A marijuana possession charge in Utah can be filed as a misdemeanor or as a felony charge, depending on a variety of circumstances. Any Utah marijuana possession charge carries the possibility of jail time and substantial fines. If you are facing prosecution for marijuana or other drug-related charges, an experienced drug crimes and criminal defense attorney can make all the difference.
Second-Degree Felony Marijuana Charges
At the second-degree felony level, a marijuana conviction in Utah carries the possibility of up to 15 years in prison and a $19,000 fine (including surcharge). Marijuana possession can be filed as a second degree felony under the following circumstances: possession with the intent to distribute within a drug-free zone; actual distribution of marijuana within a drug-free zone; or possession of more than 100 pounds of marijuana (regardless of intent).
Third-Degree Felony Marijuana Possession
A third-degree felony marijuana charge in Utah is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine (including surcharge) of up to $9,500. Marijuana possession is classified as a third-degree felony under the following circumstances: possession of more than 16 ounces but less than 100 pounds of marijuana; possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute (with no drug-free zone enhancement); or growing or cultivating marijuana (regardless of the amount).
Class A Misdemeanor Marijuana Charges
A class A misdemeanor marijuana charge is punishable by up to one year in jail and fines up to $4,750 (including surcharge). Marijuana possession can be filed at the class A misdemeanor level if: the amount of marijuana possessed is at least one ounce but less than 16 ounces; or possession of less than one ounce of marijuana in a drug-free zone.
Class B Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession
Class B misdemeanor charges in Utah are punishable by up to 180 days in jail and up to $1,900 in fines (including surcharge). A basic charge of marijuana (less than one ounce) begins as a class B misdemeanor.
Defenses to Marijuana Charges in Utah
An effective defense to marijuana possession or distribution charges in Utah can involve important Constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment or Fifth Amendment. Motions may be needed seeking the suppression of evidence. Factual defenses may include constructive possession defense issues. The knowledge and intent of the defendant can serve as potential sources of a factual defense to criminal marijuana charges. A thorough understanding of procedural rules, relevant statutory provisions, and related case law can be critical to mounting a successful defense. An understanding of how substance abuse treatment and mitigation can influence the outcome of the case and lead to a successful negotiated resolution may also be critical. Possession of marijuana is a criminal offense in Utah. The amount of marijuana you have in your possession will determine the crime and penalties that you will receive for a possession offense. Marijuana possession can earn you serious penalties if you are caught with a large amount of marijuana. If you or a family member was arrested for marijuana possession, you should consult with an experienced Utah drug possession lawyer.
Utah Marijuana Possession Laws
The requirements to charge an individual with marijuana possession and other drug crimes are listed under Utah’s Controlled Substances Act. A combination of state and federal laws makes it illegal to not only possess a certain amount of marijuana but also to possess any drug paraphernalia needed to use marijuana. Marijuana possession, sometimes referred to as simple possession, is an offense that arises out of possession of marijuana for personal use. This contrast with an offense for possession with intent to distribute (PWID), a crime that focuses on the offender manufacturing and distributing drugs. The possession of marijuana is also referred to by terms like “actual possession” and “constructive possession,” depending on how law enforcement located the drugs. If an offender actually possessed marijuana when they were arrested, it means that they had it on their person or in an item that they were carrying. If an offender constructively possessed marijuana, it implies that they had knowledge of and control over the drugs found by law enforcement. For example, if you hid drugs in the trunk of your car or in a safe in your home, you will likely be charged with possession if law enforcement finds it, even if you did not have the drugs on your person.
Penalties for First Offense Marijuana Possession
To reiterate, the penalties for marijuana possession are directly correlated to the amount of marijuana that you are discovered with. If the weight of the drugs in your possession is over a certain limit, you risk being charged with a felony instead of a misdemeanor, even if this was the first time you were arrested for possession. If you are found with less than 100 pounds of marijuana, you will likely receive a class B misdemeanor charge. The penalties for a class B misdemeanor are a maximum of six months in jail and up to $1,000 in criminal fines. If you receive a class B misdemeanor conviction for marijuana possession, you may be given the option to perform compensatory service instead of paying a fine. The hours you will have to work typically depend on the amount of your criminal fine. If you were granted the option of compensatory service, you could volunteer with:
• A charity
• Utah state or local government agencies
• A business or organization approved by a Utah court
If you are arrested with over 100 pounds of marijuana in your possession, you can be charged with a second degree felony. In Utah, second degree felonies carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and $10,000 in fines. Additionally, there are other factors that could make a possession charge even more severe. For example, if you are arrested with drugs in a school zone, the penalties for possession may be increased, or you may even be charged with an additional crime. However, it is important to note that if you are a nonviolent, juvenile or first time offender, you may be eligible for drug rehabilitation programs instead of being incarcerated.
Types Of Marijuana Offenses
Marijuana is considered a Schedule I controlled substance in Utah. The amount of marijuana and crime associated with it will determine the severity of the marijuana charge and its resulting penalties. Under Utah marijuana possession laws, the following are punishable offenses, listed in order of severity.
