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Medicinal cannabis is legal in Utah, but not always available

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – The pain of oil mining has defeated traditional pills, dominated the life of William Adams, while he tried medical cannabis. But even when he started a business outside of his home for the first time in years, Adams found he could not afford it.

Medical cannabis is not usually covered by insurance or Medicaid as it remains illegal. The group that led the legalization of conservation in conservative Utah says it is out of reach for many patients who need it.

The Utah Patients Coalition on Tuesday joined a list of small but growing programs around the United States that target low-income patients with access to medication. The program is one of the first to offer ongoing subsidies throughout the country.

“I thought we were relieved of a lot of suffering. I can not deny that we have,” said Desiree Hennessy, executive director of the Utah Patients Coalition. “But then the phone calls changed from ‘Hey, I need help, I need cannabis’ to ‘I can’t see a doctor.’ »

The coalition has partnered with state cannabis pharmacies to offer discounted drugs to patients approved for the subsidy.

Similar programs include one in Berkeley, California, for patients earning less than $ 32,000 a year. They can use medical cannabis free of charge at local dispensaries through city decrees. States like Florida և Oregon offer reduced prices for state medical cannabis cards.

An old offer to set up a “low-income medical subsidy fund” to buy medical marijuana in New Mexico failed because the state legalized a recreation basket during a special session. New Mexico waives taxes currently levied on a new excise tax on medical marijuana և cannabis. In most cases, the discount is almost 20%.

There, the general sponsor of the successful legalization bill promised to reinstate the provisions of social and economic justice, which were removed from the legislation.

Emily Kaltenbach, senior director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said subsidy programs like Utah could be for low-income patients who have limited access to buy their own drugs. One challenge Utah may face is raising enough money to sustain it, he said.

“We see patients who are not only unable to afford their medication, but also unable to afford their doctor’s appointments,” said Kaltenbach, who is based in New Mexico. “Many of them are not insured, so the cost of a visit to be certified for illness can then have a huge impact on the cost of medication.”

Dragonfly Wellness, Utah’s first marijuana pharmacy, announced Tuesday that it will provide $ 130,000 in a subsidy program that will be fully funded through donations.

Hennessy shed tears as he described how the money would affect patients’ lives. He said this would likely cover the cost of subsidizing the medicines of the more than 400 terminally ill patients who applied to the program.

“I hope we are actually going to meet the need,” he said.

Utah became the 33rd state to legalize medical marijuana after voters cast their ballots in November 2018, despite the program being particularly tightly controlled by a compromise with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. in his native state. ,

Adams, 38, became the first person to test the coalition’s subsidy program in January after being linked to his financial concerns at a cannabis pharmacy. Now his pain has subsided so much that he can go out, enjoy the parts of his life that he lost – spending time with his family, fishing, or even riding his motorcycle.

“I am a completely different person who has a better life than I did six months ago,” Adams said. “Being able to manage pain properly just changes everything in every way.”


Associated Press writer Morgan Lynn in Santa Fe, New Mexico, contributed to this story.


Epolito is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a national non-profit program that places journalists in the local media to cover impeccable issues.


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