Utah is poised to legalize medical marijuana this fall, and it could be the first state-run distribution program in the country.
The new plan is a compromise between advocates and critics of medical marijuana. Unlike in states like Colorado and Montana where patients can grow a limited number of their own plants, the distribution process would be state regulated, from cultivation to patient.
Patients would have to pick up marijuana at their local health department or one of five cannabis retail pharmacies licensed by the state.
Evan Vickers is a state Senator and a pharmacist. He said state leaders were concerned about the professionalism of marijuana dispensaries in other states.
“If we are going to do this, we need to have medical professionals dealing with the medication going to the patient all the way through the process,” Vickers said.
He said the plan reflects a way to treat marijuana more like conventional medicine.
This is not the first state regulatory approach to drugs and alcohol in Utah. Beer and liquor above 3.2 percent alcohol must be sold in a limited number of state-run retail stores. And in 2017, legislators passed the strictest DUI limits in the country: 0.05 blood alcohol level, compared to 0.08 in the rest of the nation.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.