Sharing Prescription Drugs in Utah

Many Utah residents have faced legal or other unpleasant ramifications due to them lovingly, yet illegally sharing prescription drugs with their friends or family.

Care, don’t share

Photo by: Ajay Suresh

When a family member or friend is suffering from an ailment, loved ones want to do whatever possible to help relieve the symptoms being suffered. Perhaps a spouse is in pain after a lengthy dentist visit. Maybe an elderly neighbor has thrown out their back working in the yard. Or possibly an adult child is facing the pain that comes from an unexpected kidney stone. Sometimes an ice pack or a simple over the counter remedy does the trick when other times something stronger is needed. Instead of sending the unwell person to their primary care physician to legally obtain a necessary prescription, many Utah residents will head for their own prescription medications to treat a loved one-not realizing they are about to commit a crime.

Sharing is distribution

When a family member or friend shares a prescription with others, they are ultimately distributing that prescribed medication to another. Even if the person receiving the medication does not offer any sort of payment, it is still against the law. Utah Code 58-37-2 states: “Distribute means to deliver other than by administering or dispensing a controlled substance [through a pharmacy]”. That section also notes: “Deliver” or delivery” means the actual, constructive, or attempted transfer of a controlled substance or a listed chemical, whether or not any agency relationship exists.”

Criminal charges

Many prescription drugs including those meant to reduce pain or induce sleep are considered controlled substances by state and federal law. The Controlled Substances Act separates street and prescription drugs into different schedules depending on what they are used for, their potential for abuse, and their risk for harm. When someone shares a prescription drug that is considered a controlled substance, especially those that are a Schedule I or II drug, they may face serious criminal penalties. According to Utah Code 58-37-8:

• Anyone convicted of distributing a Schedule I controlled substance or a Schedule II controlled substance such as Adderall, Ritalin, Percocet, Vicodin, OxyContin, and Norco “ . . . is guilty of a second degree felony, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 15 years, and upon a second or subsequent conviction is guilty of a first degree felony.”

• Anyone convicted of sharing a Schedule III or IV controlled substances such as Suboxone, Tylenol with Codeine, Vicodin, Soma, Valium, Ativan, Xanax, “. . . or marijuana is guilty of a third degree felony, or [second degree felony upon a subsequent conviction].”

The recipients of someone else’s prescription drugs may themselves face criminal charges for possession.

Health risks

Beyond the criminal charges possible, family or friends could end up responsible for causing more misery to someone they care about. When prescription drugs are shared, the person to whom they are shared with may have adverse reactions to the medication that could have been avoided had they been under the care of a doctor. Additionally, if a prescription is shared that is a controlled substance, the recipient may develop a dependence to the medication that can completely derail their lives and send them down a path of addiction and pain far worse than they were originally facing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn, “In 2016, more than 11.5 million Americans reported misusing prescription opioids in the past year.” That figure only includes those who reported their misuse, and may not include those who are getting their meds from a family member. For more information on criminal charges related to sharing prescription drugs, contact a criminal defense attorney. For help regarding substance abuse including prescription drugs, contact the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health to find a treatment center nearest you.

Paranoid Man Transporting Methamphetamine Calls Police, Gets Busted for Intent to Distribute

A man transporting methamphetamine along I-15 in Utah became paranoid he had a tail and proceeded to call police, only to get busted for intent to distribute.

Attempt to locate not needed

Photo by: Hunter McGinnis

Photo by: Hunter McGinnis

The 27 year old man, who has yet to be identified due to a falsified passport, was transporting more than 36 pounds of methamphetamine in sealed food containers when he called police to report he was being followed. Police arrived to a location off of Interstate 15 where the man was patiently waiting for the officers to arrive. Upon further discussion with the man, police were unable to find evidence the man was being followed, yet he was notably under the influence of drugs. It was then they discovered he was transporting nearly half a million dollars’ worth of methamphetamine.

Don’t sample the merchandise

This isn’t the first time a person transporting drugs through Utah has voluntarily notified police to their whereabouts. Just last January, two men transporting over 20 pounds of marijuana from Nevada to Idaho along I-15 in Utah called police right after crossing the Utah-Idaho border. The incredibly stoned duo were convinced various cars on the road were actually undercover police officers preparing to arrest them. Instead of dealing with the anxiety of waiting to get busted, the 22 year old and 23 year old called the unsuspecting police to get things over with quickly.

Felony methamphetamine distribution

methamphetamine

Photo by: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Drug possession charges in Utah can be severe, and distribution or intent to distribute charges are far worse. According to Utah Code 58-37-8, “It is unlawful for any person to knowingly and intentionally:

(i) produce, manufacture, or dispense, or to possess with intent to produce, manufacture, or dispense, a controlled or counterfeit substance;

(ii) distribute a controlled or counterfeit substance, or to agree, consent, offer, or arrange to distribute a controlled or counterfeit substance;

(iii) possess a controlled or counterfeit substance with intent to distribute; ( . . . )”

A person convicted of intent to distribute methamphetamine or other Schedule I or II substance is guilty of a second degree felony, or a first degree felony upon subsequent convictions. Those possessing enough marijuana to be considered intent to distribute can face a third degree felony or second degree felony upon a subsequent conviction.

Let someone else represent in court

For those who are facing possession or distribution charges in Utah, even if those charges came about due to self-incriminating phone calls to police, it is always recommended to speak to a reputable criminal defense attorney to speak in your behalf.

Leave Medical Marijuana Home When Visiting Utah

Those planning on visiting Utah should expect to leave their medical marijuana at home to avoid criminal charges. Fortunately, there are changes upon the horizon, but as for now, marijuana in any form is still not legal to bring here.

Marijuana RX

medical marijuana

Photo by: Neeta Lind

Last week, 21 year old John Arthur Hernandez visiting from California was arrested in St. George Utah after he brought drugs including medical marijuana into the state. The marijuana was in a prescription bottle approved for Hernandez by a doctor from California, but regrettably Utah does not yet authorize the possession or use of marijuana, even with a valid prescription from another state.

Utah working on legalizing medical marijuana

For those living in or visiting Utah who are suffering from chronic pain or illnesses, legalized medical marijuana looks to be in the near future for the beehive state. Two different bills to make medical marijuana lawful recently passed the Utah State Senate and are now on their way to the Utah House of Representatives. Due to the enormous amount of opposition thus far, SB 73, the bill allowing more of the plant than just the CBD oil, had to be adjusted. That bill now restricts medical marijuana use to only those with chronic ailments such as aids and cancer. Additionally, the medical marijuana is not allowed in a cigarette form; only edible versions and extracts.

Schedule classification

Along with the bills to legalize marijuana, there was also a resolution to reclassify marijuana to a Schedule II drug. Currently the United States Controlled Substances Act classifies marijuana as a Schedule I, the same classification as heroin and cocaine. With the abundance of legal changes likely to take place regarding marijuana, those living in or visiting Utah may not realize that strict criminal penalties are still present. For more information on penalties and legal counsel regarding possession of marijuana either for medical or recreation use, contact a criminal defense attorney.