**Can You Smoke Weed in Public in Utah? **
- Recreational cannabis is illegal in Utah
- Medical cannabis is legal for Utahns with qualifying conditions who have obtained Utah medical cannabis cards. Out-of-State patients with temporary medical cannabis cards issued under the state’s medical cannabis program may also access medical cannabis in Utah
- The home cultivation of cannabis by patients and caregivers is illegal
- The Compassionate Use Board (CUB) is responsible for reviewing all medical cannabis card applications for patients under 21 and those with conditions not listed in the Utah medical cannabis act
- Patients with conditions not listed in the Utah medical cannabis act may petition the CUB for medical cannabis cards, which will review complete petitions and recommend eligibility on a case-by-case basis
Is Marijuana Legal in Utah?
Recreational cannabis is illegal in Utah owing to the substance’s classification as a controlled drug per state law. However, medical marijuana has been legal since 2018, allowing individuals with approved medical conditions afforded the legal rights to access restricted quantities of medical cannabis under the state’s medical cannabis program. The qualifying conditions in Utah include persistent nausea, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, PTSD, autism, terminal illnesses, and rare conditions with inadequate conventional treatments.
The Utah Medical Cannabis Act regulates the distribution and sale of medical cannabis, with sales commencing in 2020. Various types of medical marijuana cards are issued to qualifying individuals, patient cards for adults with approved conditions, guardian cards for parents or legal guardians of minors, provisional patient cards for eligible minors, caregiver cards for adults caring for patients, and non-Utah resident cards for visitors with out-of-state medical marijuana cards. Patients with unexpired medical marijuana cards can purchase medical cannabis products according to their Qualified Medical Provider's recommended dosages, not exceeding certain limits within a 30-day period.
Note that using medical cannabis in public places or on federal property is illegal. Smoking cannabis and purchasing or selling edible products like candies, cookies, and brownies are also prohibited. Acceptable forms of medical cannabis in Utah include aerosols, tablets, concentrated oils, liquid suspensions, capsules, gelatinous cubes, transdermal preparations, wax or resin, and medical cannabis devices like vape pens. Additionally, individuals can purchase hemp extract or CBD oil with low THC content, not exceeding 0.3%.
Utah Marijuana Laws in 2023
The following amendments were made to the Utah Medical Cannabis Act in the 2023 legislative session:
- HB 72: House Bill 72 is a piece of legislation that revises Utah's medicinal cannabis governance system. The bill establishes a 9-member Medical Cannabis Policy Advisory Board that will be staffed by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and composed of various stakeholders such as medical providers, researchers, patient advocates, cannabis industry representatives, law enforcement officials, and members of the general public. The board will provide recommendations on medicinal cannabis policy to the Health and Human Services Interim Committee. \
The measure also extends the expiration date for the working group on the medicinal cannabis governance structure, comprising six legislators. This working group will undertake additional analyses of the state's governance system for medicinal cannabis throughout the next year and may make other recommendations to the Health and Human Services Interim Committee. \
Furthermore, HB 72 transfers the oversight and regulation of medical cannabis pharmacies and couriers from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF). Three DHHS workers will be transferred to UDAF as a result of this adjustment. The measure establishes a transition period between July 1, 2023, and January 1, 2024, during which UDAF may request help from DHHS in carrying out its new responsibilities. DHHS and UDAF intend for UDAF to assume its additional responsibilities on July 1, 2023
- SB 137: Senate Bill 137 increases the issue time for medical cannabis cards from six months to one year, allowing patients to have extended access to medicinal cannabis without having to renew their cards as regularly. This adjustment is intended to relieve patients' burdens and expedite the process of getting medicinal cannabis. \
SB 137 also provides provisions for the use of electronic signatures for medical cannabis card applications and renewals, making the process more efficient and accessible to patients. Furthermore, the law makes it clear that a patient's use of medicinal cannabis cannot be used as proof of impairment in certain judicial processes
- HB 230: House Bill 230 creates the Center for Medical Cannabis Research (Center) within the University of Utah and establishes its duties. The bill requires the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to work with the Center to create guidance on medical cannabis use. The Center will be funded by the DHHS Qualified Patient Enterprise Fund
- SB 38 and SB 40: SB 38 and SB 40 amended and removed sections of the Utah Health Code and the Utah Human Services Code as a result of the Departments of Health and Human Services merging to form one agency - the Department of Health and Human Services
- SB 91: SB 91 introduces several provisions related to medical cannabis in Utah. The bill grants the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) the authority to prohibit certain ingredients in medical cannabis products based on recommendations from public health authorities like the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). This includes synthetic or artificially derived cannabinoids not naturally found in cannabis plants. \
