precedence.”
Hennessy mentioned medical hashish sufferers are pissed off, having been compelled to now pay steep charges to get a card to be authorized in Utah.
“The factor that we tried hardest to not create was ‘pot medical doctors,'” she mentioned. “And now we have created ‘pot medical doctors.'”
Some sufferers, Hennessy mentioned, are selecting to remain on the black market to get their medication. Sen. Escamilla mentioned she shared the frustration and can push for it to be carried out by the primary of the yr.
“We are going to make it occur,” she mentioned. “And actually, I apologize for having the execution aspect not being taken care of.”