cloudy.png
Wednesday October 16th, 2019 8:01AM

Dozens vie for chance to grow medical marijuana in Utah

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

NEPHI, Utah (AP) — The wide metal barn on the Utah alfalfa farm owned by Russell and Diane Jones will host their youngest son's wedding next month. By September, they hope the structure will be full of marijuana plants.

The Joneses are fourth-generation farmers, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and among 81 applicants for one of a handful of coveted spots as a licensed medical marijuana grower in conservative Utah.

Though leaders of their faith once opposed the bid to legalize medical marijuana, Russell Jones says he researched the drug's pain-relieving benefits as he battled Hodgkin's lymphoma. Now he and his wife want to be part of an emerging industry that some doubted would ever come to the state.

"This is groundbreaking for Utah," Diane Jones said. "Who doesn't want to make history?"

Others hoping to win licenses include larger operations that grow hemp, and a handful of out-of-state growers. State officials are expected to begin awarding up to 10 licenses later this month.

The state recently opened the licensing process to out-of-state growers, a change that makes locals like hemp processor Darren Johnson nervous.

"Does it bode well for me? No, but they want it to be seamless. They don't want hiccups. And I get that," he said.

Some applicants worry the process stacks the deck against local growers in favor of "Big Weed," or companies that have successfully grown cannabis in other states where the crop is legal. The application requires a $2,500 fee, and submissions are hundreds of pages long. Those who get a license pay $100,000 every year to keep it, in addition to buying tools and facilities that can cost millions.

Department of Agriculture officials said they are awarding extra points to applicants with community ties as they review applications. Eight applications came from out-of-state growers. The state is looking for farmers able to expand operations as demand increases while keeping costs low and growing plants free of mold and pesticides.

At an indoor facility in North Salt Lake, Troy Young tends to rows of hemp plants under the harsh, purple glow of LED lights designed to nurture growth. Young grows industrial hemp, a nonpsychoactive cousin of marijuana legalized in Utah last year.

He is among a number of ambitious growers who have invested in equipment and set aside money hoping to receive a license to grow medical marijuana.

Cannabis in its various forms is challenging to grow and requires a lot of experimentation, he said.

"It's fun for me. I get to be a mad scientist," said Young, 52. He has a personal stake in marijuana legalization. Young lost his mother to an opioid addiction. If she had access to a less destructive pain-relieving drug, like marijuana, he said, maybe she'd still be alive.

Marijuana has been shown to help ease chronic pain, and studies have suggested medical marijuana laws may reduce opioid prescribing.

"There's a real need for it. It's not just about the high," Young said.

Johnson, the hemp processor, has a spacious warehouse in Salt Lake City with a team of technicians and equipment primed to grow medical marijuana. One room is filled with large beakers. Sticky hemp drips through paper filters and into the glass to extract CBD oil.

Hemp is his side business. Johnson works full-time in construction but views cultivating marijuana as a smart, long-term investment.

"Once (medical marijuana) becomes less taboo and people opt for that over an opiate-based drug, we're going to see more demand and a stronger market," he said.

Revenues from the state's medical cannabis program are projected to reach $5.4 million in 2020 then grow to $16.2 million in 2021, said Richard Oborn, director of the state health department's Center of Medical Cannabis.

Utah joined 33 states in legalizing medical marijuana after voters approved a new law last year.

Leaders of the state's predominant faith originally opposed the push to ask voters to approve medical marijuana but eventually struck a compromise with some advocates to allow medicinal use of the drug with more regulation.

Whoever wins the state's 10 grower licenses will have to grow the cannabis in Utah. The state also will choose licensed processors to make medical marijuana products to be sold in dispensaries expected to open next year.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, AP Health, AP Business, AP Business - Small Business
© Copyright 2019 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Dozens vie for chance to grow medical marijuana in Utah
Candidates for the medical marijuana grower program in Utah include a longtime alfalfa farmer whose battle with cancer sparked an interest in cannabis and an ambitious hemp processor who lost his mother to an opioid addiction
12:38PM ( 3 minutes ago )
Governor pushes back at feds on protection for rare whales
Maine Gov. Janet Mills says a federal directive aimed at protecting endangered right whales represents an "absurd federal overreach"
12:33PM ( 8 minutes ago )
Epstein philanthropy since sex plea included all-girl school
Financier Jeffrey Epstein has over the last decade sought to portray himself as a generous benefactor to children, giving to organizations including a youth orchestra, a baseball league and a private girls' school
12:12PM ( 30 minutes ago )
U.S. News
The Latest: Federer wins 1st set against Nadal at Wimbledon
Roger Federer has won the first set 7-6 (3) in his Wimbledon semifinal against Rafael Nadal
12:36PM ( 6 minutes ago )
Labor Secretary Acosta resigning amid Epstein deal scrutiny
Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta is resigning from President Donald Trump's Cabinet amid scrutiny of his handling of a secret plea deal with a financier accused of sexually underage girls
12:21PM ( 20 minutes ago )
Trump unloads on Paul Ryan after 'American Carnage' excerpts
President Donald Trump criticized former Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan on Friday, calling him a "baby" and a "terrible speaker," who didn't know what he was doing
12:14PM ( 28 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Trump to tout trade, economy in formerly blue Wisconsin
President Donald Trump will visit Wisconsin on Friday, one of two Midwest stops as he warms up his re-election engine
11:48AM ( 54 minutes ago )
China imports from US plunge 31% in June amid tariff war
China's trade with United States plunges in June amid tariff war
11:27AM ( 1 hour ago )
US stock indexes continue to climb into record territory
Stocks climb into record territory, helped by industrial companies.
11:13AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
California backs effort to boost utilities during wildfires
California lawmakers have passed a plan to shore up the state's biggest electric utilities in the face of catastrophic wildfires and claims from survivors
6:50PM ( 17 hours ago )
Congress probes approval of Trump backer's housing project
A congressional committee is investigating whether the U.S. Interior Department helped an Arizona developer and supporter of President Donald Trump get a crucial permit
7:20PM ( 1 day ago )
Ivanka Trump's women's initiative announces $27M in grants
A White House initiative spearheaded by Ivanka Trump to help women in developing countries get ahead economically has announced $27 million in grants to 14 projects in 22 countries
3:58PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Business - Small Business
Governor pushes back at feds on protection for rare whales
Maine Gov. Janet Mills says a federal directive aimed at protecting endangered right whales represents an "absurd federal overreach"
12:33PM ( 8 minutes ago )
Epstein philanthropy since sex plea included all-girl school
Financier Jeffrey Epstein has over the last decade sought to portray himself as a generous benefactor to children, giving to organizations including a youth orchestra, a baseball league and a private girls' school
12:12PM ( 30 minutes ago )
Epstein finances to be kept secret ahead of bail hearing
Information that could shed light on jailed financier Jeffrey Epstein's wealth will be kept secret ahead of a Monday bail hearing in his New York sex trafficking case
12:09PM ( 32 minutes ago )
Coast Guard makes dramatic drug seizure, raiding submarine
U.S. Coast Guard members boarded a semi-submarine racing through the waves off of South America, one of 14 operations since May in international waters off Mexico and Central and South America
12:02PM ( 40 minutes ago )
Tropical Storm Barry threatens a long, slow drenching
Building toward hurricane strength, Tropical Storm Barry has begun hitting Louisiana with wind and rain as it closes in for what forecasters say will be a long, slow _ and epic _ drenching that could trigger flooding in and around New Orleans
11:32AM ( 1 hour ago )