The Utah Department of Health has announced plans to speed up some key updates to the state’s medical cannabis program, Fox 13 reports. Known as the “Limited Medical Provider” (LMP) program, the new rule allows physicians, nurse practitioners, and other healthcare providers to recommend medical cannabis to qualifying patients.
The DOH only told the legislature in November they had missed an October deadline to begin the new program, blaming the delays on technological issues and staffing shortages. At the most recent Cannabinoid Product Board meeting, however, the agency said it will have the program live by January, according to Fox 13.
“That’s a critical change to the program we’re excited about to increase patient access,” Rich Oborn, bureau manager of the Department of Commerce, told the board.
The Utah legislature passed the LMP program to address a shortage of qualified medical providers during the 2021 session. Under Utah’s original medical cannabis framework, such providers were required to go through extensive training and be approved by the DOH, which led to a provider shortage.
Predictably, a “pop up” industry of qualified medical providers who overcharge patients for medical cannabis authorizations has flourished as a result of the shortage. The LMP certification requires less training and is expected to increase access for patients, the report says.
Senate Minority Whip Luz Escamilla, (D), who passed the LMP updates and spoke out against the DOH delays, told Fox 13 the new timeline is an improvement and the legislature wants medical cannabis “available as soon as possible.”
Oborn said the DOH plans to require providers to publish their prices on a website in order to monitor any fee gouging and extend a patient’s card renewal deadline from three to six months in addition to the LMP streamlines.
“The LMP program is an important step to educating doctors and keeping patients with their personal medical provider. Extending deadlines allows established patients to spend less time renewing their cards,” said Desiree Hennessy, executive director of the Utah Patients Coalition, in a statement. “These changes are big wins for Utah’s patients, but they are also necessary, and another step toward treating medical cannabis like any other medication.”
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