This is a brief overview of some of the legal issues regarding cannabis use in Utah, which mainly center around driving under the influence, work, and firearms. This is not to be taken as legal advice, but should give you a better understanding of how to remain on the right side of the law and things to look into further.
Medical marijuana use is legal in Utah with a certification approved by the state, and when purchasing from a certified Utah pharmacy.
While legal in Utah to use marijuana if you have a medical certification, it is still illegal at the federal level. This means traveling with marijuana across state lines is illegal.
There are currently 14 medical cannabis pharmacies in Utah. Each location has a pharmacist and or physician on hand to help identify a reasonable dose for you, as well as explain how to use the various forms of cannabis they offer.
You are allowed to posses up to:
113 Grams of dry cannabis flower (4 ounces green bud) in tamper evident and resistant container that is opaque that contains a quantity that varies no more than 10% from the stated weight at the time of packaging
or 20 Grams of concentrated cannabis in the following forms:
Concentrated oil (Vaping Cartridge)
Topical preparation (Cream/Lotion)
Gelatinous cubes (Gummies)
Wax or Resin (Shatter, Crumble, Rosin)
SMOKING MARIJUANA IS PROHIBITED IN UTAH EVEN WITH A MEDICAL CARD.
The process of inhaling concentrated cannabis by placing the cannabis on a nail or other metal object that is heated by a flame, including a blowtorch (free basing) is prohibited.
Edible products such as candies, cookies, and brownies are also not permitted under Utah law.
Employment & Cannabis
Marijuana is still federally classified as a Schedule I drug. This means that cannabis users are NOT protected federally under states laws. Employers can terminate employment for having THC in their blood or urine upon drug testing, even if you have a state approved medical marijuana card or if using cannabis has no effect on their job performance. Rightful termination may depend on whether the employment contract contains a provision with the requirement of following all federal laws and refraining from using illegal drugs.
Firearms & Cannabis
There are restrictions on medical cannabis use and carrying firearms. Check with the Utah state at: https://medicalcannabis.utah.gov or with an attorney to determine specifically how the laws affect you.
Driving & Medical Cannabis
Utah has a unique law called DRIVING WITH A MEASURABLE CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES (DMCS). Six other states have a similar law. Under this law, Utah Code section 41-6a-517, “a person may not operate or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle within this state if the person has any measurable controlled substance or metabolite of a controlled substance in the person’s body.” If an officer stops you and believes he/she has reasonable grounds to arrest you, the officer will usually “request” that you take a chemical test of your breath or blood under Utah’s Implied Consent statute. If you don’t take the chemical test under the Implied Consent statute, you can lose your Utah Driving Privilege for 18 months, even if you are not impaired.
Field Sobriety Tests
There are lots of reasons a cop might ask you to take a field sobriety test. It might be because you admitted to using marijuana at some point. It might be because they smell, or have already found, marijuana in your car. It might be because they have noticed “signs of drug use or impairment,” such as “droopy eyes,” “blood-shot eyes,” “dilated pupils,” “slow speech,” “lack of coordination,” “blistered tongue,” or “green tongue.” There are also many reasons for a cop to think he/she has justification to search your vehicle. For example, they can pat-down your body and the “reachable” area of the car if they have a reasonable suspicion that you’re armed and dangerous. Or they can arrest you for the traffic infraction and search your car during an “inventory” search.
The DMCS statute criminalizes driving a vehicle with any traces of illegal drugs in the body even if the driver is not impaired. This means people who legally smoke marijuana, in states like Colorado or Washington, and later drive a vehicle in Utah can be arrested for having traces of the marijuana in their system. In fact, marijuana can be detected in the blood for weeks after use.
Consequences of Driving & Marijuana Use
The consequences of being charged under the DMCS are similar to those of an alcohol DUI. A person convicted of driving with a measurable controlled substance may be required to serve jail time, perform community service, or other penalties. The officer does not have to prove the driver was impaired by marijuana to meet the legal requirements to convict someone under DMCS law. All they have to do is expose traces of illegal drugs in the driver’s system. If ever asked about drug use by an officer during a traffic stop, take caution, invoke your right to remain silent and advise the officer politely that you do not wish to answer any questions without first speaking to an attorney. If you have already experienced such an arrest or citation, contact a qualified criminal defense attorney immediately.
Mignon Walker, MD is not liable for legal, medical, or side effects complaints or issues that patients may have while using marijuana.