Apr 19, 2024 - News

Utah's medical marijuana cardholders blaze past 80,000

Illustration of weekly pill case with marijuana leaves labels.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Nearly 83,500 Utahns held medical marijuana cards at the end of March, a 19% year-over-year increase, per the state health department.

Why it matters: The state generated $138 million in revenue from medical marijuana sales last year, Richard Oborn, director of the Center for Medical Cannabis at the state health department, told Axios.

  • That's about a 16% increase compared to 2022 sales.

What they're saying: "More people are talking about medical cannabis. More medical providers are joining the program and are becoming more educated about medical cannabis," Oborn said. "I think that has an impact on more patients becoming aware of it and wanting to try it as an alternative medication."

  • "It doesn't work for everybody, but for some, it does make a difference for treatment of chronic pain, cancer or end-of-life situations," he said.

Between the lines: The top three qualifying conditions among cardholders are persistent pain, post-traumatic stress disorder and nausea, according to a report released last month.

What's next: Several changes to the medical marijuana program take effect next month under SB 233.

  • Starting May 1, state and local governments are prohibited from disciplining and discriminating against employees who hold a medical marijuana card. A government employer has to treat it like other controlled substances.
  • The measure also allows deliveries to a cardholder's workplace, unless it's a public community space like a church, school or park.
  • Cannabis manufacturers will be allowed to advertise their products to consenting adults for the first time.

Flashback: Last year, the state extended the renewal period for a card from six months to a year, which Osborn says has helped some patients prevent their cards from lapsing.

  • Lawmakers also passed HB 230 to create the University of Utah's Center for Medical Cannabis to study the safety and effects of marijuana.
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