SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — As Utah prepares to launch its medical marijuana program next year, residents who want to use the drug in the meantime are encountering skeptical doctors and the quandary of where to get the plant.
A law passed by the Utah Legislature in December 2018 allows residents to use medical marijuana before patient cards are officially doled out, which is expected to happen in March 2020 at the earliest, but they must obtain a signed letter of recommendation from a doctor, physician’s assistant or other medical provider.
Finding a doctor willing to do that has been difficult because of stigmas and fear surrounding medical marijuana, said Christine Stenquist, the director and founder of advocacy group Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education, or TRUCE.
And, the doctor’s letter doesn’t specify how patients can legally obtain medical marijuana. Although growers are beginning to cultivate the plant throughout the state, residents still can’t legally purchase medical marijuana in Utah, forcing them to drive several hours to states where the drug is legal or turn to the black market.
Mitch Hill, 48, began using medical marijuana two months ago to treat the severe back pain he’s dealt with for 10 years. It took Hill six months and three doctors to obtain a signed recommendation letter.
“Our family doctor didn’t even want to talk about it, they wanted nothing to do with it,” said Hill, a construction superintendent from the Salt Lake City suburb of West Jordan.
Hill drives five hours to the nearest dispensary in Colorado a few times a month to purchase medical marijuana.
Juggling work, children and his throbbing back, the trip is “a massive pain in the