Legalizing Medical Marijuana Through the Utah Medical Cannabis Act

At a Glance:

Location: Utah

Date: 2017

Vital Condition: Basic Needs for Health and Safety

Determinants of Health: substance use, healthcare access, neighborhood safety, substance use

Affected Population: Children and Youth, People Living in Poverty, People with Chronic and Multiple Chronic Health Conditions, People with Disabilities

Research Methods: Qualitative research, Literature review

Community Types: urban, rural, suburban

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Public health graduate students at Brigham Young University conducted an HIA to analyze potential health effects of the Utah Medical Cannabis Act (UMCA), a ballot initiative to legalize the use and production of medical marijuana in the state. The authors investigated how the UMCA might affect potential medical marijuana users, adolescents, economically disadvantaged individuals, and recreational drug users.

The researchers collected information from stakeholders, quantitative data sources, and literature reviews, and used it to divide the impacts of the initiative into six categories of effects: chronic disease and pain management, recreational marijuana use and abuse, the opioid crisis, economic stability, road safety, and use of other substances.

To mitigate adverse effects and maximize benefits, the HIA made recommendations in the following areas:

  • Qualifying conditions for medical marijuana use.
  • Regulations affecting state-level research.
  • Education of patients and physicians.


Utah voters approved the ballot initiative in November 2018, and state lawmakers then passed H.B. 3001, the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, on Dec. 3, effectively replacing the ballot proposition. The HIA’s impact is unknown.

This Health Impact Assessment Report first appeared in The Cross-Sector Toolkit for Health. The Cross-Sector Toolkit for Health was originally developed by the Health Impact Project, formerly a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The creation of this resource was supported by a grant from the Health Impact Project. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Pew Charitable Trusts, or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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