Cannabis in Utah

Cannabis in Utah is illegal with the exception of non-psychoactive medical CBD oil to treat severe epilepsy, and even possession of small amounts is a misdemeanor crime.[1]

Utah banned cannabis in 1915, making it one of the first states to do so. Utah legalized CBD oil in March 2014, making it the first state to legalize only CBD oil without legalizing other forms of cannabis.

Prohibition (1915)

Utah is frequently cited as the first state to explicitly ban cannabis, which they did in 1915, though other scholars state that California was actually the first, in 1913, and that Utah's claim to be first is based on a misunderstanding of California's earlier law and the lack of public attention its passing received.[2] Scholar David E. Newton notes that Utah law is an area of controversy among cannabis historians: some scholars believe the law was a reaction to cannabis usage by Mormon returnees from Mexico following the 1910 revolution, and based on an August 1915 prohibition on cannabis by [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints]] (LDS Church). Other scholars however note that cannabis was simply not an issue of public attention in Utah during that period, and submit that Utah simply banned cannabis as part of a larger anti-drug legislation based on earlier California law, rather than as a response to any cannabis situation in Utah.[3]

CBD legalization (2014)

In March 2014, House Bill 105 was signed by Governor Gary Herbert, legalizing possession and use of low-THC CBD oil by registered patients with a physician's recommendation and intractable epilepsy. However, the bill included no provision for patients to legally acquire the oil.[4]

Medical cannabis failed attempts


Senate Bill 259[5] was a proposed by Senator Mark B. Madsen (Republican - Saratoga Springs) with eight working days left in the legislative session. Under the bill, those with AIDS, Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, an autoimmune disorder, cachexia or physical wasting, nausea, or malnutrition associated with chronic disease, cancer, Crohn's disease, epilepsy, or a condition that causes debilitating seizures, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis or a similar condition that causes persistent and debilitating muscle spasms, post-traumatic stress disorder, or severe, chronic pain would be able to use medical marijuana legally.

The bill would fail in the Senate on a 15–14 vote, with several senators citing the relative rush behind the bill as the reason for their no vote.[6] Madsen stated that he would try again in the 2016 session.


In 2016, Senator Madsen once again attempted to pass legislation legalizing the use of medical cannabis with Senate Bill 73.[7] Just as in 2015, the legislation would have allowed medicinal use for a host of ailments including HIV, AIDS, Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cancer, cachexia, or such condition manifest by physical wasting, nausea, or malnutrition associated with chronic disease, Crohn's disease or a similar gastrointestinal disorder, epilepsy or a similar condition that causes debilitating seizures, multiple sclerosis or a similar condition that causes persistent and debilitating muscle spasms, post-traumatic stress disorder related to military service; and chronic pain in an individual. The legislation also put into place a more robust cultivation, tracking, distribution, and enforcement models in direct response to this lacking information in the 2015 bill and advocated for whole plant usage.

During debate on the bill in the Senate, Madsen would make several concessions and amendments to his bill (in one case voting against his own amendment dropping the whole plant legalization on principal, but proposing it in order to keep the bill alive). His actions would cause the bill to pass the Senate 17-12. The House Health and Human Services Committee, however, failed to pass the bill out of committee along a 4-8 vote.

This would be Madsen's last attempt at the legislation as he chose not to run for reelection in 2016.

Also during 2016, Senator Evan Vickers (Republican - Cedar City) would propose Senate Bill 89.[8] Vickers' legislation would expand the use of low-THC CBD oil (as opposed to whole plant use) to additional illnesses and also put into place cultivation, tracking, distribution, and enforcement models, but would also include provisions for product testing and research. The legislation would pass the Senate 18-8 and the House Health and Human Services Committee by a vote of 7-5. The full House, however, did not consider the bill.

Finally, Senator Brian Shiozawa (Republican - Salt Lake City) would successfully pass Senate Concurrent Resolution 11.[9] This nonbinding resolution unanimously passed the Senate and House and urges Congress to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug, thereby allowing study of the drug for medicinal purposes.

2016 governor race

In April 2016, police visited the home of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Weinholtz, and seized medical marijuana belonging to his wife Donna. THis occurred days before Weinholtz's acceptance of his party's nomination. Local authorities opted to pursue misdemeanor possession charges against Donna Weinholtz, and federal authorities chose not to pursue charges. Donna Weinholtz used medical marijuana to treat pain from arthritis and a degenerative spinal condition[10] In October 2015 she plead guilty to misdemeanor possession, agreeing to a fine and probation. During an "emotional news conference", Mike Weinholtz called for reform of Utah's medical marijuana system.[11]


  1. "Utah Laws & Penalties". Retrieved 2015-08-25.
  2. Gieringer, Dale H. (2010) [1999]. "The Origins of California's 1913 Cannabis Law". Summary of article originally published in the Journal of Contemporary Drug Problems; reposted on CA NORML (Summer 1999 26(2):): 237–288. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  3. David E. Newton Ph.D. (7 February 2013). Marijuana: A Reference Handbook. ABC-CLIO. pp. 60–. ISBN 978-1-61069-150-5.
  4. Bacca, Angela (12 July 2014). "First CBD Law in Nation Goes Into Effect". Cannabis Now Magazine. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  5. "Utah State Legislature". Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  6. "Madsen's Medical Cannabis Bill Dies on Close Senate Vote". Utah Political Capitol. 2015-03-10. Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  7. "Utah State Legislature". Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  8. "Utah State Legislature". Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  9. "Utah State Legislature". Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  10. Robert Gehrke The Salt Lake Tribune. "Wife of Utah Democratic candidate for governor to face medical marijuana charge | The Salt Lake Tribune". Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  11. Associated, The. "Utah Governor Candidate Mike Weinholtz Wants Drug Reform After Wife's Marijuana Arrest". NBC News. Retrieved 2016-11-17.
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