Utah Taps Medicinal Mary Jane Squad to Guide Cannabis Policy

Utah Taps Medicinal Mary Jane Squad to Guide Cannabis Policy

Yo, what’s good everyone? It’s your boy Dan, and I’m here to give you the 411 on the Utah Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Executive Director Tracy Gruber’s announcement. She appointed nine board members to the newly-formed Medical Cannabis Policy Advisory Board. This advisory board will make policy change recommendations to DHHS, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF), and state lawmakers. You feel me?

According to Gruber, “The Medical Cannabis Policy Advisory Board will be an asset to the patients, medical providers, and the businesses that participate in the state’s medical cannabis program as it makes policy change recommendations to state lawmakers and state regulators. I appreciate the willingness of board members to serve on this important advisory board.” That’s real talk right there.

The Medical Cannabis Policy Advisory Board was created during the 2023 general legislative session after House Bill 72 Medical Cannabis Governance Revisions was approved. You know how it is, laws be changing all the time.

Six of the nine board members were appointed by DHHS Executive Director Tracy Gruber, and the remaining three were appointed by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food Commissioner Craig Buttars. They ain’t playing around with this board, y’all.

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So let me give you the lowdown on these nine board members. Susan Jackson, MPAS, PA-C is a physician assistant and qualified medical provider who has been a part of Utah’s medical cannabis program since April 2020. She helps patients at Quintessence Health & Wellness with pain management, hormone replacement, mental health treatment, weight loss, and aesthetics. That’s some serious skills right there.

Misty Smith, PhD is a research assistant professor at the University of Utah, College of Pharmacy, Dept. of Pharmacology and Toxicology. She’s been a member of the Cannabis Research Review Board (CRRB) since May 2021 and has over 20 years of experience as a basic science researcher in behavioral pharmacology. She holds the DEA Schedule I & II-V controlled substance licenses and Schedule I import/export licenses for an Epilepsy Therapy Screening Program (ETSP) control site. That’s some next-level knowledge right there.

Annalise Keen, MD is a psychiatrist and qualified medical provider who’s been on the Compassionate Use Board (CUB) since May 2021. Dr. Keen is an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Utah Dept. of Psychiatry, Division of Adolescent and Child Psychiatry. She does evaluations and manages child and adolescent patients. She’s been doing the damn thing, y’all.

Desiree Hennessy is the director of the Utah Patients Coalition (UPC). It’s a non-profit organization that wants to empower patients to make informed health decisions through advocating legal access to plant medicine in Utah. Y’all know how important it is to have someone fighting for us patients.

Nanette Bereznhyy is a medical cannabis patient and parent, representing medical cannabis guardians of children who depend on cannabis. We need someone like her on the board to represent us patients and our families.

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Kent Andersen is the Community and Economic Development director for Davis County, managing the county’s operation. He’s got experience in making things happen on a big scale.

Matthew Page is the chief operating officer and co-founder of Riverside Farms, a licensed cannabis cultivator and processor. Matthew helped to produce products that were available to patients at the state’s first medical cannabis pharmacy in March 2020. He knows what it takes to get quality products to us patients.

JD Lauritzen, aka the “Leafy Lawyer,” is an attorney at WholesomeCo, a medical cannabis pharmacy. He has expertise in medical cannabis pharmacy operations, particularly vertically-integrated medical cannabis pharmacies. WholesomeCo is a vertically integrated cannabis company in the state, as it also has a cannabis cultivation and processing license. He’s got that legal knowledge we need.

Last but not least, Jimmy Higgs is a state trooper and deputy commissioner at the Utah Department of Public Safety (DPS). With more than 24 years of public safety experience, Deputy Commissioner Higgs has served in various capacities. He oversees three divisions at DPS: the State Bureau of Investigations, the State Information and Analysis Center, and the State Crime Lab. He’s got that law enforcement expertise we need on the board.

So there you have it, folks. Utah’s Medical Cannabis Policy Advisory Board is stacked with some serious players who can make a real difference for patients, medical providers, and businesses in the state’s medical cannabis program. Keep an eye out for their policy change recommendations to state lawmakers and regulators. Peace out.

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