Utah Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Executive Director Tracy Gruber announced the appointment of nine board members to the recently formed Medical Cannabis Policy Advisory Board. 

The advisory board will make policy change recommendations to DHHS, the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF), and state lawmakers. 

“The Medical Cannabis Policy Advisory Board will be an asset to the patients, medical providers, and the businesses that participate in the state’s medical cannabis program as it makes policy change recommendations to state lawmakers and state regulators,” Gruber said. “I appreciate the willingness of board members to serve on this important advisory board.” 

The Medical Cannabis Policy Advisory Board was created during the 2023 general legislative session after House Bill 72 Medical Cannabis Governance Revisions was approved. 

Six of the nine board members were appointed by DHHS Executive Director Tracy Gruber and the remaining three were appointed by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food Commissioner Craig Buttars. 

Below is the list of board members. (In Utah, a qualified medical provider [QMP] is a physician who gives recommendations.)

Susan Jackson, MPAS, PA-C—a physician assistant and QMP who has participated in the state’s medical cannabis program since April 2020. As a medical provider at Quintessence Health & Wellness, she helped patients with medical management of pain, hormone replacement, mental health treatment, weight loss, and aesthetics. 

Misty Smith, PhD is a research assistant professor at the University of Utah, College of Pharmacy, Dept. of Pharmacology and Toxicology. She’s been a member of the Cannabis Research Review Board (CRRB) since May 2021, and has over 20 years of experience as a basic science researcher in behavioral pharmacology and holds the DEA Schedule I & II-V controlled substance licenses and Schedule I import/export licenses for an Epilepsy Therapy Screening Program (ETSP) control site. 

Annalise Keen, MD is a psychiatrist, and she’s been a QMP since May 2021 and is a member of the Compassionate Use Board (CUB) since May 2021. Dr. Keen is an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Utah Dept. of Psychiatry, Division of Adolescent and Child Psychiatry, performing evaluations and management of child and adolescent patients and other tasks. 

Desiree Hennessy is the director of the Utah Patients Coalition (UPC)—a non-profit organization seeking to empower patients to make informed health decisions through advocating legal access to plant medicine in Utah. 

Nanette Bereznhyy is a medical cannabis patient and parent, representing medical cannabis guardians of children who depend on cannabis. 

Kent Andersen is the Community and Economic Development director for Davis County, managing the county’s operation.

Matthew Page is the chief operating officer and co-founder of Riverside Farms, a licensed cannabis cultivator and processor. Matthew helped to produce products that were available to patients at the state’s first medical cannabis pharmacy in March 2020. 

JD Lauritzen, aka the “Leafy Lawyer,” is an attorney at WholesomeCo, a medical cannabis pharmacy. He has expertise in medical cannabis pharmacy operations—particularly vertically-integrated medical cannabis pharmacies. WholesomeCo is a vertically integrated cannabis company in the state, as it also has a cannabis cultivation and processing license.

Jimmy Higgs is a state trooper and deputy commissioner at the Utah Department of Public Safety (DPS). With more than 24 years of public safety experience, Deputy Commissioner Higgs has served in various capacities, including Utah Highway Patrol trooper, executive protection detail, and executive officer to the commissioner of Public Safety. He oversees three divisions at DPS: the State Bureau of Investigations, the State Information and Analysis Center, and the State Crime Lab. 

To learn more, visit the Utah DHHS website.

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