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Penalties for Marijuana Possession

Penalties for possession of marijuana in Utah can be severe, and the consequences for a conviction can extend beyond just the courtroom. If you are facing prosecution for marijuana or other criminal charges, contact us today to see how an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you.

What are the potential penalties for simple possession of marijuana in Utah?

Before 2015

Salt Lake Marijuana Defense LawyerPrior to October 1, 2015, the penalties for simple possession of marijuana depended largely on the amount (weight) of the marijuana seized by police. Amounts under an ounce were classified as class B misdemeanors. Amounts between one ounce and one pound were classified as class A misdemeanors. Simple possession of marijuana in an amount over one pound but less than 100 pounds could result in a third-degree felony charge. Amounts over 100 pounds could be filed at the second-degree felony level.

2015 Justice Reinvestment Initiative

Following the implementation of statutes enacted under Utah's Justice Reinvestment Initiative, the penalty structure relating to marijuana possession changed dramatically. Under the 2015 statute, a first offense for simple possession of any amount of marijuana less than 100 pounds can be filed as a class B misdemeanor; a third offense can be filed as a class A misdemeanor; and a fourth or subsequent offense can be filed as a third degree felony. If the amount of marijuana involved is greater than 100 pounds, then a charge of simple possession can be filed as a second-degree felony.

As written, the statutory section governing simple possession of marijuana can be somewhat misleading. Under its terms, a first offense for simple possession of 90 pounds of marijuana would technically be a class B misdemeanor. But it would be very rare that possession of that much marijuana would be charged as "simple" possession. It is much more likely that the charge would be filed as possession with the intent to distribute. Possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute can be filed as a third-degree felony for a first offense, regardless of the amount; a second or subsequent offense can be filed as a second-degree felony, regardless of the amount.

The distinction between a simple possession case and a possession with the intent to distribute can be based on factual differences, including: whether the amount involved is consistent with "personal use" or is a greater amount more likely with distribution; whether the marijuana appears to be packaged for resale; whether the person also has possession of paraphernalia for packaging or weighing the marijuana; whether cash is found with the marijuana, consistent with evidence of recent sales; and admissions or statements made by the defendant.

Finding a Drug Crimes Defense Attorney in Utah

Utah Criminal Defense LawyerCriminal charges for possession of marijuana in Utah can carry severe penalties. If you are facing prosecution for marijuana-related charges, it is vital to have the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Whether the case is filed as a misdemeanor or felony charges, having the right attorney on your side is important. Contact us today to see how we can help you.


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Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

Attorney Stephen Howard practices as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC and Stephen W. Howard, PC.

Offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties
560 South 300 East, Suite 200, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
952 S. Main St., Suite A, Layton, UT 84041

Call now to arrange for a confidential initial consultation with an experienced and effective Utah criminal defense lawyer.

In Salt Lake City, call 801-449-1409.
In Davis County, call 801-923-4345.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

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