A few months ago, the city of West Wendover approved recreational marijuana use. The city had previously approved the use of medical marijuana, and the vote for recreational use came in at 3-2. Only a 90-minute commute from Salt Lake City to West Wendover, the city is a hub for Utahns on weekends, with the population growing to 20,000 on weekends versus only 5,000 on weekdays. Located on the Utah-Nevada border, West Wendover hosts gambling, discounted liquor, and now marijuana for Utah citizens, where most of these activities are still illegal. So, with the newly approved recreational marijuana in Wendover, how will Utah be affected?
Current Utah Marijuana Laws
Utah’s marijuana laws currently do not allow for recreational use of marijuana. Even Proposition 2, the medical marijuana bill that was approved by Utah voters in November was quickly swapped out with a “compromise bill” by lawmakers. The Utah Medical Cannabis Act was Utah lawmakers ultimate solution, tightening the control of the previous Prop 2 bill.
Utah Governor, Gary Herbert, signed the Utah Medical Cannabis Act into place on December 3rd, 2018 stating, “With the passage of the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, Utah now has the best-designed medical cannabis program in the country. Working with trained medical professionals, qualified patients in Utah will be able to receive quality-controlled cannabis products from a licensed pharmacist in medical dosage form. And this will be done in a way that prevents diversion of products into a black market.”
— Gov. Gary Herbert (@GovHerbert) December 4, 2018
Will Utah’s Drug Busts Increase From Heavier Highway Patrol?
Although the Utah Medical Cannabis Act has made forms of medical marijuana available for some patients, recreational marijuana is still illegal under Utah marijuana laws. And, transporting marijuana across state lines is a federal offense. For any Utahns traveling to West Wendover for marijuana, getting caught traveling back to Utah with marijuana in their possession will lead to being charged and prosecuted. As Deep Roots Harvest has plans to build a dispensary for marijuana in Wendover that would be opening this summer, many wonder if Utah drug busts will increase if users choose to bring marijuana illegally across state lines.
The Utah Highway Patrol has stated that they don’t anticipate any extra enforcement near Wendover as a result of the vote. Utah Highway Patrol officer Sgt. Nick Street noted, “Even if a trooper were sitting out there watching cars going westbound and coming back an hour later eastbound, it’s not like that’s reason enough just to go stop somebody on suspicion of maybe purchasing marijuana in Nevada. They would still need a lawful reason to stop that vehicle, be it speed, equipment violations, not wearing their seatbelt.” However, if accidents increase near the border due to impaired drivers, an increase in Utah drug busts on the highway may be a result.
Although the Utah Highway Patrol says it will not increase border patrol between the Eastern Nevada border and Utah border, they will be more alert and focused on spotting distracted, inebriated, or impaired drivers. The mayor of West Wendover, Mayor Corona, understands the impact the dispensary might have, stating, “We have to make sure we stress to those who are coming from Utah or out of state to purchase marijuana that it is illegal to transport across the lines.” Also, the West Wendover City Council is making it a priority to educate Utahns on the consequences of transporting marijuana across state lines. “We have to make sure we’re being good neighbors and make sure we tell people not to transport across state lines,” Mayor Corona said.
Marijuana Dispensaries At Utah’s Borders
Utah borders two states that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana – Nevada and Colorado. Utahan’s have access to the dispensary in Mesquite, Nevada- only a 40-minute drive from St. George and less than 2 hours away from Cedar City, as well as the dispensary in Dinosaur, Colorado which is less than 40 minutes away from Vernal. While the construction of the Wendover dispensary has captured everyone’s attention, keep in mind that both the southern and eastern borders of Utah may have increased highway patrol and can be targeted for checkpoints.
The highways that lead to Southern and Eastern Utah are major connectors between bordering states. We see a lot of out-of-state travelers and road trippers that drive on those highways to get to a different state or vacation within Utah. If you are caught driving under the influence, or with possession of marijuana and paraphernalia, you will be charged and tried here in Utah.
Utah’s Top DUI and Drug Crime Defense Lawyers
As the dispensary is expected to open this summer, our attorneys here at Schatz, Anderson & Associates want to warn citizens to be extra vigilant while crossing back into Utah from West Wendover. Although the Utah Highway Patrol has said they are not increasing patrols, exercising caution is the safest way to avoid an arrest. As Utah Highway Patrol officers look for distracted or impaired drivers, be aware of the speed limit and any possible reasons for getting pulled over. If you are caught driving with marijuana in your vehicle or under its influence, you can be charged for the following:
- Possession of Marijuana
- Metabolite or Drug DUI
- Drug Distribution or Trafficking
- Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
If you have been arrested for possessing marijuana and paraphernalia or being intoxicated while driving, contact an attorney from Schatz, Anderson & Associates. We have over 40 years of combined experience as DUI attorneys and drug crime lawyers in Utah. We are well-versed on Utah’s stringent law about drug crimes and will aggressively represent your case from start to finish.