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PARK CITY, Utah. — At 11 a.m. on Feb. 25, three people waited in line for Park City’s first cannabis dispensary to open for business. White-jacketed staff members rushed around, taking photos and putting things in order before welcoming people in. An air of excitement – and of pungent plant – filled the space.
“Congratulations!” called Kimba Forbes, a Timberline resident and longtime medicinal cannabis patient, to employees as she produced her medical cannabis card and checked in to consult with a pharmacist.
Forbes expressed delight that the new dispensary’s existence would cut down on her drives to Salt Lake City to obtain the medicine she uses to treat back pain and insomnia.
“The best part is now it’s scientific,” she said. “To be able to have the medicine here is really exciting.”
Forbes said her husband, who is disabled, also has a medicinal cannabis card and began using the medicine after narcotics stopped working for his condition. She said they both were grateful to be able to obtain local plant-based medicine, rather than prescription drugs.
As 10 Deseret Wellness employees scrambled to learn new systems and welcome people, a steady stream of patients arrived. Their ages looked to range from 20-somethings to 70-somethings. All were happy to chat as they waited to consult with a pharmacist, though some preferred not to give their names.
A 63-year-old man who had a recent hip replacement said he was feeling almost back to normal after his operation. A lifelong 30-something Park City resident with Type 1 Diabetes said he has used cannabis for more than a decade to treat symptoms including persistent nausea, and that the Park City location is “a much more convenient location for the Park City and Heber crowd.”
All said that prior to Deseret Wellness opening, they headed to Salt Lake City or West Jordan dispensaries. Before voters legalized medicinal cannabis in Utah in 2018, they drove to Nevada, some patients said.
The new dispensary, at 1351 Kearns Boulevard, is well-lit, its white walls, blond wood and concrete floors a cross between a doctor’s office and a contemporary retail store. Construction was delayed by Covid and winter storms, and there are a few final pieces not yet in place, such as the elevator, which will start getting built out April 1. The dispensary is below ground-level, and the stairs from the exterior to interior still need treads put on. Those punch list items, a neon sign for outside and some more woodwork decor should come together in the spring, said Jeremy Sumerix, market president for Deseret Wellness.
Patients seeking cannabis products – the dispensary offers flower, edibles and tinctures – must provide their valid Utah medical cannabis card in addition to identification, which can be a valid drivers license from any state or a valid U.S. passport. They must have a Utah address, but do not need to document that at the dispensary, since that piece of personal information will already have been gathered by the QMP – qualified medical provider – who issued the patient’s card.
To locate a QMP, Utah residents can click here or ask a primary care provider.
Pharmacist Brian Woods, who will commute nearly an hour each way to work from Pleasant Grove, took in the customer-employee interaction and said he was pleased.
“I’m super excited. I wish you could see my smile,” said Woods, who was masked. “The very first customer who came in said ‘you’ve got a good selection.’ I thought, ‘we’re going to be able to help some people.'”
Deseret already operates a dispensary in Provo and is one of several fledgling operations moving into the nascent industry. The first Utah dispensary opened in 2020. The state approved the opening of 14 dispensaries, but only half of those are up and running to date. In addition, Sumerix said cannabis producers are not operating at full capacity yet, which has led to challenges in efforts to meet patient need.
Visit the state’s information site here to learn more.