“COVID-19, the coronavirus, it's definitely slowed down our practice just in general,” said Ammon Hills, an interventional pain management specialist in Cache and Box Elder counties. “But we're definitely adjusting and kind of responding.”
Hills is the only registered medical provider for medical cannabis prescription cards listed on the Utah Department of Health’s website in Box Elder, and one of three doctors in Cache County.
“Some of the other chronic pain treatments that we use, like injecting corticosteroids, for — a lot of those procedures we have delayed in patients who don't have real severe emergent pain, just because corticosteroids can potentially bring down the immune system and we don't want to put people at more risk for catching the corona virus," Hills said. "Since some of our other treatments are limited, I wouldn't be surprised as more people look to alternative treatment options, which would include medical cannabis.”
But with House Bill 425, he said Utahns only need a letter of recommendation from their physicians to visit a medical cannabis pharmacy through Dec. 31.
Hills said the coronavirus has led to delayed openings for many of the pharmacies throughout the state, but the Perfect Earth Modern Apothecary in North Logan — one of the state’s two True North of Utah dispensaries — held a soft opening on Wednesday, becoming the second medical cannabis pharmacy to open in Utah.
“We’ve got a lot of experience in the cannabis industry,” said Mike Standlee, the CEO of True North of Utah. “This is a soft opening so. We're gonna do our grand opening down the road once all this, coronavirus things settle down for our country, and last I checked, there was 12 patients the first little over an hour of opening.”
In January, Rich Oborn, the director of the Center for Medical Cannabis Abuse with the state Department of Health, said a "critical part of the law" legalizing medical cannabis is the home delivery component for rural Utah. The system — which would follow social distancing standards — is slated to roll out in July. Oborn said the department is also working with cannabis pharmacies on other social distancing techniques, such as drive thrus and curbside pickup, throughout the coronavirus pandemic.