Legalized Marijuana is Taxable Marijuana

As neighboring states change their restrictions on marijuana by permitting all uses of the plant, the financial payback of legalized marijuana is becoming apparent as the decriminalized “drug” is now taxable. With medical and now financial benefits recognized, why does marijuana continue to be prohibited in states such as Utah and why was it outlawed in the first place?

Criminalization of “marihuana”

Photo by: Christian Frausto Bernal

Photo by: Christian Frausto Bernal

By the early 1930’s several states had criminalized marijuana due to racial prejudices against Mexico. In 1937 the U.S. as a nation jumped on board outlawing marijuana starting with the Marihuana Tax Act. Although racial prejudice was likely still an issue (note the Mexican spelling “marihuana” was used) it was said to be outlawed nationally for fear that it made people crazy and violent. In the last 80 years it has been determined that deranged tendencies are possible with or without the use of marijuana, yet marijuana use continues to be illegal in many states.

Slow progress for legalized marijuana

Currently, only four states including the nation’s capital permit recreational use of marijuana with 20 more states allowing full use of the plant for medical use only. Other states have either lessened their possession laws or now allow medical use of cannabis extracts as long as they are free of the psychoactive ingredients of the plant. Those remaining states that are hesitant to legalize any marijuana use include Utah where simple possession of marijuana can come with a 6 month stint in jail.

Health risks?

Photo by: ashton

Photo by: ashton

The main excuse used by states for keeping marijuana illegal is because of the temporary high that users can experience from THC, the plant’s psychoactive ingredient. This high can result in:

• Sluggish coordination
• Memory difficulty
• Red eyes
• Elevated heart rate
• Dry mouth
• An increased need to snack

All these effects typically dissipate within a few hours of “getting high”. There are also a few concerns of possible long term health risks associated with marijuana use including:

• Long term cognitive impairment (only when used by teenagers)
• Lung irritations or infections (Similar with inhaling any type of smoke)
• Potential dependency (as with any “feel-good” substance- alcohol and chocolate included)

Health benefits

Contrary to the small handful of health risks, marijuana an array of proven benefits for those suffering with medical conditions such as:

• Seizures and epilepsy
• MS
• Cancer
• HIV and AIDS
• Glaucoma
• Wasting syndrome

Decreased health risks and increased health benefits haven’t been enough to encourage all states to legalize marijuana so far, but what about the possibility for financial gain?

Tobacco and alcohol tax

Photo by:

Photo by:

Tobacco and alcohol are both substances that are known to be harmful and extremely addictive yet are 100% lawful once a person reaches a designated age. One of the main reasons for leniency towards tobacco and alcohol is likely due to the tax revenue they generate. Tobacco products such as cigarettes have an average tax of $1 dollar per pack, resulting in millions of dollars going into each state’s pockets annually. Alcohol taxes also contribute to every state in the sum of additional millions each year. With money in hand, many states including Utah throw a small percentage of the money generated at education and prevention of tobacco and alcohol use yet actually turn a blind eye on the health risks by keeping them legal. When will they do the same for marijuana which has far fewer complications?

Marijuana tax

States that have legalized marijuana have imposed taxes on it, and are already reaping the financial benefits.

• Colorado alone collecting over $130 million in taxes in 2015 from the nearly $1 billion dollars’ worth of marijuana sold.

• Oregon made $3.5 million on marijuana taxes in one month alone.

• Washington State is projected to make nearly $350 million on marijuana taxes annually by 2018.

Utah and other states that continue to criminalize marijuana are not only missing out on a massive taxable opportunity, they are losing money by arresting, prosecuting, and jailing those arrested for simple marijuana charges.

Until then…

Legalized Marijuana

Photo by: Satish Krishnamurthy

Money speaks loudly, and it is just a matter of time before the cost of housing inmates for pot charges along with the possible tax revenue from legalized marijuana calls to Utah loud enough for the state’s marijuana laws to be lifted entirely. Until then, small changes are hopefully on the horizon to lessen penalties for simple possession and remove the restrictions for medical marijuana use.

Suspended Driver’s License Following Marijuana Charges

Utah residents can expect to have their driver’s license suspended following a DUI, yet they may be surprised when they lose their license following marijuana charges which were not acquired when behind the wheel.


Photo by: Nate Steiner

Photo by: Nate Steiner

Anyone who is found guilty for a DUI in Utah which includes driving with any measurable amount of a drug in their system can face anywhere from two days up to six months in jail and have their license suspended for:
• 120 days for individuals 21 years of age or older,
• One year or until age 21 for individuals who are 19 or 20 years old, or
• Until age 21 for individuals under age 19.
A driver’s license may be revoked if there are previous arrests for the same charges.

Utah Controlled Substances Act

A DUI isn’t the only marijuana charge that can end in a driver’s license being suspended. In Utah, cultivating, distributing, or even simple possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia may result in a driver’s license being suspended for six months. Even a failed attempt to possess marijuana can result in the same suspension.

Safeguard your license after a marijuana charge

License Suspension after Marijuana Charges

Photo by: Kat

Losing a license can make it difficult or nearly impossible for some Utah residents to attend school or make it to they place of employment. Anyone facing marijuana charges should consult with a criminal defense attorney regarding protecting their driving rights. An experienced attorney can help an individual keep their driver’s license whether through helping to prove no fault or through a plea in abeyance, which may end in a fine but no driver’s license suspension.

Felony Child Endangerment for Drugs in Reach of Children

Two individuals from American Fork Utah are facing a variety of drug charges along with felony child endangerment for storing drugs within the reach of children in the home.

Other people’s children

Child Endangerment

Photo by: Mary T Moore

25 year old Zachery Walters and 24 year old Hilary Lay were staying in the basement portion of a home that belonged to another person when they were arrested for possessing hefty amounts of cocaine and marijuana. The quantity of the drugs confiscated was large enough to bring distribution charges. While the couple knowingly possessed illegal drugs, they likely failed to realize they would also be facing additional felony charges for child endangerment since the landlord’s children had bedrooms nearby; thus potentially putting the kids at risk of coming into contact with the drugs.

3rd degree felony child endangerment

Child endangerment is a 3rd degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $5,000. Utah Code 76-5-112.5 states regarding endangerment of a child that “a person is guilty of a felony of the third degree if the person knowingly or intentionally causes or permits a child or a vulnerable adult to be exposed to, inhale, ingest, or have contact with a controlled substance, chemical substance, or drug paraphernalia;”

A technicality

While there are no reports or evidence that any children in the home that Walters and Lay were staying in had come in contact with drugs, section 112.5 clarifies that “exposed to” can mean that because of the where the children were in proximity to the drugs, they could have potentially possessed, seen, or even smelled the illegal drugs or paraphernalia. Although Walters and Lay will likely face some drug charges, there are other charges which could be considered questionable such as distribution and child endangerment. An experienced criminal defense attorney is always suggested but would be greatly recommended in a case such as this.