Utah is one of the few states where medical marijuana has been legalized. But what about recreational use?
In October 2017, Gov. Gary Herbert signed into law Senate Bill 223, which legalizes the possession and consumption of cannabis in small amounts for non-commercial purposes within state borders. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy to buy or grow weed without breaking the law.
Here are some tips on legally getting your hands (or seeds) on some quality bud in Utah.
Since laws keep changing rapidly, making things a bit confusing sometimes, check out our friends at DISA to see a complete map of every state. They have information on what is legal, medical use, recreational use, and everything else.
What’s It Like To Be A Weed Dealer In Utah
“I would say there are three different types of people who sell pot,” says Dan Huntsman, CEO of Red Leaf Edibles and head of the Utah chapter of NORML (National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws), an organization dedicated to the legalization of all drugs — including cannabis.
“There’s those without experience, like my dad [who] never sold anything before he started working here. Then there’s this group of excellent salespeople who have a natural way of talking to others, but they’re not necessarily very educated on the subject.”
Huntsman works as a licensed caregiver under SBN223, so his job title should explain why he was hired. He helps patients navigate buying edibles, concentrates, and other forms of medicinal cannabis.
The third category consists of experienced growers and sellers who know exactly what product they want to offer their clients and don’t mind doing research online and elsewhere to ensure everything runs smoothly once orders start coming in.
He notes that many dispensaries in Salt Lake City cater mainly to inexperienced buyers looking for something new and exciting while avoiding the more difficult strains such as Sour Diesel (“It tastes terrible”) or Skunk (“Very strong”).
One thing to remember when dealing with dispensary employees: They’ll probably ask if you smoke regularly, even though smoking isn’t necessary to consume any form of cannabis. That question may steer customers toward healthier options like oils, tinctures, vaporizers, and edibles, instead of joints, pipes, and bongs.
If someone offers to share a joint with you, tell them thanks but no thanks. Smoking cannabis can kill.
How Do You Know If Medical Pot Is Right For Your Condition
Medical marijuana became legal in Utah after voters approved Proposition 2 in November 2016 by 61 percent. This ballot measure allows residents over 21 years old to possess up to 1 ounce of dried flower, 10 ounces of concentrate, and three mature plants per household. However, caregivers must register with the state and obtain the Department of Agriculture licenses before cultivating or selling products.
But it didn’t take long for lawmakers to realize that SB223 could benefit from its own rules. So legislators passed House Bill 222 on Aug. 13, 2017, adding additional restrictions that will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.
According to HBBCO, these include prohibiting minors from purchasing cannabis, requiring background checks for anyone involved in the distribution, and mandating annual inspections of growing facilities by local health departments.
While HB222 still leaves room for the possibility of regulating cannabis farms like traditional agriculture operations, Republican Rep. Brad Daw said during the debate that passing a stricter bill wasn’t worth delaying the implementation of Prop 2 entirely.
Daw also admitted that he has epilepsy, making him personally aware of how CBD oil helped treat his seizures. Still, he argued against allowing parents to opt out of medicating children using cannabis extracts.
“We’ve heard testimony today from families across our state that they are concerned because their child might need medication for seizures,” Daw told fellow representatives. “And I’m worried we’ll lose that opportunity because we pushed back getting Prop 2 implemented.”
The only place in Utah where adults can purchase a full spectrum strain of medical marijuana is through registered compassion centers. These organizations provide free access to low-THC strains designed for pain relief and muscle relaxation.
Only eight compassion centers exist around the state, with two located in Salt Lake County and six spread throughout Weber, Davis, Summit, Box Elder, and Morgan counties. Patients with cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and post-traumatic stress disorder aren’t eligible to receive care via compassion centers.
On June 28, 2017, the Utah Legislature passed another piece of legislation, Senate Concurrent Resolution 100, legalizing cannabis for medical and recreational purposes. Under SCR100, citizens ages 18 and older can possess up to 8 ounces of usable cannabis and 16 ounces of total combined weight for personal use. In addition, adults can cultivate up to 12 female flowering plants and six mature males per residence.
