Utah Moves to Private Business Licensing for Medical Cannabis Dispensaries
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Utah Moves to Private Business Licensing for Medical Cannabis Dispensaries

Lawmakers backed away from a state-run retail plan during a special session Sept. 16.

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September 18, 2019

While Utah lawmakers had bandied about the idea of placing cannabis retail in the hands of state-run operators, a special session vote on Sept. 16 cleared that up: The state’s emerging medical cannabis market will stick with the plan to license private businesses for cannabis sales.

As the Salt Lake Tribune reports, legislators were debating the finer points of the medical cannabis market in a 122-page book of amendments to the state law. The idea to pursue a state-run dispensary system was seen as possibly running afoul of federal law and the rescinded-but-still-helpful guidance of the 2013 Cole Memo.

With last-minute changes being passed to Gov. Gary Herbert now, the plan remains to have medical cannabis products hit shelves next March. All told, the state will issue 14 “pharmacy” licenses for medical cannabis dispensaries spread evenly across geographic areas.

“There was discussion about, ‘Is that enough, or is that too many?’ I heard both sides,” Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers told the paper.

In an interesting twist, the amendments included a prohibition on Utah lawmakers holding any ownership stake in a licensed cannabis business—until 2023.