Consequences of Getting a Medical Card in Utah

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Benefits of Having a Medical Marijuana Card in Utah

Utah’s medical marijuana program offers the following benefits to those with medical cannabis cards:

Legal Protection

While federal regulations currently prohibit public marijuana consumption in all U.S. states, individuals who have Utah medical cannabis cards are protected from possible legal repercussions when stopped by authorities for possessing medical marijuana in Utah, provided they are carrying an amount within the state's legally defined possession limit. A Utah medical cannabis card allows the cardholder to possess up to 113 grams by weight of unprocessed cannabis flower or an amount of cannabis product containing 20 grams of total composite THC.

To prevent arrests for marijuana-related offenses, Utah medical cannabis cardholders are advised to carry their medical cannabis cards and another government-issued ID, such as a Utah driver's license, with them when possessing medical cannabis products. Utah stipulates 6 months of imprisonment and up to $1,000 in fines for possessing up to 1 ounce of marijuana without a Utah medical marijuana card. Possessing more than 100 pounds is a felony punishable with up to 15 years imprisonment and $10,000 in fines.

Access for Minors

The Utah medical cannabis card makes medical marijuana accessible to minors by allowing persons aged 18 or older to obtain patient MMJ cards and individuals under 18 to designate caregivers to obtain caregiver cards or have their parents or legal guardians obtain guardian MMJ cards. Hence, being a minor does not disqualify a person from accessing medical cannabis, provided the individual fulfills the other conditions for participation in the state's medical cannabis program.

Employment Protections

Per SB 46, state employees who are medical cannabis cardholders are protected from being sanctioned at their workplaces for off-the-job use of medical marijuana. SB 46 restricts state employers from taking punitive measures against employees who use cannabis at home in compliance with Utah's medical cannabis law. Also, SB 46 does not allow juries and judges to discriminate against medical cannabis cardholders in the course of a judicial proceeding.

Unless it would jeopardize federal funding, security clearance, or background determination required for an employee's position, or if the employee's position depends on a license subject to federal regulations, no state or political subdivision employee who is a medical cannabis cardholder may be subject to a retaliatory action for failing a marijuana or THC drug test. However, an exception was made for a situation where there is incontrovertible evidence that a cardholder was impaired or adversely affected in their job performance due to medical cannabis use.

SB 46 does not extend the same employment protections to medical cannabis cardholders who work for private employers. Private employees who are Utah MMJ cardholders are subject to their employer's policies, which may include zero-tolerance for marijuana use or drug testing.

Reciprocity

Utah has medical marijuana reciprocity provisions for out-of-state patients, and individuals with MMJ cards issued in the state can also benefit from the reciprocity provisions in other states where out-of-state patients can purchase medical marijuana. If you have a Utah medical marijuana card, you may be able to buy medical marijuana in Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, Maine, Nevada, Arkansas, New Hampshire, the District of Columbia, and Rhode Island.

Downsides of Getting a Medical Marijuana Card in Utah

Possessing a Utah medical cannabis card comes with certain downsides, such as:

Firearm Prohibition

While Utah included certain provisions in HB 3001 prohibiting law enforcement agents in the state from devoting resources to enforcing gun laws restricting gun possession for marijuana users, federal law is strictly against marijuana users from purchasing firearms.

If you plan to purchase a firearm from an authorized federal firearms licensee in Utah, you must complete the ATF Form 4473. On the form, the prospective buyer who has a Utah medical cannabis card must admit to using banned substances or otherwise risk being charged with perjury, punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment.

Note that the Gun Control Act describes anyone using marijuana, whether for recreational or medicinal purposes, as an unlawful marijuana user, regardless of the legalization status of the substance in the state where the purchase is to be made. The Gun Control Act references marijuana's Schedule I Substance classification under the Controlled Substances Act.

This conflict between federal and state laws regarding gun rights for medical marijuana users is a disadvantage for Utah MMJ cardholders who do not want to lose their gun rights.

Driving Restrictions

Holding a Utah medical cannabis card does not stop you from driving a vehicle within the state's jurisdictional limits. However, you may be charged with marijuana DUI if law enforcement believes that you are under the influence of marijuana to the point where such an influence makes you incapable of safely driving a vehicle. You may also be charged with marijuana DUI if law enforcement believes you were operating a motor vehicle with any measurable controlled substance, such as marijuana, or a metabolite of marijuana in your body.

Utah's zero tolerance for driving while impaired by cannabis means you risk being charged with a crime even when you have not used marijuana while driving. Note that metabolites from marijuana use may remain in the body for several hours after use.

Also, if you intend to obtain a commercial driver's license, your status as a medical cannabis user puts your application in jeopardy. While Utah does not stop MMJ cardholders from obtaining driver's licenses, CDLs are administered by the United States Department of Transportation under federal law. Since federal law bans marijuana use, even for medicinal purposes, commercial driver's licensees, despite having a Utah medical cannabis card, may lose their jobs if they fail marijuana drug tests.

Annual Renewal

Utah medical cannabis cards expire and need to be renewed to keep enjoying the benefits it offers. Although recommending medical marijuana providers are allowed to select a shorter expiration date of 3 or 6 months, typical cards are valid for one year after the dates of issue. The Utah medical cannabis program advises patients to initiate their renewal process within 30 days of the expiration of their current MMJ cards.

MMJ cardholders need to be re-examined and recertification by their medical marijuana providers prior to renewing their MMJ cards. Typically, a fee is charged by medical providers for evaluation and certification and costs between $5 and $250. The fee depends on the provider's location, field of practice, and other factors. Utah allows recertification appointments to be conducted by telemedicine.

It costs $15 to renew a patient card. The renewal fee and the consultation fee for medical cannabis recertification may add up to an inconvenient financial commitment for some MMJ cardholders.

Federal Prohibitions

Having a Utah medical cannabis card makes obtaining federal employment unlikely due to the federal prohibition on marijuana use. Federal regulations trump state statutes when it comes to laws pertaining to federal agencies. Therefore, since the Controlled Substance Act categorizes cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic, federal employees are expected to refrain from using such a substance. While no Utah law restricts federal employees from obtaining medical marijuana, federal employees who have Utah medical cannabis cards risk termination if they fail drug tests. Note that federal employees often undergo random drug tests. A Utah medical cannabis card will not provide protection for a federal employee who fails a drug test.

Furthermore, Utah medical cannabis cardholders put their tenancy at risk if they reside in federally funded housing. Federally assisted properties are operated pursuant to federal laws, meaning that operations considered unlawful federally may not be conducted on federally assisted housing in Utah. Therefore, a Utah medical cannabis card does not make cannabis possession, use, or cultivation legal in federally-funded housing.

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