However, unlike Prop 2, SCR100 won’t become effective until January 2020. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes intends to draft language for statewide passage by then. Until then, the state legislature plans to hold hearings next year to determine whether current laws regarding cannabis prohibition should remain intact.
SCR100 does open the possibility that Utahns can join together to create a nonprofit corporation known as a Patient Group Practice. With federal approval, PGPs could distribute medically cultivated cannabis to qualified members on behalf of qualifying individuals. As part of a PGP arrangement, patients wouldn’t pay taxes on the amount of cannabis dispensed each month.
A handful of cities in Utah already allow retail establishments to serve cannabis products. Provo, home to Brigham Young University, opened the country’s first recreational pot shop in April 2017. St. George recently began serving recreational users with the delivery service ZzzQuil Express. In addition, Ogden hosts the world’s largest outdoor cannabis trade show every September.
But most communities haven’t yet decided whether to legalize weed. For example, voters in South Jordan rejected a proposed tax last fall, despite being led to believe otherwise. And in 2015, voters overwhelmingly agreed to ban alcohol advertising on television. Yet somehow, Budweiser managed to convince locals that beer commercials were OK.
Does Everyone Use Recreational Cannabis In The State Of Utah?
Despite having a thriving medical marijuana industry, Utah ranks far below Colorado and Washington’s overall numbers. At least 5,000 people are carded annually in the state with a license. Though that number seems impressive compared to California, Florida, and Nevada, it represents just 0.2 percent of the population.
That means there’s plenty of work to do if lawmakers hope to make Utah feel more like Amsterdam.
According to the National Survey On Drug Usage And Health data, 4.3 million Americans used cannabis for the first time between 2014 and 2015. In addition, most consumers reported using recreationally rather than medicinally. Among millennials, however, 58 percent cited receiving a doctor’s prescription.
Of course, the percentage of newbies trying cannabis varies widely depending on age. For example, while roughly 75 percent of young adults aged 18 to 24 had tried cannabis in the past year, fewer than half of seniors 65 and above did.
In addition, the survey’s findings showed that nearly 38 percent of frequent marijuana users smoked daily, with roughly 15 percent consuming five days a week or less. Meanwhile, 17 percent went hard four to seven times weekly. Finally, 26 percent took light to moderate doses three to four times per week.
This information suggests that many newbie stoners prefer taking more minor hits than altogether quitting cold turkey. But for longtime smokers, simply keeping tabs on their habits is critical.
“When somebody starts using cannabis, they tend to think ‘this is relatively harmless,’ so they try harder and harder,” Huntsman explains. “Eventually, if they continue, they end up becoming addicted. Once you’re addicted, it’s tough to break off.”
Why Would Someone Want To Become A Licensed Medic And Dispensary Owner Instead?
Becoming a registered caregiver is sometimes seen as a step down from veteran status. But many advocates argue that running a compassionate center gives patients a leg up on the black market. After all, you can’t steal medicine from yourself.
Once you’ve obtained your registration from the state, you’ll be issued a unique identification badge. This provides proof of employment and residency, giving prospective buyers confidence that they’re safe from arrest. Additionally, caregivers must carry liability insurance and undergo periodic safety training. Finally, any unsold product goes straight back to the patient.
Caring for patients comes naturally to some folks. Others enjoy helping sick friends and family find the right treatment plan. Most caregivers earn modest wages, up to $25,000 a year or more.
Still unsure? Consider starting a business. More than 250 companies have received permission to operate compassionate centers since 2011. Some of these businesses employ hundreds of workers who handle production and sales duties.
For instance, Greenleaf Wellness operates 11 cultivation sites in Utah, while Terra Tech produces prerolls from a former Wendy’s restaurant in American Fork. Other successful outfits include MedMen, Midas Touch Farms, and Kiva Confections.
These entrepreneurs often come from backgrounds outside the field. For example, one owner of Greenleaf, Mike Stewart, worked in construction before pursuing his passion. Another operator, Jeremy Johnson, started building boats in Idaho before moving on to green energy projects.
Owning a dispensary makes sense financially, even if you’d rather stay behind the scenes. Thanks to recent changes made in the Tax Act, cultivators can claim deductions for expenses.