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True North cultivator Tony Hernandez tends to cannabis plants at the Box Elder County growing facility on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020. The medicinal plants will supply pharmacies in the state. Another growing operation, Harvest of Utah, is to take shape in Weber County.

As Utah lawmakers fine-tune the laws governing use of medical cannabis in the state, the sole company with a permit to grow in Weber County is itself preparing for the industry’s rollout.

“We are not yet operational, but well on our way toward growing cannabis. We must still go through a number of state and local approvals,” Alex Howe, spokesman for Harvest of Utah, said in an email to the Standard-Examiner. Harvest of Utah, a subsidiary of Arizona-based Harvest Health and Recreation, is one of eight companies to get a license from the state to grow marijuana and its operation is taking shape in western Weber County.

March 1 marked the official launch of Utah’s commercial medical marijuana industry. But as some of the kinks are worked out of the regulatory process and lawmakers adjust the pertinent laws, the rollout has come in stops and starts.

Howe expressed confidence, though, that the program will advance and gain steam.

And on Wednesday, the Utah Senate was to debate a measure, House Bill 425, that would allow cannabis patients with letters from medical professionals recommending cannabis to use those to get meds. As is, patients are supposed to get cannabis cards via an online application process with the Utah Department of Health. But the process has been beset with problems caused in part by delays by doctors and other medical professionals in uploading the letters of recommendation for their patients.

HB 425 would allow cannabis patients to take their letters directly to pharmacies to get medicine, at least through the end of 2020. As of the first week of March, the health department had issued 278 medical cannabis cards, according to the agency. HB 425 “would open it up to thousands of patients,” said Pam Harrison, an Ogden medical marijuana advocate who’s closely watched the rollout.

Rep. Jennifer Daily-Provost, sponsor of HB 425, expressed confidence in the measure’s success. “It will pass — it’s essential to our state’s program and leadership is committed (to) making sure it gets through,” she said in a message to the Standard-Examiner. As of early Wednesday evening, though, lawmakers had yet to take up the measure.

Meantime, companies like Harvest of Utah do what’s necessary to get operational. Those running the Weber County growing operation also hope to process the plants into medication.

“We will not have a stake in any of the state’s pharmacies but will be supplying wholesale high-quality products to them,” Howe said.

Aside from the growers and processors, state officials have granted licenses for 14 medical cannabis pharmacies around the state, including one in South Ogden, operated by True North. It’s tentatively scheduled to open by mid-April and is taking shape in a former bank building near Newgate Mall.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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