Marijuana Offenses

Although many states around Utah have legalized or at least decriminalized marijuana. Utah has taken a different approach by continuing to arrest people for possessing even small amounts of marijuana. Utah also has a mandatory drivers license suspension for any marijuana conviction.

Utah’s approach to prosecuting marijuana crimes is very intriguing because it reveals an interesting cultural clash. If you look at a map of the western United States, every state except three - Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho - have either decriminalized marijuana or made its medical use legal. That triangle of states (the Utah-Wyoming-Idaho anti-marijuana triangle) remains a kind of island of conservatism with regard to marijuana in a sea of states that have taken a much more laid-back—even friendlier—approach.

Why has Utah remained so steadfast in its conservative approach, even to the point of rejecting the progressive trends of its western neighbors? As criminal defense attorneys in Salt Lake City fighting cannabis charges, we see every day how Utah continues to operate with a war-on-drugs attitude. That attitude, coupled with its relatively conservative legislative culture, means that Utah has tough penalties for marijuana usage, possession, and purchase.

But in some courtrooms with some judges, we are beginning to see a shift in cultural attitudes—a shift somewhat away from the ultra-conservative approach. Many judges are becoming more and more sympathetic to the negative effects of the conservative marijuana laws. Judges are becoming sympathetic to marijuana use—but this is probably because they are sympathetic to the punishments that accompany it. 

Factors tipping the balance lately include how aggravated people are with law enforcement's approach to seizures and asset forfeitures against those found possessing or trafficking marijuana in some form. Frustration with this invasion into the lives of citizens is leading to an erosion in the 1980s war-on-drugs attitudes that brought Utah into the marijuana-crackdown camp in the first place.

Fortunately—and ironically—Utah also has some of the best laws in the country for getting that seized property back. The fact remains that taking an aggressive approach to fighting the marijuana charges at every stage often leads to a better result.

Attorney for Marijuana Crimes in Salt Lake City, Utah

At Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat, LLP, we have a proud history of fighting marijuana charges at every level. We understand Utah's marijuana laws and the best way to fight the charges at every stage of the case.

The defense of cannabis charges requires the assistance an experienced attorney well versed in complicated search and seizure issues. The attorneys at Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat, LLP are experienced in fighting these difficult cases.

Offenses for possession, possession with intent to sell, cultivation, or delivery come with harsh penalties. Many expect that Utah will be one of the last states in the country to enact meaningful reforms of its marijuana laws.

Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat, LLP, is one of Utah's premier marijuana defense firms. The firm has handled cases of every type involving drug crimes. Give us a call today at (801) 532-5297 so we can review your case and go over the best options for your defense.


Laws for Simple Possession of Marijuana in Utah

On March 31, 2015, Governor Herbert signed into law House Bill 348, also known as the "Justice Reinvestment Initiative," which decreased the penalties for several different types of drug crimes including the simple possession or use of marijuana. The new legislation removed the tiered penalty structure for possession of marijuana. The changes in Utah law in 2015 related to lessening the penalties for marijuana crimes were intended to encourage "substance use disorder treatment in the community (where treatment is more effective) for non-violent offenders rather than incarceration."

The changes in Utah's marijuana laws in 2015 related to lessening the penalties for cannabis crimes. These changes in marijuana laws in this state were intended to encourage "substance use disorder treatment in the community (where treatment is more effective) for non-violent offenders rather than incarceration."

Now the current version of Section 58-37-8(2)(d), the possession of marijuana is a class B misdemeanor for either a first or second offense. The maximum penalties for a Class B misdemeanor include a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to six months in jail. Possession of marijuana, for a third offense is a class A misdemeanor. A fourth or subsequent conviction for possession of marijuana is a third-degree felony.

Section 58–37–8 of the Utah Code still references the quantity of drugs as it relates to marijuana. See Utah Code Ann. § 58–37–8(2)(b)(i) (“Any person convicted of violating Subsection (2)(a)(i) with respect to ... marijuana, if the amount is 100 pounds or more, is guilty of a second degree felony....”).

Before House Bill 348 was signed into law, the following penalties applied:

  • a distinction was made between the possession of less than one ounce or more than one ounce with the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana being charged as a Class B misdemeanor;
  • the possession of one to sixteen ounces of marijuana not yet extracted from the plant was a Class A misdemeanor;
  • the possession of more than one pound but up to one-hundred pounds was a third degree felony;
  • the possession of more than 100 pounds is a second-degree felony; and 
  • any subsequent offense comes with a one degree greater penalty than otherwise provided in the law.

Any conviction for possession of marijuana in Utah will result in a driver's license suspension for six (6) months.


Sale of Marijuana in Utah

The sale of any amount is a second-degree felony punishable by a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $5,000. The subsequent offense of sale of marijuana is a second-degree felony.

The sale in the presence of a minor or within 1,000 feet of a school and other designated public areas is punishable one degree more than provided except a first-degree felony comes with a five-year mandatory sentence.


Cultivation of Marijuana in Utah

The charges for cultivation of marijuana in Utah depending on the aggregate weight of the plants found. Cultivation of Marijuana is classified in the same category as manufacturing of a Schedule III of IV controlled substance. 

These offenses are classified as a third-degree felony. A third-degree felony comes with a presumptive sentence of up to five years in prison and / or up to $5,000 in fines.

A second or subsequent offense is classified as a second-degree felony punishable by up to fifteen years in prison and / or up to $10,000 in fines.


Marijuana Paraphernalia in Utah 

The crime of possession of marijuana paraphernalia is a class B misdemeanor in Utah. A class B misdemeanor is punishable by a maximum sentence of 6 months imprisonment and a maximum fine of $1,000. The sale of paraphernalia is a class A misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of 1-year imprisonment and a maximum fine of $2,500. The sale of paraphernalia to a minor is a third-degree felony which is punishable by a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $5,000.

The crime of sale of drug paraphernalia is a class A misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of 1-year imprisonment and a maximum fine of $2,500. The sale of paraphernalia to a minor is a third-degree felony which is punishable by a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $5,000.

The sale of paraphernalia to a minor is a third-degree felony which is punishable by a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $5,000.


Additional Resources

Utah Laws and Penalties for Marijuana on NORML - Visit the NORML website on Utah's laws and penalties for marijuana to learn more about the consequences of a conviction for possession, sale, cultivation, hash, concentrates, and drug paraphernalia. Also find information about drugged driving, driving under the influence of marijuana and tax stamps.

Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education - TRUCE is a group of concerned patients and caregivers advocating for safe and legal access to medical cannabis in Utah. Members are diverse in ideologies making uncommon allies.

House Bill 348 Changes to Utah's Marijuana Penalties in 2015 - Visit the website of the Utah State Legislature to find the bill text of H.B. 348 “Criminal Justice Programs and Amendments” to read the original statute and the amendments that took effect on October 1, 2015.


Marijuana Lawyers in Salt Lake City, Utah

The Salt Lake City drug crimes lawyers at Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat, LLP, have been defending individuals charged with marijuana offenses for more than 30 years. Our attorneys understand Utah marijuana laws.

Contact Brown, Bradshaw & Moffat, LLP now if you have any questions about marijuana charges, or if you are ready to talk about the best way to defend yourself against felony or misdemeanor charges involving possession, possession with intent to sell, delivery, cultivation or trafficking.

Call (801) 532-5297. 


This article was last updated on Friday, Janary 6, 2017.

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