The labeling requirements for medical cannabis products are modified to include a mention of the potential increased risk of mental illness associated with cannabis use. Specifically, raw cannabis or cannabis products sold in vaporizer cartridges must include warning labels stating the association between vaping cannabis-derived products and lung injury and the association between inhalation of cannabis smoke and lung injury. \
SB 91 also mandates heavy metal testing for medical cannabis vaporizer cartridges, ensuring the safety of these products. Additionally, it allows cannabis production establishments to maintain a liquid cash account instead of a surety bond, providing flexibility in financial management. \
Another significant change brought by the bill is the removal of the license cap for independent testing laboratories that test medical cannabis. This modification allows for greater accessibility and availability of testing facilities in the state
Timeline of Cannabis Law in Utah
The following is the cannabis legalization timeline in Utah:
- 2014: HB 105 was passed by the state, creating a legal right for persons diagnosed by neurologists with intractable epilepsy and registered with the state to have and use CBD-rich extracts to treat their conditions. According to the regulations of HB 105, CBD extracts must contain a minimum 15% CBD and but no more than 0.3% THC. The extracts must also be free of any form of psychoactive substance
- 2017: Utah lawmakers approved HB 130 to provide a solution to one of the issues created by HB105. HB 105, while allowing patients with epilepsy to access CBD extract to treat their conditions, did not offer a workable system for patients to access medical cannabis. HB 130 allowed persons with approvals for an Institutional Review Board from the United States Department of Health and Human Services to import and distribute cannabis and cannabis products
- 2018: With cannabis remaining difficult to access in Utah, voters approved Proposition 2, allowing patients to have and use medical cannabis subject to certain restrictions. The law also allowed licensed facilities to cultivate, process, test, and sell medical cannabis
- 2018: In the period leading up to the 2018 Election in Utah, the intense discussions surrounding Proposition 2 in Utah resulted in a collaborative effort between Governor Gary Herbert, the Utah Legislature, and proponents and opponents of the proposition. They worked together to develop a compromise cannabis law, irrespective of the vote's outcome. \
The resulting compromise bill aimed to address various aspects of medical cannabis regulation. It included provisions to ease the requirements for renewing medical cannabis cards, establish stricter qualifications for caregivers and guardians, provide employment protections for patients, and regulate the consumption of medical marijuana. In December 2018, the Utah Legislature passed the compromise bill, known as HB 3001 or the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, and Governor Herbert promptly signed it into law on the same day
- 2019: Utah lawmakers approved SB 1002 to increase the number of medical cannabis dispensaries to 14
- 2020: Governor Herbert signed SB 121, overhauling the state cannabis laws. First, SB 121 eliminates raw cannabis flower "blister" packaging requirements for raw cannabis flower. The law also changes driving and cannabis metabolite laws. Drivers will no longer be penalized solely for having inactive cannabis metabolites, as they do not always indicate intoxication. \
SB 121 extends medical cannabis eligibility to include patients suffering from conditions other than the previously approved diseases and conditions. The measure also afforded persons with specific cannabis-related convictions to have them
- 2020: Governor Herbert signs HB 425 into law, delaying until the end of 2020 the requirement for patients to obtain medical cannabis cards from the Utah Department of Health. Under HB 435, patients could continue using recommendations in the form of a doctor's letter
- 2021: A doctor's affirmative defense letter was no longer accepted as medical cannabis documentation. Henceforth, medical cannabis patients were required to get medical cannabis cards from the Utah Department of Health to buy medical cannabis
- 2021: Governor Spencer Cox signs SB 192, making the following amendments to the Utah Medical Cannabis Act:
- Possession of out-of-state medical marijuana for patients extended through June 2021
- Utah Department of Health was authorized to issue a 15th Medical Cannabis pharmacy license
- Medical cannabis transactions are to be reviewed by Pharmacy Medical Providers
- Medical cannabis card holders are not permitted to alter or remove product processor’s labels from medical cannabis containers
- Qualified Medical Providers (QMPs) now have the option to submit treatment and medication history to the state’s Electronic Verification System, if the QMP determines the information is relevant
- 2021: Governor Cox signed SB 170, allowing podiatrists to become Qualified Medical Providers. QMPs who are PAs (physician assistants) no longer require supervision from physicians who are QMPs
- 2021: Medical cannabis processors are no longer permitted to make medical cannabis products with sugar coatings
- 2021: Out-of-state medical cannabis purchases are no longer permissible for Utah medical cannabis patients. All purchases are now required to be made at state-licensed pharmacies. The Utah Department of Health mandates that a potential medical cannabis patient’s first visit with a QMP must be in-person. Renewal visits via telemedicine systems are permitted. Non-Utah residents may apply for temporary medical cannabis cards using the Utah Electronic Verification System
Federal Legalization of Weed in 2023
Although there is an increasing number of states legalizing cannabis in the United States, the substance remains federally prohibited, despite efforts from bipartisan lawmakers to pass legislation supportive of the industry. Two recent moves toward cannabis legalization are the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act and the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA).
