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Utah's first medical marijuana pharmacy needs customers

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Utah's first medical marijuana pharmacy is officially open for business - so where are all the patients? (Photo: Todd Dinsmore / KUTV)

On the day it opened, Dragonfly Wellness, Utah’s first medical marijuana pharmacy, had 16 customers. On the second day after opening for business, there was a big problem.

“On day two we had one patient come through the door,” said co-owner Hoang Nguyen.

Nguyen said on the first day of business, she turned away 200 customers who did not have state-issued medical cannabis cards but did have letters from doctors who recommended medical cannabis.

The pharmacy made sure it had enough product stocked to meet the state's March 1 deadline for making products available to patients.

Only doctors who’ve registered in the state medical cannabis program can certify patients, who then apply for the cards.

Hoang said both patients and doctors are misinformed about the process of getting a patient card, which allows people into the pharmacy to make a purchase.

On Wednesday, two days after she opened the pharmacy, she was on Capitol Hill talking to state lawmakers about the issues.

Connor Boyack, a medical marijuana advocate and director of the Libertas Institute, said lawmakers were approached about a temporary fix to the law, in order to help patients get into the pharmacy to buy cannabis products.

He said lawmakers quickly drafted an amendment to the medical marijuana law that would temporarily allow patients to use a letter from any doctor to get into the pharmacy and access cannabis products.

This would give patients time to figure out the official application process and meet with one of 60 doctors who are registered in the state program in order to get qualified for an official cannabis card.

This is going to make it easier for doctors. Right now, the doctors are being bombarded with patients who want to get their cards, and there is a big backlog.

State Rep. Jennifer Dailey- Provost confirmed her bill, House Bill 425, will address this issue. She said the bill will be up for discussion on the house floor in the next day or two.

Rich Oborn, director of the Utah Medical Cannabis program, said since Sunday, 1,200 people applied for patient medical cannabis cards. Sixty were approved, while another 700 await certification.

Oborn agreed patients are confused about the process.

"There's a lot of learning involved," he said.

He confirmed that the 60 medical providers who registered with the program are busy with requests form people who want to apply for cannabis cards.

A patient can only obtain a card after meeting with a registered medical provider, who can diagnose them with one of the required medical conditions and then certify their application.

Anyone having problems with the application process can call 801-538-6504.

Hoang said she won't place blame on anybody for kinks in the process. She said medical marijuana is new and everyone is trying to make it work.

She will change her pharmacy hours for now to Tuesday through Sunday from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. until more customers show up.

Our big thing is to make sure we are getting our product into the hands of patients that need it," she said.