In Utah It Is Against The Law To Be Driving With Any Measurable Amount Of A Controlled Substance In Your System

Interviewer: What about people from out of state? Are there more relaxed laws for Marijuana usage, whether it’s prescription or otherwise, how does that affect them?

Matthew Nebeker: A real common issue here is only about so many more states legalizing Marijuana.  That law is still developing in Utah in my opinion, you know.  I can kind of give an example of a case that I had where the gentleman was from California.  He had a medical Marijuana card.  And in this particular case, he wasn’t charged with possession.  What had happened is he had pulled his driver’s license out of his wallet.  And while he was doing that, the officer’s seeing that right behind the identification was the Medical Marijuana Card.  And the officer asked the driver “Well, when’s the last time you used?”, and the driver said “Oh, it was, about a week ago.”  Well, in Utah, it’s against the law to be driving, once again with these keywords, “any measurable amount of a controlled substance in your system”.

Driving With a Measurable Amount of Controlled Substance Charge is Similar to a DUI Charge

This officer was knowledgeable enough to know that well, if you smoked a week ago, this Marijuana is still likely in his system.  So, he arrested him for the driving with the measurable amount of controlled substance charge.  And it’s a similar charge like a DUI.  The driver has to go through the driver’s license hearings like it was at DUI, he has to appear in court like it was at DUI and answer to those charges.  And the interesting thing about our statute is there is a defense if the person has a lawful prescription.  While I had my client contact, his provider in California and have them send us a letter saying that, he’s been diagnosed with whatever condition, then he’s been prescribed this and he’s lawfully and legally prescribed to consume Marijuana in California.

A Prescription for Medical Marijuana Does Not Provide Exemption for Possession Charges in Utah

I showed that to the prosecutor and the prosecutor, didn’t really want to argue that to a jury. It was a legal issue, was the California prescription valid in Utah, under Utah law?  And right now, different jurisdictions throughout our state are handling that issue differently.  In this particular jurisdiction, they, stopped and they said “Well, you know, we don’t want to argue this to the jury, so we are going to dismiss the charge”.  So, that’s kind of how that issue has been coming up.  But ultimately, on a possession charge, you know, they’re not under Utah law.  There is no defense like that. I can’t go to a statute and say “Well, just because you have prescription to possess this in California or Colorado or whatever, Utah law provides, under the possession statute, no exception”.

Prosecutors May Exercise Leniency With Tourists on Vacation in Utah

Matthew Nebeker: Even though you have the prescription, it doesn’t provide for that.  And so,  I find that a lot of the prosecutors are lenient if the person is here like on vacation, they’re here to enjoy one of the natural parks or they’re here to go skiing up in Park City.  We have a lot of skiers who’ll turn here, If they’re just coming in the town for a week and things get looked at when they get in trouble and they see that they have the prescriptions, a lot of prosecutors are willing to really help us like the charges go away with the minimal impact.

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