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Intermountain gives doctors green light on recommending medical cannabis

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – The largest healthcare provider in Utah gives the green light for physicians recommending medical marijuana.

The first major step was passing Proposition 2 and the compromise but creating a pathway for getting medicinal cannabis into the hands of qualifying patients legally was another.

It’s a big day for patients and advocates who thought this day would never come.

Dr. Mark Briesacher, Intermountain Healthcare’s Chief Physician Executive says Intermountain Healthcare doctors can now recommend medical cannabis for patients with qualifying conditions including cancer, epilepsy, autism, and PTSD.

“We’re ready for patients to meet with their provider,” said Briesacher.

Getting doctors and nurses on board was a big question mark.  Many advocates such as Connor Boyack from Libertas Institute who helped write the new law thought this day might not happen.

“So many patients around the state have expressed their frustration that their doctors are not willing to talk or not ready. This opens the gates for these conversations to happen,” said Boyack.

A conversation that could lead to a recommendation in the form of a letter, physicians can print out from the healthcare system’s electronic health record.

It’s helping people who suffer like 24-year-old Hestivan who lives with chronic pain. 

His mother, Desiree Hennessey, of Logan, fought for 4 years to get medical cannabis for her son and others.

“It became so much more than my family. People, strangers would hug me and tell me the secrets of their lives, the hardest parts of their lives. All they wanted was not be a criminal,” said Hennessey.

It leaves patients to find and purchase medical marijuana on their own, that part is still illegal. 

“This is a new risk for us when I think of decisions our providers make. The risk is low but it’s not zero,” said Briesacher.

 “This movement was for all of Utah. Today we can say you’re recognized and you’re legal. Your doctors are there to help you. The goal was always today and here we are,” said Hennessey.

University of Utah Health has been practicing similar guidelines issuing recommendations on a case by case basis.

University of Utah Health statement: 

We put out a statement in December and nothing on our end has changed since then. University of Utah Health is diligently working on developing a system-wide policy that ensures we meet the needs of our patients, provide the highest quality health care and follow all federal and state legal requirements. This rigorous process is expected to take several months. Our providers may continue to issue recommendations on a case-by-case basis until the policy is finalized.

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