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 driver license suspension for any marijuana conviction such as simple possession, intent to distribute, and driving under the influence of marijuana.
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. These three states remain 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.
As criminal defense attorneys in Salt Lake City fighting marijuana 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.
Law enforcement has had a strict approach to seizures and asset forfeitures against those found possessing or trafficking marijuana in some form. Fortunately, Utah has some of the best laws in the country for getting 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.
We have handled cases of every type of drug crime. Give us a call today at (801) 532-5297 so we can review your case and go over the best options for your defense.
In2015, 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 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. If the amount is 100 pounds or more, is guilty of a second degree felony.”
Also, any conviction for possession of marijuana in Utah will result in a driver license suspension for six months.
The sale of any amount of marijuana is a second-degree felony punishable by a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $10,000. 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.
The charges for cultivation of marijuana in Utah depend 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 15 years in prison and/or up to $10,000 in fines.
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 six months imprisonment and a maximum fine of $1,000. The sale of paraphernalia is a class A misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of one 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.
Utah Laws and Penalties for Marijuana on NORML - The NORML website is a great resource to learn more about Utah's laws and penalties for marijuana, including consequences of a conviction for possession, sale, cultivation, hash, concentrates, and drug paraphernalia. You can 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 but stand with one voice.
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 all the complexities of Utah marijuana laws.
Contact us today at (801) 532-5297 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.
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