New version of Utah Medical Cannabis Act broadens list of providers who can recommend marijuana

An updated version of the drafted Utah Medical Cannabis Act, released Friday night, would expand the number of medical providers who could recommend the substance to patients.

The revised bill debuted hours after Gov. Gary Herbert called lawmakers to convene Monday for a special session on medical marijuana. The legislation under consideration would overwrite Proposition 2, the ballot initiative that voters passed last month.

Herbert and other state leaders in early October unveiled the cannabis bill as the byproduct of negotiations between Prop 2 supporters, initiative opponents and officials. Since then, these groups have been revising the measure based on continued talks and feedback from the public.

Until Friday, the bill excluded nurse practitioners and physician assistants from being able to recommend the substance to patients. Only physicians would have been eligible, and some said this provision would have disenfranchised residents in rural parts of the state, where medical providers are few and far between.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) House Speaker Greg Hughes speaks to the Health and Human Services Interim Committee during a hearing on the Utah Medical Cannabis Act before the special session in Salt Lake City on Monday, Nov. 26, 2018.

House Speaker Greg Hughes said nurse practitioners and physician assistants were omitted because of an ongoing turf war within the medical community. However, he said lawmakers had heard the concerns about restricting access for patients and were looking to broaden the list of eligible medical providers.

The updated version would allow qualifying advanced practice registered nurses, physicians and physicians assistants to recommend cannabis to patients.

The revised bill also increases flexibility for people with post-traumatic stress disorder. Older versions required patients to get a diagnosis from a doctorate-level psychiatrist or psychologist if they wanted to explore cannabis treatments. Now, a diagnosis of PTSD from a doctorate-level clinical social worker or providers with the U.S. Veterans Health Administration would also be sufficient.

Lawmakers are slated to gather Monday morning to begin considering the legislation.