New Firework Laws in Utah

As Independence Day celebrations draw closer, residents should be informed of the new firework laws put into effect this year as well as restrictions specific to their area.

Less days for fireworks

Photo by: David Joyce

Prior to the 2018 legislative session, fireworks were allowed to be discharged 14 days in July: July 1st through July 7th and July 21st through July 27th. The amended laws approved by Utah lawmakers have now reduced lawful firework days to only eight days: July 2nd through July 5th and July 22nd through July 25th. The allowable firework days for New Year’s Eve and Chinese New Year remain the same. Although fireworks are allowed throughout Utah on the eight approved days in July, that does not mean they are allowed everywhere.

Restricted firework areas

The state of Utah is currently seeing record high temperatures mixed with low humidity and accompanying winds. These conditions increase the likelihood of wildfires even without the use of recreational flaming explosives. In order to prevent firework use from adding to the growing number of wildfires presently active throughout Utah, there are areas where fireworks are not permitted. Statewide, fireworks are prohibited on state owned as well as federal land. Additionally most areas outside city limits or within close proximity to washes, wooded areas, or other locations where the chance of a brush fire is increased may have restrictions for firework use.

Penalties unlawful discharge of fireworks

Utah Code 53-7-225 states “A person is guilty of an infraction punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, if the person discharges a class C common state approved explosive:

(a) outside the legal discharge dates and times . . . or

(b) in an area in which fireworks are prohibited”.

Residents should consult with their state and city laws prior to firework use to ensure their holiday festivities are in accordance with local laws.

Reduction in Opioid-Related Deaths in States with Legalized Marijuana

As Utah continues to hold the leash tight on legalizing marijuana, other states who have sanctioned this “gate-way” drug are reporting a reduction in opioid-related deaths and overall opioid use.

Relief from chronic pain

Photo by: Jorge Gonzalez

Many addicts that abuse opioids, whether through pill form or through substances such as heroin start off with a prescription written out by a caring medical practitioner. These prescriptions are often given to relieve chronic pain as a result of injuries or medical conditions. The National Institutes of Health states: “more than 25 million Americans suffer from daily chronic pain.” NIH adds that “[m]ore than 2 million Americans have OUD [opioid use disorder]. Millions more misuse opioids, taking opioid medications longer or in higher doses than prescribed.” What begins as a way to manage pain or other ailments however can quickly spiral into a lifelong dependency on opioids that is often dangerously supported using street drugs or illegally acquired pills when prescriptions are no longer being filled.

Safer alternative to pain pills

In a country that lost over 20,000 citizens to opioid related deaths in 2016 according to NIH, there has to be safer alternatives to help individuals manage chronic pain and other debilitating conditions. According to an article published by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, there has been a notable decrease in opioid-related deaths in Colorado consequent of the legalization of recreational cannabis. The report which uses the state of Colorado to draw its association said: “Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis sales and use resulted in a 0.7 deaths per month . . . reduction in opioid-related deaths. This reduction represents a reversal of the upward trend in opioid-related deaths in Colorado.”

Decreasing opioid dependency

Photo by: Mark

While the US National Library of Medicine plans on analyzing data from other states, other research groups have already done so in regards to overall opioid use in marijuana-friendly states. These reports have all shown that in states where marijuana is legal for recreational or at least medicinal use, there has been a definite decrease in opioid abuse. One of the studies showed a 4% decrease in opioids beings prescribed for those covered under federal and state health insurance programs in states that had lenient marijuana laws. This percentage decrease did not include those covered under private insurance. When patients seek help from doctors to manage chronic pain and other conditions, doctors in marijuana-friendly states now have another alternative to offer their patients. Doctors can either write patients a prescription for dangerously addicting opioids or direct their patients to the nearest marijuana dispensary. Many medical practitioners whose life’s goals are to help people are now choosing marijuana as a safer alternative to prescription opioids when helping their patients with their ailments.

Utah, bringing up the rear

The Utah Department of Health stated: “From 2013 to 2015, Utah ranked 7th highest in the nation for drug overdose deaths.” They also noted that “in 2015, 24 individuals (residents and non-residents) died every month from a prescription opioid overdose in Utah.” In a state that is plagued by the opioid epidemic, why has Utah been dragging their feet with marijuana laws? While some may see the problem with allowing the plant to be used recreationally, there is minimal logic to support why medical use of marijuana has not yet been openly approved in Utah. Fortunately, there are small steps being made with allowing medical marijuana use in Utah. The Utah Medical Marijuana Initiative was passed by the senate earlier this year and will be on the ballot in November. If enough Utah residents vote “yes” on the initiative, patients with a qualifying illness or chronic pain can be issued a medical cannabis card, allowing them to obtain medical marijuana to manage their illnesses instead of using harmful opioids. Hopefully then will Utah finally be able to see a reduction in opioid-related deaths among its residents.

Reduced Penalties for Holding a Raccoon or Coyote in Captivity

Anyone in Utah holding a raccoon or coyote in captivity illegally may now face reduced penalties thanks to S.B. 180 passed in early May.

Holding a raccoon or coyote in captivity

Photo by: Paul Brooker

Some Utah residents interested in having non-traditional pets may trap a wild animal hoping to domesticate it. Other times an abandoned baby animal may be taken in by a do-gooder and raised alongside the family dog. Little do these individuals know, not only is it dangerous to try and home a wild animal, it can be illegal. Thanks to an amended law however, if the wild animal kept in captivity is a raccoon or coyote, the State of Utah has decided to reduce the penalties for those who hold one of these animals without proper authority.

Reduced penalties

Utah Code 4-23-111 reaffirms that “no individual may hold in captivity a raccoon or coyote, except as provided by rules of the Agricultural and Wildlife Damage Prevention Board.” That section of Utah Code has been amended to state: “any violation of this section [is now] an infraction.” This penalty is similar to a minor traffic violation. Prior to the 2018 General Session, holding a raccoon or coyote in captivity was a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine up to $1,000. While there isn’t any specific public instance that pushed this law towards leniency, it passed almost unanimously.

Permit required

While an infraction is far better than spending half a year in jail, how do residents of Utah go about keeping a raccoon or coyote in captivity without breaking the law at all? According to Utah Administrative Code Rule R58-14, “upon filing an application for registration with the Department of Agriculture and Food, upon forms provided by the department, a permit may be issued by the department authorizing the applicant to hold in live captivity raccoons or coyotes for research, educational, zoos, circuses, or other purposed authorized by the Department of Agriculture and Food.” It goes on to note that “A separate permit must be obtained from the department for each individual raccoon and coyote possessed”. So although there are some instances when keeping these animals in captivity is allowed, unfortunately it does not apply for pets. Anyone interested in having other non-typical pets is encouraged to research the laws regarding those animals prior to purchase or capture.