Medical Marijuana in Utah

The acceptance of medical marijuana as a viable option for treatment of several diseases and illnesses is increasing around the nation, yet some states such as Utah are still not sold on allowing complete use of the herb for medical use because of the psychoactive high that can accompany it.

Observed side effects

Medical Marijuana

Photo by: Chuck Grimmet

Medical marijuana has been a hot topic of studies for decades and there have been observed health benefits for those suffering many ailments. While some components of medical marijuana are gaining favor in the health field, one questionable side effect continues to be difficult for experts to ignore. What is likely deterring law makers from completely legalizing medical marijuana use in Utah is the psychoactive “high” that is often accompanied by red eyes, dry mouth, decreased cognitive function, and an amplified desire for food (otherwise known as the munchies).

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)

There are two different chemicals in marijuana that have medicinal uses. THC or tetrahydrocannabinol is the chemical in marijuana that gives users a “high” yet this same chemical that causes a temporary high has been shown to be highly effective at relieving symptoms for those suffering with:
• Chronic pain
• Asthma
• Insomnia
• Glaucoma
• Arthritis
• Lupus, and
• Decreased appetite
Even though THC has been proven to be extremely beneficial in the medical field, law makers in Utah have yet to allow its use due to the psychoactive properties. This can be frustrating for many sufferers of the above ailments, yet fortunately not all uses of medical marijuana are banned in Utah.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

Photo by: James Pallinsad

Photo by: James Pallinsad

The second chemical found in medical marijuana is cannabidiol or CBD which does not produce a high, yet is still successful at helping those suffering from:
• Autism
• Anxiety
• Multiple Sclerosis
• Schizophrenia
• Epilepsy, and
• Dravet’s syndrome
Combined with THC, CBD may also be used for those struggling with:
• IBD or Crohn’s disease
• PTSD
• Muscle spasms and tension, and
• Nausea
Currently, Utah’s medical marijuana laws only allow individuals with severe epilepsy to legally use the non-psychoactive CBD extract after first procuring it from a different state. Those suffering with chronic pain or other ailments continue to be disappointed with Utah’s strict laws on medical marijuana, however there is hope on the horizon for allowance of CBD for other ailments as well as the medical use for THC.

Possible change in store for Utah’s medical marijuana laws

After a lack of funds caused bills legalizing medical marijuana to die before ever reaching a vote, One Utah lawmaker, Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville is planning on sponsoring a bill that allows the use of medical marijuana for a wider range of illnesses which would allow strains containing both CBD and THC chemicals to be used. In case Froerer’s bill doesn’t pass, other legislative leaders are working to put a new initiative on the 2018 ballot while ensuring there is funding to support such an initiative.

Will Utah relax its stance on medical marijuana?

Photo by: David Trawin

Photo by: David Trawin

Currently, 25 states along with the nation’s capital allow the full use of both chemicals in marijuana to be used for medical reasons with a doctor’s prescription. In time there is hope that the remainder of the states will relax their stances regarding the use of marijuana to medical purposes. Until then, Utah residents are warned to refrain from possessing marijuana or visiting neighboring states which may have more lenient laws regarding marijuana use. Utah continues to carry strict penalties for simple possession of marijuana along with charges for individuals traveling from other lenient states with marijuana in their system. For more information on crimes related to marijuana use for medicinal and recreation use, contact a criminal defense attorney.

Penalties Increased for Flying Drones over a Wildfire in Utah

Following repeated disruptions to wildfire suppression in southern Utah, lawmakers have increased penalties for flying drones over an active wildfire and authorities now have permission to disable or destroy the pesky unmanned aircraft.

Saddle Fire

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services

A lightning strike on a mountainous ridge southwest of the small town of Pine Valley, Utah started a fire that has now been burning for over a month, threatening residents and destroying nearly 2,300 acres of coniferous trees in the Dixie National Forest. While the blaze was naturally occurring and not human-caused, someone has repeatedly slowed fire control efforts and put homes and lives at risk by flying hobby drones nearby.

Safety risk

Drones above Wildfire

Photo by: Tony Alter

When a drone is spotted near a wildfire, attending fire crews will ground all aircraft needed to fight the blaze. This is due to the risk of the unmanned drones colliding with a human occupied fire control aircraft and damaging a helicopter’s rotor blades or being sucked through the intake. Any collision of the two aircraft would risk the safety of the individuals flying the helicopter along with those on the ground.

