SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah health officials plan to award pharmacy licenses to 10 companies to dispense medical marijuana at 14 sites across the state, a major development in the program’s approaching launch.

The chosen sites announced Friday by the Department of Health are largely in metro Salt Lake City or elsewhere in northern Utah but also include two in southern Utah and one in rural eastern Utah.

Along with multiple sites in
Salt Lake City, other northern Utah sites include West Bountiful, Ogden,
Logan, Park City, Provo, Linden, Springville and a location that would
be Box Elder County, Morgan County or Rich County.

The southern sites are Cedar City and St. George while the sole site in eastern Utah is Vernal.

department said some locations could change because of various
processes still underway, including site acquisitions, criminal
background checks and reviews of operating plans.

Eight sites may open as early as March while others would open by July, the department said.

locations were evaluated and chosen through a competitive scoring
process from among more than 130 applications from more than 60
companies, the department said.

Criteria included medical
marijuana experience, regulatory compliance, local community
connections, a strategic plan with a high likelihood of success, the
department said.

“It was a highly competitive process and some
qualified applicants will be left disappointed, but that is the nature
of a highly competitive process,” said Richard Oborn, director of the
Center for Medical Cannabis, which is part of the health agency.

said the selection of the sites is a major milestone for Utah’s launch
of its medical marijuana program because it enables companies to “start
to verify their locations and hire employees and really make some
serious preparations for March when they plan to, when some of them will
need to be rolling out.”

Utah voters approved the ballot
initiative, Proposition 2, in November 2018 legalizing doctor-approved
marijuana treatment for certain health conditions. State lawmakers the
next month replaced the measure with a law they said puts tighter
controls on the production, distribution and use of the drug.

Hennessy, executive director of the Utah Patients Coalition, said
Friday’s announcement is welcome because it means the program’s launch
is approaching.

“I’m hopeful that this is one of the last pieces
of the puzzle that we’re putting in place to get Utah patients the
medications that we’ve been fighting for for years,” she said.

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