While medical marijuana has been legalized in Utah since 2018, adult-use cannabis remains illegal. Pursuant to the Utah Medical Cannabis Act passed in 2018, Utahns with approved medical conditions can purchase medical cannabis from licensed dispensaries. Licensed businesses can also grow and sell medical cannabis in the state legally. Note that sales only began in Utah in 2020.
The state issues patients, minors/guardians, caregivers, and non-Utah residents with medical marijuana cards. A patient card is issued to persons with approved conditions who are at least 18 years old. Guardian cards are issued to parents or legal guardians of minors eligible to consume medical cannabis. Provisional patient cards are issued to minors under 18 who meet the eligibility requirements to use medical cannabis. These cards are issued in conjunction with guardian cards. Caregiver cards are issued to adults aged 21 or older who care for patient cardholders who are unable to acquire or use medical cannabis on their own. Non-Utah resident cards are available to patients with qualifying conditions who hold cannabis cards from another state and want temporary cards while visiting Utah.
The qualifying conditions for which medical marijuana cards may be issued in Utah are:
With a medical marijuana card, a patient is permitted to buy medical cannabis products sufficient to provide 30 days of treatment per the dosages recommended by their Qualified Medical Provider (QMP). QMPs are healthcare practitioners licensed by the State to issue medical cannabis certifications. The amounts purchased within a 30-day period may not exceed the following:
Note that it is illegal to use medical cannabis in public locations or on federal property. It is prohibited to smoke cannabis or sell or purchase candies, cookies, brownies, and other edible medical cannabis products. Acceptable forms of medical cannabis in Utah are:
Regardless of your medical marijuana status, you can purchase hemp extract or CBD oil containing no more than 0.3% THC.
Note that since medical cannabis users are not a protected class in Utah, there are no renter protections for persons who possess and consume medical cannabis. However, there are some limited protections for state and local government employees. The Utah Medical Cannabis Act permits these employers to treat medical marijuana use in the same fashion as opiates or opioids, meaning that disciplinary action or termination may occur due to impairment or poor job performance. Private employees are subject to their employer's policies, which may include zero-tolerance for cannabis and drug testing.
For further inquiries on the Utah medical cannabis program, see the website of the Utah Department of Health and Human Services.
Although there are no official figures per the number of jobs created directly by the medical cannabis industry or indirectly at ancillary industries, many Utahns have been employed in the state's cannabis sector. While the state places no tax on medical marijuana and medical marijuana products, medical marijuana sales have increased yearly, with the number of licensed medical cannabis pharmacies increasing to keep up with demands.
According to information released by the Department of Health and Human Services, there was a significant surge in medical cannabis sales in Utah, with a remarkable 59% increase between 2021 and 2022. The total net sales of medical cannabis in 2022 reached $118.7 million, compared to $74.8 million in the previous year.
Crime rates for offenses of marijuana possession and sales are yet to decline since the sales of medical cannabis began in 2020, according to the statistics obtained from the FBI Uniform Crime Report. In 2014, marijuana possession and sale arrests in the state were 5,357 and 512, respectively. In 2016, arrest figures for marijuana possession increased (5,918), while those for marijuana sales dropped to 347. In 2020, Utah recorded 5,827 arrests for marijuana possession and 273 arrests for marijuana sales.
In 2021, the first full year after the legalization of medical cannabis, Utah recorded 6,388 arrests for marijuana possession and 313 marijuana sales. Hence, up until 2021, the legalization of medical cannabis does not seem to affect crime rates in the state positively.
In 2014, Utah implemented HB 105, a law that granted individuals diagnosed with intractable epilepsy the right to possess and use CBD-rich extracts from the cannabis plant. To qualify, a patient was required to have a neurologist's diagnosis and registration with the state. The law specified that the extracts must contain a minimum of 15% CBD, no higher than 0.3% THC, and be free of other psychoactive substances. However, the legislation failed to establish a legal framework for patients to access the authorized CBD.
In 2017, Utah lawmakers attempted to address this issue by passing HB 130 to provide patients with access to CBD. However, the system created under this law was impractical. It allowed only those who obtained approval from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for an Institutional Review Board study to import and distribute authorized cannabis and cannabis products.
On November 6, 2018, Utah voters approved Proposition 2, permitting patients to obtain and use medical marijuana. It also allowed for the establishment of state-licensed facilities for the cultivation, processing, testing, and sale of cannabis for medicinal purposes.
In the lead-up to the election, the enthusiasm surrounding Proposition 2 prompted various stakeholders, including Republican Governor Gary Herbert, the Utah Legislature, and proponents and opponents of the proposition, to negotiate a compromise cannabis law. The compromise bill aimed to address the concerns of all parties involved, regardless of the outcome of the vote. It included provisions such as relaxed medical cannabis card renewal requirements, stricter qualifications for caregivers or guardians, employment protections for patients, and regulations on the consumption of medical marijuana. The legislature passed the compromise bill, known as the Utah Medical Cannabis Act or HB 3001, on December 3, 2018, and Governor Herbert signed it into law on the same day.
In 2019, Utah lawmakers passed SB 1002, which increased the number of authorized medical cannabis businesses from 7 to 14. This legislation aimed to expand access to medical cannabis. The first medical cannabis dispensary opened in March 2020.
Over time, Utah has made several adjustments to its medical marijuana laws, loosening some restrictions while tightening others. For instance, in 2018, HB 195 allowed terminally ill patients to try medicinal marijuana. Before addressing COVID-19 emergency response legislation, Utah enacted SB 161, SB 121, and HB 425. These measures aimed to prevent discrimination against cannabis patients in family court proceedings, protect state employees who are medical marijuana patients, allow physicians to handle a higher caseload of cannabis patients, and authorize reciprocity for out-of-state patients visiting Utah. SB 121 allowed for the expungement of certain cannabis-related convictions and mandated seed-to-sale tracking, among other provisions. HB 425 waived certain ID card requirements to facilitate patients' access to medical marijuana during the COVID-19 pandemic.