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Highway Patrol Troopers Trained on New Medical Marijuana Law

The Utah Highway Patrol is training troopers on how to uphold the rights of patients now that medical marijuana is legal in Utah.

“We’re committed to making sure that people who are utilizing medical cannabis — within the provisions of the Medical Cannabis Act — that their rights are protected to do so,” said Highway Patrol Col. Michael Rapich.

Last week, troopers were given enforcement directions and operating procedures surrounding the new law — which first went into effect on Saturday as the version of Proposition 2 that voters approved.

“If a trooper walks up to a vehicle and they become aware or have suspicion that cannabis is being used in that vehicle, they’re going to investigate that as potentially an impaired driver like they would any other situation,” Rapich said.

On Monday, Utah lawmakers gathered for a special legislative session to make significant changes to the medical marijuana law that were part of a compromise bill agreed upon before Election Day.

Even though it could take more than a year to get Utah’s medical marijuana system up and running, it’s already legal for a patient to use the drug under a rule known as affirmative defense.

“The affirmative defense allows a person to make their case in court that they would qualify under the program if it was up and running,” said Michael Melendez, director of policy for the Libertas Institute.

The rule requires that the patient be diagnosed with a qualifying condition and have permission from a doctor. Melendez warns that patients should pay strict attention to which forms of medicinal marijuana are allowed under Utah law.

“The idea is that under affirmative defense you can use that if you’re using the allowed forms of cannabis,” he said. “So if you’re using something that’s not then you’re opening yourself up for trouble.”

Forms authorized under the law include a capsule, concentrated oil, sublingual preparation, topical preparation, transdermal preparation, and a gelatinous cube or lozenge.

“Do due diligence,” Melendez said, as his advice to patients. “Work with your doctor. Get something in writing. Really know what you’re doing and then you should be set.”

Under the law, Utah will need to have patient cards, pharmacy licenses and a central pharmacy available in 2020. However, state officials have indicated that those deadlines could be met at earlier dates.

“My administration is committed to full implementation of this act as quickly as feasible,” Gov. Gary Herbert said in a statement, after signing the bill into law Monday evening.

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