Utah Employment Law Update – November 2018
Medical Marijuana Legalized
On November 6, 2018, Utah voters approved the Utah Medical Cannabis Act (Utah Proposal 2) legalizing the medical use of marijuana for individuals with qualifying medical illnesses.
Under current Utah law:
- The state is required, by January 1, 2019, to ensure that cannabis is grown in the state and can be processed into medicinal form and to establish a state facility to sell the cannabis that has been processed into a medicinal form.
- Cannabis can be grown, processed, or sold only by the state. The state may sell cannabis only to a qualified research institution or a person who is terminally ill with less than six months to live.
The new act does not eliminate or change Utah’s existing cannabis-related law but adds to it by establishing paths for the following:
- Cannabis production and distribution via private facilities that grow, process, test, and sell medical cannabis.
- Approval process for individuals to receive and use medical cannabis while also expanding the group of people eligible to use medical cannabis. Medical cannabis cards must be available from the Utah Department of Health by no later than March 1, 2020.
Before July 1, 2020, it is a defense to criminal charges for an individual’s use, possession, or manufacture of marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, or marijuana drug paraphernalia (marijuana) that he or she would be eligible for a medical cannabis card and his or her conduct would have been lawful. After July 1, 2020, it is an affirmative defense to criminal charges against an individual for the use or possession of marijuana if both of the following apply:
- He or she is a not a resident of Utah, or was a resident of Utah for fewer than 45 days, and was issued a currently valid medical cannabis identification card or its equivalent under the laws of another state, district, territory, commonwealth, or insular possession of the United States; and
- He or she was diagnosed with a qualifying illness.
The act repeals related laws and does not discuss how the law will impact employers. However, implementing regulations (to be released at a later date) are expected to provide further guidance.