On May 28, 2021, Representative Jerrold Nadler reintroduced the MORE Act in the House of Representatives. If passed into law, the act would effectively end the federal government's prohibition on cannabis. The House had previously passed the MORE Act in December 2020, but it did not progress in the Senate.
The MORE Act has far-reaching implications, seeking to decriminalize cannabis for adults by removing it from the controlled substances list, eliminating associated criminal penalties, and taking significant steps toward criminal justice reform, social justice, and economic development.
On July 21, 2022, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senators Cory Booker and Ron Wyden formally submitted the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA) to the Senate. According to Senator Booker, if enacted, the CAOA would end the federal prohibition on cannabis and also allow states to implement their own cannabis laws.
In addition to decriminalizing cannabis, the CAOA would also mandate the expungement of existing low-level federal cannabis convictions and address restorative justice measures for communities disproportionately impacted by the "war on drugs." These legislative efforts reflect a growing recognition of the need for cannabis policy reform at the federal level, aiming to rectify past injustices and provide more comprehensive regulation of the cannabis industry.
Can I Use Cannabis in Utah?
Medical cannabis is the only permitted form of consuming cannabis legally in Utah. The state bans adult-use cannabis but permits patients with the approved conditions to possess and use up to 113 grams of cannabis flower (unprocessed) and 20 grams of THC in all other medical dosage forms. If you are a registered patient in Utah with an unexpired medical cannabis card, you can use cannabis in the form of aerosols, tablets, capsules, concentrated oils, wax, resin, transdermal patches, flower, and vaping pens.
Per the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, it is illegal to use cannabis in smokable and edible forms. Permitted forms of medical cannabis may be used on private property but not in public locations or on federal property. Note that private employers retain the right to prohibit cannabis use in workplaces. Hence, Utah businesses may have zero-tolerance policies for medical cannabis use and include marijuana in their drug testing programs for existing and newly-hired employees.
How The Legal Sale Of Cannabis In Utah Happens
Utah only allows licensed medical cannabis pharmacies in the state to sell cannabis. These facilities can only sell medical cannabis in the permitted forms under the Utah Medical Cannabis Act. The state also approved a seed-to-sale tracking application that must be used by licensed businesses to track and monitor cultivation all through to sales.
Utah-licensed medical cannabis cultivators are the only entities permitted to cultivate cannabis in the state. Licensed cultivators may sell to licensed processors. Licensed processors can extract, process, and produce medical cannabis products, such as topicals, tinctures, and concentrates, and sell wholesale to state-licensed medical cannabis pharmacies (dispensaries). Utah-licensed medical cannabis dispensaries can purchase medical cannabis from licensed cultivation and processing businesses and dispense it to registered patients. Dispensaries will ensure that only individuals with valid Utah medical marijuana cards can buy medical cannabis and medical cannabis products. Dispensaries will also respect the state-imposed purchase limits by ensuring patients do not purchase more than the state-imposed limits.
