What is the legal status of cannabis in Utah?
The legalization of weed in Utah is an ongoing endeavor in one of the strictest states in terms of its Cannabis views. In 1915, Utah was among the first states to prohibit the use of cannabis both medicinally and recreationally. That same year, there were over 2000 different brands of cannabis oil on the market; it made up a large portion of the pharmaceutical industry. Fast forward 99 years to 2014, and Utah was the first state to lift penalties on the use of CBD oil for patients with severe intractable epilepsy. In March 2014, HB 105 was signed into law by Governor Gary Herbert.
What is CBD? CBD, or cannabidiol, is a cannabinoid found in cannabis plants. It’s similar to THC in structure, but it produces no psychoactive effects. The medical benefits of CBD are myriad and include pain management, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and anti-anxiety/antidepressant activities. It can be extracted from industrial hemp, which by definition has less than 0.3% THC content by weight. CBD represents many of the medical characteristics of cannabis, and research into its properties has lead to greater understanding of both CBD itself, and the mechanisms of the many different conditions and disorders which have been associated with the healing effects of CBD.
HB 105 does not amount to the legalization of weed in Utah, but it does allow the Department of Agriculture, in conjunction with certain institutions of higher education, to research the agricultural and therapeutic applications of hemp. Specifically, it exempts individuals with intractable epilepsy, regardless of age, from penalties for the possession of cannabis oil containing CBD. However, it provides no means for patients to legally obtain the oil. Nonetheless, patients are allowed to bring hemp oil extract into Utah from another state provided that it has more than 5% CBD by weight and less than 0.3% THC by weight. While the law makes no provision for the legal obtainment of CBD, it is a first step in the right direction.
In October of 2016, democratic candidate for governor (and proponent of the legalization of weed in Utah) Mike Weinholtz’s wife was arrested in their home for the misdemeanor possession of 2 pounds of cannabis. She is diagnosed with advanced rheumatoid arthritis as well as a degenerative spinal condition, and she knowingly broke the law in order to use medical marijuana. Her only alternative to cannabis was to use addictive opioid painkillers in order to defeat the pain which would sometimes leave her stuck in bed for weeks on end. Her husband used the opportunity to push for reform of medical marijuana in Utah and a rescheduling of cannabis by the federal government to allow for clinical studies on the medical benefits of cannabis.
CBD oil derived from industrial hemp is 100% legal in all 50 states, as this plant never has more than trace amounts of THC, but is generally rich in CBD and other cannabinoids.