Medical Cannabis Cards Have a 70% Renewal Rate
Between March 2020 and September 2021, the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) issued 47,583 medical cannabis cards to qualifying patients. Of the 47,583 patients who received medical cannabis cards, 70% renewed their card each time they had the opportunity to renew it and 30% allowed their card to expire. In these cases, initial cards were issued for three months and subsequent renewals were every six months. Initial cards required at least one in-person face-to-face visit and subsequent renewal visits could be done in-person or virtual.
There are many reasons why individuals may choose to not renew their medical cannabis card. Reasons include:
- Medical cannabis has a limited number of evidence-based applications at this time. While some patients and clinicians find success in treating medical conditions with medical cannabis, other patients and clinicians find that it does not work as well as other more traditional treatments.
- Some patients are unable to afford the ongoing cost of purchasing medical cannabis products. They may have obtained a card, purchased one or more products, and decided they cannot afford the ongoing cost of buying medical cannabis in the future.
- Some patients are unable to afford the cost of ongoing visits with a clinician who is registered by the UDOH to recommend medical cannabis. Until January 2022, all initial cards expired after three months and some patients were unable to afford a second visit with a clinician just three months after the first appointment.
Lawmakers made changes to the law to help reduce the cost and administrative burden on medical cannabis cardholders. The UDOH began implementing some of these changes in January 2022. These changes include:
- Initial medical cannabis cards are now issued for six months, not three months. Once a patient has held a medical cannabis card for one year, their clinician may approve them for annual card renewal. Patients are more likely to review their medical cannabis cards when they are not required as often to meet with a clinician to renew their card.
- The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) and medical cannabis pharmacies launched the Limited Medical Program in January 2022 to increase access to medical cannabis for qualifying patients. The program now allows any Utah-licensed physician, advanced practice medical nurse, physician assistant, or podiatrist with a controlled substance license to recommend medical cannabis to up to 15 of their adult patients who have been diagnosed with a qualifying condition. There are more than 21,000 medical providers who are now eligible to make these recommendations. This new program is expected to decrease the cost of medical cannabis evaluation visits for some patients as they now have more options for where they can go for these visits. More information about this program can be found at https://medicalcannabis.utah.gov/providers/lmp/.
- Earlier this month the UDOH and the Office of the State Auditor launched the Medical Cannabis Visit Website. This tool will help patients compare prices charged by qualified medical providers (QMPs) for initial and renewal medical cannabis evaluation visits. This new program is intended to empower patients as they seek to find clinicians who offer medical cannabis evaluation services at reasonable prices.
The UDOH expects that as these changes are implemented, patients benefiting from the use of medical cannabis will be more likely to renew their medical cannabis cards.