Is Weed Legal in Utah?
In Utah, medical cannabis is available to patients with qualifying conditions as designated by Proposition 2. Recreational-use cannabis remains illegal, and possession of small amounts may result in criminal penalties.
Utah voters have expanded access to medical cannabis. On Nov. 6, 2018, Utahns approved Proposition 2, allowing patients to obtain and use medical marijuana.
It also allows the creation of state-licensed facilities to grow, process, test, or sell cannabis for medicinal purposes and regulates those facilities, which include employing electronic systems to track cannabis inventory and purchases, limiting certain product types, and imposing requirements and limits on packages and advertisements.
Legal protections under Proposition 2 Utah took effect Dec. 1, 2018, but much of what is outlined in the proposition — such as issuing cards to licensing dispensaries — won’t be effective until 2020.
In the weeks leading to Election Day, the fervor generated by Proposition 2 Utah prompted Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, the Utah Legislature, and proposition proponents and opponents — including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the largest religious community in the state — to craft a compromise cannabis law regardless of whether Proposition 2 passed.
The compromise bill called for relaxing medical cannabis card renewal requirements, tightening qualifications for who can be a caregiver or guardian, offering employment protections for patients, and regulating how medical marijuana may be consumed. The Legislature passed the compromise bill Dec. 3 2018, and Herbert signed it the same day.
Prior to the passage of the altered Proposition 2 Utah, Herbert signed HB 105 in March 2014, amending Utah’s Code related to Hemp. This allowed the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) to grow industrial hemp for the purposes of agriculture or academic research. The bill also legalized possession and consumption of low-THC cannabidiol (CBD) oil for individuals with intractable epilepsy. HB 195, signed into law in 2018, granted terminally ill patients the right to try marijuana for medical purposes.
A companion bill, HB 197, also signed in 2018, gives Utah a monopoly on marijuana cultivation, processing, and sales of medical cannabis. However, in August 2019 after county-level attorneys advised the Legislature that state-run dispensaries would put public employees at risk of federal prosecution, Republican Senate Majority Leader Evan Vickers modified the plan to distribute medical marijuana through as many as 12 privately run dispensaries. The Legislature must approve the law during a special session.
Under current Utah weed laws, the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) is in charge of issuing patients medical cannabis cards, registering doctors recommending cannabis, and licensing dispensaries.
Where is it Safe to Purchase?
Currently, there are no facilities in Utah that are licensed to legally sell medical cannabis. When the state licenses private medical cannabis pharmacies, patients 18 and older, a parent or legal guardian of a minor patient, and designated caregivers may purchase medical cannabis. Each must have a medical cannabis card. All cards for patients younger than 21 must be approved by Utah’s Compassionate Use Board.
Where is it Safe to Consume?
According to Utah law, patients may use medical cannabis if they have a qualifying condition and a doctor’s recommendation. They aren’t allowed to use cannabis in public unless it’s a medical emergency, nor can they use it while driving a vehicle. They also can’t smoke cannabis.
The Utah Medical Cannabis Act specifies that medical marijuana may only be taken as a capsule, a gelatin cube that can be chewed or dissolved, concentrated oil, liquid suspension, skin patch, or sublingual pill. The act also allows for medicinal marijuana in Utah to be administered as a resin or wax or through vaping.
When having medical marijuana outside of the home, a patient must carry proof that he or she can use cannabis for medicinal purposes. With a doctor’s recommendation, a patient can assign up to two people help to obtain medical marijuana legally.
The Medical Cannabis Act says cardholders can only possess less than 113 grams, or 4 ounces, of unprocessed cannabis; or a cannabis product with less than 20 grams of THC.
According to Utah state law, possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana is a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months imprisonment and a maximum fine of $1,000. A second conviction is a class A misdemeanor, while a third or subsequent conviction could result in a third degree felony.
Possession of 1 ounce to 1 pound is a class A misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of 1 year imprisonment and a maximum fine of $2,500. Possession of more than 1 pound will result in a felony, even for first-time offenders.
to Be to Consume?
The UDAF is in charge of cannabis cultivation and processing. The altered Medical Cannabis Act removes Proposition 2’s wording that allowed for home cultivation.
Utah Medical Marijuana Registry
In terms of how to get a medical card in Utah, beginning March 1, 2020, the UDOH may start issuing cards within 15 days of receiving an eligible application for the Utah Medical Cannabis Program. Under the state’s medical marijuana laws, an applicant must be at least 18 years old or have a parent or guardian 18 or older. Patients younger than 21 will need to have their application approved by the Compassionate Use Board.
Medical conditions qualifying for cannabis under the Utah Medical Cannabis Program include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease
- Cachexia, or wasting syndrome
- Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
- Epilepsy or debilitating seizures
- Multiple sclerosis or persistent and debilitating muscle spasms
- Persistent nausea that is not significantly responsive to traditional treatment, except for nausea related to pregnancy or cannabis-induced syndromes
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that is being treated and monitored by a licensed health therapist
- Terminal illness by which the patient’s life expectancy is less than six months or conditions resulting in hospice care
- A rare condition or disease that affects fewer than 200,000 individuals in the U.S., as defined by federal law, and that is not adequately managed despite treatment attempts using conventional medications other than opioids or opiates or physical interventions
- Pain lasting longer than two weeks that is not adequately managed, in the qualified medical provider’s opinion, despite treatment attempts using conventional medications other than opioids or opiates or physical interventions
- A condition that the Compassionate Use Board (once established) approves on a case-by-case basis
For those with ongoing and debilitating pain, a doctor must conclude that the patient has pain lasting for more than two weeks or doesn’t respond to traditional medication other than opioids or opiates. For conditions not specified, a Compassionate Use Board of medical specialists will review on a case-by-case basis whether medical cannabis is acceptable for treatment.
Applicants must submit an electronic application linked to an electronic verification system while in the recommending physician’s office. The card is valid for 30 days after it’s first issued, 60 days after it’s first renewed, and six months after the second renewal, or less, depending on the determination of the patient’s doctor.
After Utah lawmakers passed HB 3001 on Dec. 3, 2018, the possession of CBD oil containing less than 0.3% THC no longer requires a hemp extract registration card. Therefore, the Utah Department of Health no longer accepts applications or renews hemp extract registration cards.
Caregivers in Utah
Up to two people may help buy and possess medical cannabis for a patient with a disability or “undue hardship” if they have a medical cannabis card with the name of the patient and designated caregiver.
A health department is expected to issue medical marijuana cards to a designated caregiver within 30 days of receiving a qualified application. They must be at least 21 years old, a Utah resident, and not be convicted of a drug distribution offense. The card is valid for the amount of time designated by the patient’s medical card and can be renewed automatically when the cardholder updates his or her status as a caregiver.
Utah doesn’t recognize medical cards issued by other states. Only Utah residents who are medical marijuana cardholders may buy cannabis from medical pharmacies in Utah.
Home Cultivation Regulations
The UDAF is in charge of cannabis cultivation and processing. The new Medical Cannabis Act removes Proposition 2’s original wording that allowed for home cultivation.