On April 14, 2020

The Complexity of Marijuana Laws in Utah

Marijuana legalization is a complex web of state and federal laws, and while medical marijuana is now legal in Utah, you could still have legal trouble if you don’t follow the laws.

The Utah legislature recently passed laws that legalize the use of cannabis for medical purposes (medical marijuana). While this is good news for people who use marijuana to treat medical conditions, it’s important to know what the law means and how state and federal laws work when they are at odds. Unfortunately it can still add up to a confusing web of what is legal and what is not, which can land you in trouble.

Marijuana Legalization

Right now marijuana is legal for adults over age 21 for any use (recreational or medical) in 11 states, and legal for medical purposes in 33 states.

In Utah you need to be diagnosed with a “qualifying medication condition” and have a healthcare provider’s recommendation (physician or nurse practitioner) to get cannabis. Currently, a letter of recommendation from your provider allows you to purchase cannabis from a single pharmacy. Letters of recommendation will work on their own through December 31, 2020. You can also get a medical cannabis card and legally purchase medical marijuana from any pharmacy. Starting in 2021, everyone will need a medical cannabis card.

Registration cards are initially valid for one month and then must be renewed every six months. It’s important that you understand the laws and follow them closely to avoid getting in trouble for purchasing marijuana from an unauthorized pharmacy or other source.

Marijuana in Neighboring States

Both Colorado and Nevada have legalized recreational marijuana in addition to medical marijuana, and the nearby states of California, Oregon, and Washington also have laws that allow for recreational use. While you can legally travel to those states to purchase and use marijuana, you cannot legally bring it back to Utah. That is true even if you have a medical cannabis card or letter of recommendation from your doctor.

Other neighboring states, like Wyoming and Nevada, do not have any laws that allow for the use or possession of marijuana, including medical cannabis. If you purchase marijuana legally in Utah with a healthcare provider’s recommendation, make sure you don’t take it out of the state.

Federal Laws and State Laws

Despite many states that have moved forward to legalize the use of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, cannabis remains a “Schedule I” controlled substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act. That means that even though you can legally possess and use marijuana for medical purposes in Utah, some places may still restrict it based on federal laws.

Employers can also still prohibit the use of marijuana based on job safety requirements—such as operating heavy machinery or driving a company vehicle—so be sure to check with your employer if you have a need to use it and make sure you won’t be at risk of violating employment policies.

The bottom line is that marijuana laws can be confusing, and while it is legal for medical purposes in the state of Utah, it’s still important for you to be aware of the laws to avoid legal trouble. If you do get in trouble, contact attorney Brad R. Anderson for your defense.