An Overview Of Marijuana Drug Charges In The State Of Utah

Interviewer: Does the amount of marijuana that I had in my car matter even if it was just a small amount?

Matthew Nebeker: Yes.  Amounts come into play when the prosecutors are deciding which kind of charges to file for the possession of the Marijuana.  And I can clarify that a little bit and clarify why under our controlled substances act here in Utah, Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, meaning it has no medicinal purposes.  And so, it’s still illegal to possess it or consume it and quantity does matter.  Now, would you like me to go into a little bit on what degree it is.

An Individual May Be Charged With Possession of Marijuana Even for Very Small Amounts

Interviewer: What if it was just like a small amount like just like a stem or pieces like, a very small amount of Marijuana, could someone still get charged for that?

Matthew Nebeker: Yes.  Even very small amounts, the state in some other language in the statute contemplates is that any measurable amount.  So, even if it’s a little flake or a seed or something like that and they find it in the car, or on the seat or just any tiny little piece of stem and they can collect that and they can send it to the lab.  If the lab analyst, has enough there to break it down and make it a valid and accurate assessment of what exactly it is, then the prosecution will likely charge the person for even just a tiny amount.

So, I would say any measurable amount as well.  We’re talking about if you have any measurable amount, you can be charged for possession of it.

Often a Traffic or DUI Stop May Lead to Marijuana Possession Charges

Interviewer: What circumstances normally result in a marijuana possession charge?

Matthew Nebeker: What usually happens and how this comes into play with DUI a little bit if someone is stopped for, you know, a traffic violation or equipment violation and a DUI investigation is conducted and there, the individual is arrested and they do an inventory search after the arrest.  And a lot of times, they don’t find, you know, these additional control substances.  If there’s a large amount of Marijuana, sometimes officers will say that they can smell that as they call it “Un-burnt marijuana” or ‘Fresh marijuana” and they say that that odor is so strong, you know, just outside of the vehicle standing there talking to the driver, they’ll say that they can smell it.

Possession of Less than One Ounce of Marijuana is a Class B Misdemeanor Punishable by up to Six Months in Jail

That’s how the officers can find the probable cause, I should say, to continue the investigation for the possession of the Marijuana.  But in a lot of cases, it’s just small amounts.  And so, you know, we’re talking less than 1 ounce of Marijuana would be considered a Class B misdemeanor in Utah and that’s punishable by up to six months in jail and/or $1,000 in fines.  And then, it goes up from there.  So, the more you have, we’re going to keep climbing.  So, if you have more than an ounce but less than 16 ounces, you jump up and can be charged as a class A misdemeanor under our statute.  And the A misdemeanor, possession or consumption, is a year in jail and then, and/or up to $2,500 in fines.  And so, that’s getting pretty serious.

Possession of 100 Pounds of Marijuana is a Second Degree Felony Punishable by Up to 15 Years in Prison

At this point, you’re in a district court, in front of a district court judge and you’re to be looking at a year.  And then, from there, it goes up to 16 ounces to less than 100 pounds would be a third-degree felony and that occurs with a maximum of $5,000 fine and 0 to 5 years in the state prison and then, the final charge under our statute is 100 pounds or more would be a second-degree felony and that you could do one to 15 years in the prison and up to $10,000 in fines, in penalties.

Larger Drug Busts Occur Mostly in the Southern Part of Utah State

So, we don’t see a lot of those larger quantities unless it’s in the southern part of our state.  There is the inner state that kind of cuts our phone call radar, Interstate 70, it ties into Interstate 15, which takes you down to Las Vegas.  And that corridor’s still there, there’s then some pretty large drug bust of all kinds of illegal controlled substances and Marijuana.  You know this is where you would see one of those charges where you have 100 pounds or more in someone’s possession, it’s along that corridor.  But it’s also possible to have that, in someone’s house here in the city, you know, if they are preparing to distribute that or something like that.  So, it’s pretty serious offenses.

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