Utah’s medical marijuana program is in no enviable position. It’s been three months since patients who rely on cannabis have had access to purchase and consume their medicine. March marked the arrival of the first medical cannabis dispensary in Salt Lake City. Cannabis business owners are excited about developments but are frustrated with the delays in rollout.
The state software used for the cannabis program, Leaf Data Systems by MJ Freeway, has crashed or oftentimes slowed down business. Furthermore, technical support has provided little help with getting businesses up and running.
On top of that, a product testing bottleneck has created gaps on their shelves. A slew of products are just sitting around from a number of growers that haven’t gotten tested yet. Delays have limited what pharmacies can offer to medical patients and drastically stunted Utah’s medical marijuana program.
Connor Boyack, a medical cannabis advocate and founder of the Libertarian Libertas Institute, said the state’s program as a whole is reeling from the unexpected onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which has thrown off business plans and prevented more pharmacies from opening. But he said he’s sympathetic about the barriers Brandt and Panh have faced so far.
“We certainly share these frustrations and want to make sure that government hurdles are low and infrequent so that the market can respond to the needs of the patients, which is the entire point of this program,” he said. “This is, however, a very young market. We’re basically creating an entirely new industry in Utah.”
The ultimate plan is for private labs to handle the cannabis product testing, a system that is anticipated to streamline the seed-to-sale process. But it takes expensive equipment to check cannabis for safety and analyze each batch for its concentration of THC and other cannabinoids, and no local private labs were equipped and ready for the task when Utah’s medical marijuana program launched earlier this year, according to Cody James of the Department of Agriculture and Food.