Utah Cannabis Laws

Is Cannabis Legal In Utah?
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StateRecreationalMedical MarijuanaCBD

Federal Law:

Recreational Medical MarijuanaCBD

Is recreational cannabis legal in Utah?

No. Recreational adult-use of cannabis is illegal in the state. Although Utah has made progress with its medical marijuana program, the state remains conservative regarding recreational cannabis. Anyone caught with an ounce or less of cannabis can be charged with a misdemeanor, fined up to $2500, and possibly jailed. Even possession and distribution of paraphernalia is illegal and also punishable as a misdemeanor. 

Is Medical Marijuana legal in Utah?

Yes. The state first passed a medical marijuana bill when Gov. Herbert signed HB 105 legalizing the possession and use of low-THC CBD oil for registered patients with intractable epilepsy. Like most other first-time medical marijuana bills, the legislation did not set up any system for patients to procure CBD in the state legally. 

Luckily, their program progressed in 2018 when full-strength Medical Marijuana became legal in the state with the passing of the ballot initiative, the Utah Medical Cannabis Act. The law allows for seven medical marijuana “pharmacies” in the state, but treatment is limited to topical, capsule, tablet, or oil products, excluding flower.

As Utah’s nascent medical marijuana program continues to grow, lawmakers consider easing restrictions, which patients argue are too exclusionary. 

Any patient approved by the Utah Compassionate Use Board can qualify for a medical marijuana license with a doctor’s recommendation. Some qualifying conditions applicable include:

  • Alzheimer’s 
  • ALS
  • Autism
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
  • Epilepsy/debilitating seizures
  • MS
  • Intractable Pain 
  • PTSD

Are CBD products legal in Utah? 

Yes. With the passage of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, hemp-derived CBD products are legal under federal law in the United States, as long as they contain at most 0.3% THC. 

Any and all CBD in food and drink is still federally illegal.

Utah’s Cannabis Timeline:

1915: Utah bans cannabis. 

1937: The Marihuana (archaic spelling of Marijuana) Tax Act was enacted banning cannabis at the federal level. Medical Marijuana use was still permitted.

1951: The Boggs Act, Sponsored by Hale Boggs and signed into law under President Harry S. Truman, set mandatory sentencing and increased punishment for cannabis possession. 

1969: The Marihuana Tax Act is deemed unconstitutional in the landmark Leary v. United States. Timothy Leary, a professor, and activist, was arrested for the possession of marijuana in violation of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act. Leary then challenged the act because the act required self-incrimination, which violated his Fifth Amendment rights. (The self-incrimination clause provides various protections against self-incrimination, including the right of an individual to not serve as a witness in a criminal case in which they are the defendant, better known as “Pleading the Fifth.”) The court penned the unanimous opinion by Justice John Marshall Harlan II and declared the Marihuana Tax Act unconstitutional. Therefore, Leary’s conviction was overturned.

1970: The Controlled Substances Act is enacted (replacing the unconstitutional Marihuana Tax Act). Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug, determined to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, thereby prohibiting its use for any purpose. This act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon. 

This legislation created five classifications, with specific qualifications for a substance to be included in each. The substances scheduling (classification) are determined by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Yet, Congress does have the power to schedule or de-schedule substances through legislation. Substance scheduling decisions based on its potential for abuse accepted medical use in treatment in the United States and international treaties.

Classification of Controlled Substances:

Schedule I: High potential of abuse, not acceptable for medical use

Schedule II: High potential of abuse, sometimes allowed with “severe restrictions” for medical use

Schedule II: Medium potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

Schedule IV: Moderate potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

Schedule V: Lowest potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

1984-1986: Mandatory Sentencing and the three-strikes law were created under the Reagan Administration. This accounts for some of the harshest drug laws designed, including mandatory 25-year imprisonment for certain drug offenses and the death penalty’s promotion to be used against “drug kingpins.”

1998: House Joint Resolution 117, encouraged by the passing of California’s Prop 215, the House of Representatives passed this measure to support the existing Federal legal process for determining the safety and efficacy of certain drugs.  

2014: The Rohrabacher–Farr Amendment passed in the U.S. House and signed into law prohibiting the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws.

2014: Gov. Herbert signed HB 105 legalizing the possession and use of low-THC CBD oil for registered patients with intractable epilepsy.

2018: Utah Medical Cannabis Act, legalizing the use of limited cannabis products for patient treatment. 

2018: Farm bill legalizes low-THC hemp nationwide and effectively de-schedules hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) from the Controlled Substances Act. 

2020: Utah’s medical marijuana program begins treating qualified patients.

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