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Medical Marijuana in Utah - Utah Criminal Defense Attorney

As medical marijuana use becomes legalized in more and more states, people traveling to or through Utah increasingly find themselves facing criminal prosecution for a substance that they are possessing or using for medical purposes. Utah law does not recognize marijuana prescriptions or medical marijuana cards from other states. Thus, possessing marijuana in Utah can lead to misdemeanor or felony criminal charges.

If you are facing prosecution for marijuana possession or other criminal charges, an experienced criminal attorney Based in Salt Lake City, Stephen Howard is a criminal defense lawyer who has successfully defended his clients' rights in thousands of Utah felony and misdemeanor cases. Contact us today to arrange for an initial confidential attorney consultation.

Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Purposes in Utah

The use of medical marijuana has been a controversial issue. Medical uses for marijuana are documented by some of the leading medical researchers in the country. However, there is still a strong association for many people between marijuana and "hard" drugs and other criminal activity. While some states have legalized the possession of marijuana for medical use as well as the production of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, Utah law still generally makes marijuana illegal to possess for any purpose.

Utah Marijuana Defense AttorneyEven if your doctor has recommended or prescribed the use of marijuana for medical purposes, you could still find yourself facing prosecution in Utah for possession of a controlled substance or possession with the intent to distribute. Medical marijuana possession can be a problem particularly for people visiting Utah or traveling through the state on their way somewhere else. While you may have a prescription that was legitimately issued in another state, and your use of marijuana may be strictly for medical purposes, you can still find yourself facing prosecution.

Beginning in 2014, the Utah legislature enacted an exception to the general prohibition against marijuana for medical purposes. The Utah Controlled Substances Act was amended to include a new section 58-37-4.3 (see full text below) that legalizes the possession or use of certain hemp extracts only for the treatment of "intractable" epilepsy. Strict conditions must be met to qualify for this exception. But other than this limited exception, Utah generally does not recognize medical marijuana as an exception to the criminal laws governing controlled substances and the possession of marijuana.

Penalties for Marijuana Possession in Utah

Criminal charges for marijuana possession in Utah begin at the class B misdemeanor level. Depending on the amount of marijuana possessed, the proximity to a drug free zone, and any intent to distribute, the penalties can be increased to the felony level in some cases.

Even at the class B misdemeanor level, a conviction for possession of marijuana carries the possibility of up to six months in prison and a fine (including surcharge) of up to $1,900. As a third-degree felony, possession of marijuana (either by amount or for distribution) can carry a penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine (including surcharge) of up to $9,500.

Finding a Utah Criminal Defense Lawyer in Salt Lake City

Utah Criminal Defense AttorneyBased in Salt Lake City, criminal defense lawyer Stephen Howard offers legal services to clients throughout Utah. He has achieved not guilty verdicts, dismissals, and reversals on appeal for clients facing some of the most serious criminal charges on the books in Utah. If you are facing prosecution for possession of medical marijuana, contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.

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Full Text of Utah Code 58-37-4.3

Following is the full text of Utah Code 58-37-4.3, which provides limited exceptions to Utah's controlled substance laws for the possession of hemp extract for medical purposes. (Analysis and commentary are in italics.)

Utah Code 58-37-4.3 - Exemption for Use or Possession of Hemp Extract

Subsection (1) provides a narrow definition for the term "hemp extract" as used in this statute. The extract can contain only limited THC and must contain no other psychoactive substances.

(1) As used in this section, "hemp extract" means an extract from a cannabis plant, or a mixture or preparation containing cannabis plant material, that:
  (a) is composed of less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol by weight;
  (b) is composed of at least 15% cannabidiol by weight; and
  (c) contains no other psychoactive substance.

Subsection (2) sets forth the conditions under which a person may possess or use hemp extract as defined under subsection (1). The exceptions only apply if the hemp extract is being used to treat "intractable" epilepsy, the hemp extract meets certain restrictions, and the person possessing or using the hemp extract has a current registration card issued by the Department of Health.

(2) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, an individual who possesses or uses hemp extract is not subject to the penalties described in this chapter for possession or use of the hemp extract if the individual:
  (a) possesses or uses the hemp extract only to treat intractable epilepsy, as defined in Section 26-56-102;
  (b) originally obtained the hemp extract from a sealed container with a label indicating the hemp extract's place of origin, and a number that corresponds with a certificate of analysis;
  (c) possesses, in close proximity to the hemp extract, a certificate of analysis that:
    (i) has a number that corresponds with the number on the label described in Subsection (2)(b);
    (ii) indicates the hemp extract's ingredients, including its percentages of tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol by weight;
    (iii) is created by a laboratory that is:
      (A) not affiliated with the producer of the hemp extract; and
      (B) licensed in the state where the hemp extract was produced; and
    (iv) is transmitted by the laboratory to the Department of Health; and
  (d) has a current hemp extract registration card issued by the Department of Health under Section 26-56-103.

Subsection (3) extends the exceptions under subsection (2) to a parent or legal guardian who administers hemp extract to a minor.

(3) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, an individual who possesses hemp extract lawfully under Subsection (2) and administers hemp extract to a minor is not subject to the penalties described in this chapter for administering the hemp extract to the minor if:
  (a) the individual is the minor's parent or legal guardian; and
  (b) the individual is registered with the Department of Health as the minor's parent under Section 26-56-103.

Finding a Marijuana Defense Attorney in Salt Lake City, Utah

If you are facing prosecution for marijuana possession or other criminal charges, it is important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Based in Salt Lake City, criminal lawyer Stephen Howard has successfully defended his clients' rights in drug cases ranging from first-degree felony distribution to misdemeanor possession charges. He has also successfully handled a wide range of other criminal cases ranging from homicide to DUI, and virtually everything in between.

Contact us today to arrange for an initial confidential attorney consultation.


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Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

Attorney Stephen Howard practices as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC and Stephen W. Howard, PC.

Offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties
340 East 400 South, Suite 25, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
952 S. Main St., Suite A, Layton, UT 84041

Call now to arrange for a confidential initial consultation with an experienced and effective Utah criminal defense lawyer.

In Salt Lake City, call 801-449-1409.
In Davis County, call 801-923-4345.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

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