Every minute counts

Photo by: Texas Military Department

Photo by: Texas Military Department

Every minute counts when fighting wildfires. When fire suppression aircraft are grounded even for a brief amount of time, wildfires can shift and grow rapidly which further hinders any chance of containment. The containment of the Saddle Fire in southern Utah has seen multiple delays due to drones flying in the restricted area. Following the first delay the fire grew and moved quickly, causing an evacuation order to be issued for the residents in Pine Valley. Following these and many other wildfire suppression delays, laws have now been changed.

Penalties for drones near wildfires

Photo by: Bureau of Land Management

Photo by: Bureau of Land Management

The drone bill HB0126 signed last Wednesday now allow authorities to jam a drone’s signal to bring it down and increase charges to: a class B misdemeanor for flying in a restricted wildfire area; a class A misdemeanor if fire crews have to ground an aircraft; a third degree felony if a drone collides with an aircraft; and a second degree felony if a drone causes a fire suppression aircraft to crash. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert tweeted the following statement following the bill signing: “Today’s special session vote sends a strong message to Utahns that we will not tolerate reckless drone interference near wildfires.”

Murder Conviction When a Body is Not Found

When a victim is presumed dead yet a body is not found, is a murder conviction even possible? This is a question on many southern Utah residents’ minds after a young father went missing under suspicious circumstances and has yet to turn up.

Gone, but not without a trace

Empty Room

Photo by: Brad K.

On June 27th, 2016 30 year old David Corey Heisler went missing from his Santa Clara, Utah home and many in the community are crying “murder”. When Heisler was reported missing, he and his vehicle were nowhere to be found yet his personal belongings such as a wallet and cell phone were still in the home that Heisler shared with his father, step-mother and daughter. He also had a video game on pause, alluding to the fact that he had no intention of leaving home at that time. To create more cause for concern, blood splatter was found throughout the home which indicated that a struggled likely ensued.

Extreme custody battle

During the investigation, police were able to locate three suspects in connection with Heisler’s disappearance. The first was Kelley Marie Perry, who just two weeks prior lost a custody battle for the pair’s 6 year old daughter, Mariah. The second person arrested was Francis Lee McCard, a man who witnesses said was frequently seen with Perry and is described as being strongly built and likely able of effortlessly overpowering Heisler. The third person arrested four days after Perry and McCard is Tammy Renee Freeman who is alleged to be the transportation in the case.

Planned kidnapping

All three individuals arrested have admitted involvement with the suspicious disappearance of David Heisler. Perry and McCard told authorities they surprised Heisler at his home where they physically assaulted him, tossed him in his own car, and drove him out to the desert. When Perry met up with Freeman who had previously dropped the duo off at Heisler’s home, McCard claims he drove Heisler to a secluded area south of the Utah border where he left the victim alive. He then stated to ditching the vehicle and meeting back up with Perry and Freeman. Heisler’s missing vehicle was located by authorities in Beaver Dam, Arizona which is located a mere 34 miles from Heisler’s home yet a considerable distance away from where Heisler was reported to be left. Blood splatter on the car and evidence of a discharged firearm increased concern of Heisler’s well-being, and whether or not he survived the kidnapping.

3 felonies but no murder charge

Photo by: Ian McKeller

Photo by: Ian McKeller

Perry, McCard, and Freeman are all facing charges of first degree felony aggravated burglary, first-degree felony aggravated kidnapping, and second-degree felony theft of a motor vehicle. One charge that has not been added thus far however is murder. With Heisler missing over two weeks in triple digit temperatures with no food or water and probable injuries, the public is skeptical that Heisler is alive. Heisler’s family and law enforcement officials however have told the community to not give up hope for a safe return. This hope of finding Heisler alive could be what is preventing murder charges to arise, however the possibility of not having a body may also prevent police from charging the three with murder.

Murder conviction with no body

If the trio is charged, is a murder conviction possible if a body is never located? The answer is yes, yet proving a murder without a body is not an easy thing for prosecutors to do. The reason for this is to prevent wrongful convictions, especially when it could lead to life in prison or the death penalty. In the case of David Heisler, a large majority of the public has already deemed Perry, McCard, and Freeman guilty for murder of Heisler either by a gunshot wound or by leaving him to die of exposure, yet at this time no one knows for sure if he is alive or dead. Without a body or enough circumstantial and forensic evidence to back up a murder charge, a judge or jury cannot and should not agree with a murder conviction; an experienced criminal defense attorney would help ensure that.