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Utah’s Medical Cannabis Program Off The Ground Despite Opening Day Glitch

Despite some technical glitches on opening day, Utah patients can now apply for medical marijuana cards.

Can Utah Groups Compromise on the State's Medical Marijuana Initiative?
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Utah’s new medical marijuana program kicked off this weekend, but would-be patients encountered some slight technical difficulties.

The state’s department of health told local news outlets that some individuals had trouble registering on the state-run website on Sunday.

“There was a small glitch earlier, but it’s working now,” Utah Department of Health spokeswoman Charla Haley told local television station FOX 13.

One hopeful registrant told FOX 13 that the technical glitch cost him an hour on his computer. 

“I expected it to be busy. We had a feeling the system would be crashing with the excitement a little better,” he said. “I think they’re doing the best that they can.”

The department of health began accepting applications for medical marijuana cards on Sunday morning. On Monday, the state’s first dispensary opened in Salt Lake City.

Utah Still Has A Long Road Ahead

Voters in Utah approved a referendum legalizing medical marijuana in 2018, making it the 33rd state to do so.

But it was a long road to this week’s launch, which was saddled with countless delays and controversies. After voters approved the measure 53 percent to 47 percent, Utah legislators immediately began work on a compromise bill to overwrite the proposal approved at the ballot. The bill passed and was signed into law during a special session in December 2018, dramatically limiting the scope of the measure approved by a majority of voters only a month earlier.

Marijuana advocates challenged the bill in court, but the lawsuit was thrown out by the Utah Supreme Court in August. Justice Paige Petersen, writing for the court’s majority, ruled that while the state’s constitution “creates and protects the voters’ right to place legislation on the ballot for approval or rejection by the people, it also carves out an exception to that right.”

Although it is now open for business, the medical marijuana program could still take some time to get off the ground. State officials told legislators in January that only one or two dispensaries are slated to open in the first week of March. Even then, the officials said, it will likely be difficult for patients to get a cannabis prescription.

State lawmakers quickly passed several tweaks last week to the medical cannabis law in advance of this week’s opening. 

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