Utah's laws establish different penalties for marijuana-related offenses, taking into account factors such as the amount of marijuana involved in the offense. Some of these offenses include:
- Possession of less than 1 ounce: This is considered a misdemeanor, punishable by 6 months of imprisonment. Additionally, a fine not exceeding $1,000 may be imposed
- Possession of 1 ounce to 1 pound: This offense is a misdemeanor carrying a punishment of 1 year of imprisonment. Similarly, a fine not exceeding $2,500 may be imposed
- Possession of 1-100 pounds: This offense is classified as a felony and carries a more severe punishment. This offense carries a penalty of 5 years imprisonment. In addition, a $5,000 fine may be imposed
- Possession of more than 100 pounds: This is also considered a felony offense. The punishment for this offense ranges from 1 to 15 years of imprisonment. Similarly, a fine not exceeding $10,000 can be imposed
- Cultivation in Utah is penalized based on the aggregate weight of the cannabis plants found in the offender's possession. The penalties are the same with possession offenses
- Selling marijuana of any amount is illegal: This is classified as a felony offense which attracts the punishment of 5 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $5,000
- Note that selling marijuana to minors or in the presence of minors or within 1000 feet of a school and other designated places attracts more penalties
Hash And Concentrates
- Hashish and concentrates are classified as Schedule I controlled substances and are categorized with marijuana
- The possession, distribution, or manufacture of marijuana paraphernalia is a misdemeanor (Class B) punishable by 6 months imprisonment and up to $1,000 in fines
- Paraphernalia sale is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a 12-month imprisonment and a maximum fine of $2,500
- Paraphernalia sale to a minor is a third-degree felony punishable by up to a 5-year imprisonment and up to $5,000 in fines
Driving Under The Influence Of Marijuana In Utah
- The State of Utah has a zero-tolerance law for driving while impaired due to marijuana metabolites, marijuana, and other controlled substances. It is illegal for drivers who have any detectable quantity of marijuana or a marijuana metabolite in their systems to operate or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle.
The state penalizes drugged driving offenses in the manner listed below:
- First offense: This is a misdemeanor (Class B) punishable by at least 48 consecutive hours in jail; 48 hours of community service; electronically monitored home confinement; participation in an educational course; and impose at least a $700 fine. The court may also impose probation or direct the offender to undergo a substance abuse treatment
- If 21 or older: suspension of the offender’s driver’s license for at least 120 days
- If under 21: suspension of driver’s license until the offender becomes 21 years of age or 120 days, whichever is longer
- Second offense (occurring within 10 years of the first offense): This is a misdemeanor (Class B) punishable by no less than 240 consecutive hours in jail; 240 hours of community service; or electronically monitored home confinement; participation in an educational course; and a fine of at least $800; and the court may also impose probation or substance abuse treatment
- If 21 or older: suspension of the offender’s driver's license for 2 years
- If under 21: suspension of offender’s driver’s license until the individual reaches age 21, or 2 years, whichever is longer
- Third or subsequent offense (occurring within 10 years of the second offense): This is categorized as a third-degree felony punishable by up to a maximum 5-year imprisonment term, and a fine of between $1,500 and $2,500
Note that the following conditions may increase the penalties for the offender:
- If an offender inflicts bodily injury upon another as a result of operating the vehicle negligent manner while driving under the influence
- If the offender is with a passenger under 16 in the vehicle when the offense was committed
- If the offender is aged 21 or older and had a passenger under 18 in the vehicle at the time of the offense
Possible Remedies For Violators Of Utah Marijuana Laws
In Utah, individuals who violate marijuana laws may face legal repercussions. However, potential remedies are available based on the specific circumstances of the offense. Here are some options to consider:
- Legal Defense: If charged with a marijuana-related offense, you have the right to present a legal defense. This can involve challenging the evidence presented by the prosecution, questioning the legality of the search or seizure, or arguing for a reduction in charges or penalties
- Probation: Depending on the seriousness of the offense and your criminal history, the court may impose probation instead of incarceration. During probation, you will need to comply with specific conditions such as drug testing, counseling, and regular check-ins with a probation officer
- Plea Bargain: Sometimes, a plea bargain may be an option. This involves reaching an agreement between the defendant and the prosecutor's office. By pleading guilty to a lesser offense or accepting a reduced sentence, you can avoid going to trial
- Pretrial Diversion Programs: If you are a first-time offender and your case meets certain criteria, you may qualify for a pretrial diversion program. These programs typically involve rehabilitation, education, or community service. Successfully completing the program may result in the dismissal of charges or a reduced sentence
It is recommended that you consult with a legal professional who specializes in marijuana laws to understand which remedy may be applicable to your situation. An experienced attorney can help you navigate the legal process.
