Utah's Medical Cannabis Program Still Has Some Growing To Do

After almost two years, Utah’s Medical Cannabis program surpassed its budding phase — it bloomed. According to a report put out by the Utah Department of Health earlier this month, Utah is now home to 41,419 Medical Cannabis patients, 826 Qualified Medical Providers, 433 Pharmacy Agents, and 72 Pharmacy Medical Providers. It’s truly remarkable how much the program has grown in 22 short months. However, Utah’s Medical Cannabis program leaves much to be desired for the average patient. Patients and others in the space argue that this is not the program they voted for. Accessibility is often listed as a major issue. At the end of the day, even after all this time, patients are still struggling to afford the medication and care they need.

Utah’s Medical Cannabis Program: The Expensive, The High-Priced & The Costly

Being a patient in Utah’s Medical Cannabis program is expensive. There’s just no way to sugarcoat it. With cannabis’ Schedule 1 drug classification in the US, health insurance companies won’t touch it with a 10-foot pole. Translation: You’re paying for your own office visits. This comes as a shock to many and a wake-up call as to how expensive healthcare really is in this country. A new patient appointment, without insurance, typically costs anywhere from $170 – $450, depending on specialty. The harsh reality of Utah’s Medical Cannabis program is that if you want to make the switch to canna-medicine, you’re likely going to have to budget for it.

UDOH took a step in the right direction earlier this month by doing away with the initial 90-day card requirement.  Previously, patients were required to have their Medical Cannabis Card renewed just 90 days after they had received it. While it cost only $5 to be issued a new card by the state, the adjoining clinic visits were often a different, pricier story. Many patients found themselves feeling duped to be asked for money again so soon by their Medical Cannabis clinics. I’m sure I can speak for all of us when I say I’m glad that’s in the past. Kudos to UDOH.

Clearly, it’s up to us to understand the program well enough to know when we’re being taken care of and when we’re being taken advantage of. So here it is, plain and simple: You see your QMP once to establish care and get your card. Then, you see them again in six months (valid for patients first seen after January 3rd, 2022). You’ll see them once more six months after that. Typically, during that 3rd appointment, your QMP will decide whether or not your condition is stable enough to move to yearly visits. (Some patients may require extra care and more frequent visits. This is always left up to the discretion of the patients’ QMP.)  If your Medical Cannabis clinic claims you need to come in any more often than that, consider it a red flag. Break up with them — you deserve better. I know a great place. *wink, wink*

Cost Assistance Where It Counts

UTTHC understands that the cost of canna-care is still out of reach for many who need it. Frankly, that doesn’t sit right with us. It simply doesn’t make sense to allow the state access to this potentially life-changing medicine if we deny the very people who need it the most due to cost. That’s why UTTHC launched Uplift.

UTTHC Uplift is a patient subsidy program in which citizens are able to help by making a donation. What’s more, UTTHC and our four partners (Beehive Farmacy, Zion Medicinal, WholesomeCo Cannabis & Deseret Wellness) match each donation dollar-for-dollar, magnifying each donation by 6x! Since the launch of the program in December, with the help of our community, Uplift has raised $1,836 toward vital canna-care for those in need and subsidized the cost of 22 patient visits (as of January 18, 2022).

Uplift can currently support patients earning less than 138% of the federal poverty threshold and/or who suffer from terminal medical conditions. In order to receive an Uplift subsidy, a prospective patient must:

  • Submit an Uplift application
  • Be 21 years of age or older
  • Have a qualifying condition according to the Utah Medical Cannabis Act
  • Fall into one of the following categories:
    • Has medical records supporting the existence of a terminal condition (i.e., a diagnosed life expectancy of fewer than 6 months), or
    • Currently qualifies for Medicaid and has an active Medicaid ID. (See if you qualify for Medicaid here through the Utah Department of Health.)

Greener Pastures Ahead for Utah’s Medical Cannabis Program

All in all, there’s good reason for Utahns to resent the cannabis program here. Sure, the existence of a program at all is a wonderful thing. Frankly, it’s something I didn’t personally see for Utah for many years to come, but it’s far from perfect. Perhaps one day we’ll see a more patient-focused Utah Medical Cannabis program. Lower costs, maybe even growing? It’s hard to say just where we’ll end up. But until we get there, know that UTTHC is in your court. And hey, you didn’t hear this from me, but they’ve got a few more tricks up their sleeves to lessen the financial burden for Utah patients coming soon.

Still in need of a Medical Cannabis Card of your own? Reserve an appointment in any of our Medical Cannabis clinics across the state here. If you qualify for an Uplift patient subsidy and would like to apply, fill out an application here. If you’d like to spread the love and make a donation to the Uplift program, find more information here. Feel better, Utah. For less.

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By Courtney Lipscomb
Marketing Manager at UtahMarijuana.org
Published January 21, 2022

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