Utah Department of Health prepares to start distributing medical marijuana, expanding Medicaid

Utah Department of Health prepares to start distributing medical marijuana, expanding Medicaid

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s Department of Health has been given two mandates: voters on Tuesday told the state to expand Medicaid, providing healthcare coverage to an additional 150,000 people who can’t afford it. And soon the agency will have to start distributing medical cannabis. The Utah Department of Health is the agency tasked with doling out marijuana to patients under a compromise bill that will be taken up in a special legislative session next month to replace Proposition 2, which voters appear to have passed. "We have received a number of calls since the initiative appears to have passed from individuals wondering how they can dispense cannabis, individuals wondering how they can purchase cannabis, physicians wondering how they can start recommending cannabis," said Tom Hudachko, a spokesman for the agency. Prop. 2 will start to go into effect on Dec. 1. Two days later, the Utah State Legislature is expected to approve a compromise bill crafted by sponsors of Prop. 2, opponents of the citizen ballot initiative and political leaders. Full implementation of a medical cannabis program won’t happen until 2020. The biggest change between the initiative and the bill is how medical cannabis is grown and distributed. The bill calls for Utah’s Department of Agriculture and Food to either grow it or contract out for its cultivation and the Utah Department of Health to distribute it to state-run "pharmacies." "We will process orders, essentially, from medical cannabis cardholders and then ship those out to local health departments throughout the state for the patient to pick up. That’s not a business we are currently in. It’s not a business that any health department across the country is in but it’s something, it’s a challenge for us, and it’s something we’re ready to address," Hudachko said. Some medical marijuana […]

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