Confiscation Of Assets In Utah
Utah's asset forfeiture laws encompass confiscating assets linked to marijuana offenses. These laws grant law enforcement agencies within the state the authority to seize properties and assets believed to be connected to criminal activities, including offenses involving controlled substances like marijuana.
If individuals are convicted of marijuana-related offenses in Utah, the court can order the forfeiture of their assets. This may include vehicles, real estate, cash, and other valuable properties associated with illegal cannabis activities.
What is Utah’s Cannabis History?
Utah's prohibition of cannabis predates the nationwide restriction of the substance in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Utah's ban on cannabis was in 1915.
In 2014, Governor Gary Herbert signed HB 105 into law, which provided individuals diagnosed with intractable epilepsy the right to possess and use low-THC CBD oil as long as they have physician's recommendations. The law specified the required CBD and THC content, with a minimum of 15% CBD and no more than 0.3% THC, while ensuring the absence of other psychoactive substances. However, the legislation did not establish a practical framework for patients to access the authorized CBD.
In 2015, Senator Madsen introduced SB 259 to allow patients with specific conditions, including AIDS, ALS, cachexia, nausea, cancer, epilepsy, and Crohn's disease, to use medical marijuana legally. The bill was defeated in the Utah Senate in the same year. In the following year, Senator Madsen again introduced SB 73 to legalize medical cannabis while also putting regulations for the cultivation, distribution, and rule enforcement for cannabis operations in place. SB 73 passed the Senate but not the House Health and Human Services Committee.
In an effort to address this issue, Utah lawmakers passed HB 130 in 2017, aiming to grant patients access to CBD. Unfortunately, the system created under this law proved to be impractical. It restricted the importation and distribution of authorized cannabis and cannabis products to those who obtained approval from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for an Institutional Review Board study.
In 2018, Representative Daw, Brad M. introduced HB 195 to afford terminally ill patients in Utah the "right to try" marijuana for medical purposes. In March of that year, the bill was passed by the Senate and signed into law later in the same month. The bill exempts qualifying individuals from the state’s Controlled Substances Act penalties. However, HB 195 failed to specify how or where qualified patients could receive medical marijuana.
A significant milestone occurred on November 6, 2018, when Utah voters approved Proposition 2, allowing patients to obtain and utilize medical marijuana. This approval also paved the way for the establishment of state-licensed facilities responsible for cultivating, processing, testing, and selling cannabis for medicinal purposes.
Leading up to the election, the enthusiasm surrounding Proposition 2 sparked negotiations between various stakeholders, including Republican Governor Gary Herbert, the Utah Legislature, and both proponents and opponents of the proposition. These discussions resulted in a compromise cannabis law that aimed to address the concerns of all parties involved, irrespective of the vote's outcome.
The compromise bill included provisions such as relaxed requirements for medical cannabis card renewal, stricter qualifications for caregivers or guardians, employment protections for patients, and regulations pertaining to the consumption of medical marijuana. On December 3, 2018, the legislature passed this bill, known as the Utah Medical Cannabis Act or HB 3001, which Governor Herbert promptly signed into law.
In 2019, further progress was made as Utah lawmakers passed SB 1002, increasing the number of authorized medical cannabis dispensaries to 14. This legislation aimed to expand access to medical cannabis, and subsequently, the first medical cannabis dispensary opened its doors in March 2020.
Before addressing COVID-19 emergency response legislation, Utah implemented SB 161, SB 121, and HB 425. SB 121 facilitated the expungement of certain cannabis-related convictions, and HB 425 waived specific ID card requirements to improve access to medical marijuana during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What are the Restrictions on Cannabis in Utah?
Utah imposes the following restriction on cannabis:
- It is illegal to possess, manufacture, sell, distribute, or use cannabis for recreational purposes
- You may only access medical cannabis if you are a medical marijuana patient registered with the state
- Medical cannabis use is illegal in public places
- Cannabis use is illegal in the workplace if your employer has a workplace policy prohibiting cannabis use
- Patients and caregivers are prohibited from cultivating cannabis at home, even for medical use
- No patient may possess more than 113 grams of unprocessed cannabis (flower) and 20 grams of total composite THC in other medicinal dosage forms
- Health insurance plans and policies do not cover medical cannabis in Utah
- Smokable forms of medical cannabis are prohibited, as are edible forms