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“That is groundbreaking for Utah,” Diane Jones mentioned. “Who does not wish to make historical past?”

Others hoping to win licenses embrace bigger operations that develop hemp, and a handful of out-of-state growers. State officers are anticipated to start awarding as much as 10 licenses later this month.

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

“Does it bode effectively for me? No, however they need it to be seamless. They do not need hiccups. And I get that,” he mentioned.

Some candidates fear the method stacks the deck towards native growers in favor of “Massive Weed,” or corporations which have efficiently grown cannabis in different states the place the crop is authorized. The applying requires a $2,500 payment, and submissions are lots of of pages lengthy. Those that get a license pay $100,000 yearly to maintain it, along with shopping for instruments and amenities that may price hundreds of thousands.

Division of Agriculture officers mentioned they’re awarding additional factors to candidates with neighborhood ties as they overview functions. Eight functions got here from out-of-state growers. The state is on the lookout for farmers capable of develop operations as demand will increase whereas maintaining prices low and rising crops freed from mildew and pesticides.

At an indoor facility in North Salt Lake, Troy Younger tends to rows of hemp crops underneath the tough, purple glow of LED lights designed to nurture development. Younger grows industrial hemp, a nonpsychoactive cousin of marijuana legalized in Utah final 12 months.

He’s amongst plenty of formidable growers who’ve invested in tools and put aside cash hoping to obtain a license to develop medical marijuana.

Hashish in its numerous types is difficult to develop and requires numerous experimentation, he mentioned.

“It is enjoyable for me. I get to be a mad scientist,” mentioned Younger, 52. He has a private stake in marijuana legalization. Younger misplaced his mom to an opioid habit. If she had entry to a much less harmful pain-relieving drug, like marijuana, he mentioned, possibly she’d nonetheless be alive.

Marijuana has been proven to assist ease continual ache, and research have instructed medical marijuana legal guidelines could cut back opioid prescribing.

“There’s an actual want for it. It isn’t simply concerning the excessive,” Younger mentioned.

Johnson, the hemp processor, has a spacious warehouse in Salt Lake Metropolis with a crew of technicians and tools primed to develop medical marijuana. One room is full of massive beakers. Sticky hemp drips by way of paper filters and into the glass to extract CBD oil.

Hemp is his aspect enterprise. Johnson works full-time in development however views cultivating marijuana as a sensible, long-term funding.

“As soon as (medical marijuana) turns into much less taboo and other people go for that over an opiate-based drug, we will see extra demand and a stronger market,” he mentioned.

Revenues from the state’s medical cannabis program are projected to achieve $5.four million in 2020 then develop to $16.2 million in 2021, mentioned Richard Oborn, director of the state well being division’s Heart of Medical Hashish.

Utah joined 33 states in legalizing medical marijuana after voters authorised a brand new regulation final 12 months.

Leaders of the state’s predominant religion initially opposed the push to ask voters to approve medical marijuana however finally struck a compromise with some advocates to permit medicinal use of the drug with extra regulation.

Whoever wins the state’s 10 grower licenses should develop the cannabis in Utah. The state additionally will select licensed processors to make medical marijuana merchandise to be bought in dispensaries anticipated to open subsequent 12 months.