• Possession of paraphernalia
• Possession with intent to deliver
• Distribution, sale or delivery of marijuana or paraphernalia
• Cultivation – growing and/or harvesting cannabis seeds
• Trafficking – importing into or exporting out of the state
Marijuana Possession Conviction Penalties
The potential punishment is directly dependent on to the amount of marijuana in your possession at the time of arrest. The amount in your possession also determines the classification of the charge as a misdemeanor or a felony. In addition, the number of offenses also affects the severity of the charge. The various levels of marijuana possession penalties in Utah are listed below:
• One ounce or less – class B misdemeanor
• Up to six months of jail time
• Up to $1,940 in fines and an assessment
• Possession in a drug-free zone such as a school, church or park can result in charge being upgraded to a class A misdemeanor
Between one ounce and one pound – class A misdemeanor
• Up to 12 months jail time
• Up to $4,790 in fines and an assessment
Between one and 100 pounds – third-degree felony
• Up to five years in Utah State Prison
• Up to $9,540 in fines
• Over 100 pounds – second-degree felony
• Up to 15 years in Utah State Prison
• Up to $19,040 in fines and an assessment
Utah Marijuana Distribution Penalties
Other transactions involving marijuana, such as sale and distribution, hold a greater punishment than possession alone. For a first time conviction, distribution of any amount is a third-degree felony. Penalties included with the charge are $5,000 in fines and a sentence up to five years in Utah State Prison. Distribution in a drug-free zone or in the presence of a minor, as well as subsequent conviction will increase the felony classification and penalties. At the minimum, a mandatory five-year prison sentence will be served with any first-degree felony conviction.
Permitted Prescribers of Medical Marijuana in Utah
Only those medical providers registered with the Utah Department of Health to recommend Medical Cannabis can issue recommendations for Medical Cannabis. To be deemed qualified by the department, a health care provider must:
• Be licensed in Utah
• Be a medical doctor, osteopathic physician, advanced practice registered nurse, or physician assistant
• Complete appropriate continuing medical education courses
• Have authority to prescribe Schedule II drugs
• Pay a fee of $300
Process for Legally Obtaining Medical Marijuana
If the patient does not yet have a Medical Cannabis Card, she or he must follow these steps to obtain Medical Marijuana legally in Utah:
Get a recommendation letter from a qualified medical professional.
Take the recommendation letter to a Medical Cannabis pharmacy.
The Medical Cannabis pharmacy must obtain independent confirmation from the medical provider or an employee of the medical provider that the letter is valid.
Present a valid form of photo identification.
Patients must follow these steps to obtain a Medical Cannabis Card:
The patient must be a Utah resident with at least one qualifying condition
The patient must meet in-person with a qualified medical professional.
The medical provider then certifies the patient’s eligibility for a Medical Cannabis Card online.
Patient pays a $15 application fee online.
The Utah Department of Health will approve or deny the application within 15 days.
When approved, the patient can use the card to purchase at any of the authorized Medical Marijuana pharmacies in Utah.
The initial card expires in 90 days unless the patient and provider renew online. Subsequent renewals will be valid for six months or a year.
Penalties for Violating Utah Marijuana Laws
Possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor at least, unless the possessor is a Medical Marijuana patient. Any sale of marijuana outside of one of the authorized Medical Marijuana dispensaries/pharmacies is a felony.
Marijuana Possession: Laws & Penalties
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana ranks as the most commonly used illegal drug in the United States. While some states have passed laws permitting or decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, marijuana remains an illegal controlled substance under federal law. The conflict might someday be resolved, but for now, federal and state law are at odds with each other. As a result, federal consequences are possible even when people follow state laws about marijuana use and possession.
Federal Marijuana Law
Federal drug laws classify marijuana as a Schedule I drug. A first possession offense of any measurable amount carries misdemeanor penalties of imprisonment for up to one year and a minimum $1,000 fine. The penalty increases to a felony for a second possession offense. If someone possesses marijuana in order to sell it or for other criminal reasons, the penalties become much harsher including possible mandatory prison time and forfeiture of property or money. Federal prosecutors can prosecute conduct that is legal under a state’s marijuana laws. While federal prosecution for marijuana possession when state law allows it isn’t common, the rise in the number of states authorizing certain medical and recreational marijuana use has prompted the federal government to reevaluate its enforcement policies from time to time.
State Marijuana Laws
Some states follow federal law and prohibit any possession of marijuana. But a growing number of states have enacted laws that split from federal law and allow possession of small amounts of the drug.
More than 30 states have approved medical marijuana programs. Regulations vary widely between states. To legally purchase and possess medicinal marijuana, most states require patients to register with the state or obtain a specific identification card. Some states allow patients to grow their own marijuana, while others allow access only through regulated dispensaries.
A few states have legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use by adults. But, even in these states, limits exist. In “legalized” states, laws still control:
who can use marijuana (usually adults age 21 and older)
how much marijuana is too much to have, and
where marijuana can be smoked (often not in public places).
And similar to alcohol, driving under the influence of (legal) marijuana remains illegal (and dangerous).
Instead of legalizing recreational use of marijuana, some states have decriminalized it. What’s the difference? In “decriminalized” states, the law still prohibits possession of small amounts of marijuana, but punishment is typically a civil fine or low-level criminal infraction that can’t result in jail time.
Sealing Past Convictions
A number of states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana possession allow people with past convictions to seal or expunge their old records. Depending on the state, the process can be automatic or require people to petition the court. Clearing your criminal record often helps in obtaining jobs, housing, and professional licenses.
Free Initial Consultation with Lawyer
It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506
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