New Utah Law Modifies the Utah Controlled Substances Act; Salt Lake City Criminal Defense Attorney Weighs In

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The 2011 Utah legislative session passed Utah House Bill 23, which revises the Utah Controlled Substances Act by adding certain substances in bath salts and synthetic cannabinoid substances found in products known as “spice,” and also clarifies other provisions of the Utah Controlled Substances Act. Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer Darren M. Levitt analyzes the effect of these changes and the possible penalties for a drug crime conviction in the state.

Salt Lake City Criminal Defense Attorney

Salt Lake City Criminal Defense Attorney, Darren Levitt

Modifications to Utah’s Controlled Substances Act will lead to frivolous arrests for serious drug offenses like possessing a controlled substance, possessing drugs with the intent to distribute, trafficking drugs and even manufacturing...

Utah legislators recently enacted H.B. 23, also known as the Controlled Substances Modifications bill, which added certain synthetic drugs to the list of banned substance under the Utah Controlled Substances Act in Chapter 37 of the Utah Code. The passed bill bans the synthetic drug “spice” and certain bath salts, such as “Ivory Wave.” The new legislation also amends other provisions of the state’s controlled substances laws, such as clarifying tetrahydrocannabinols to mean those substances naturally and synthetically derived under the state’s Schedule I substances.

According to Darren M. Levitt, a Salt Lake City drug defense lawyer, “The modifications to Utah’s Controlled Substances Act will lead to frivolous arrests for serious drug offenses like possessing a controlled substance, possessing drugs with the intent to distribute, trafficking drugs and even manufacturing controlled substances.”

Under the Utah Controlled Substances Act, criminal charges for synthetic drugs, including bath salts and “spice,” can vary from class B misdemeanors to second degree felonies, depending on the offense. Penalties for a conviction can include fines ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 and/or jail or prison sentences from less than six months to 15 years, depending on the offense, the type of drug, where the offense took place, if the offense involved a minor, and if the offender has any previous convictions.

“Unfortunately, most of the individuals who experiment with these substances are young adults, juveniles, or people who may not be aware “spice” and bath salts are now illegal. If charged and convicted with a serious drug offense, these individuals could face lasting negative effects for the rest of their lives,” warns the Salt Lake City juvenile defense attorney.

H.B. 23 specifically expands the listed controlled substances to include the synthetic cannabinoid substances that are found in the street drug “spice.” Spice is an herb that has been sprayed with chemicals that are similar to THC. The effects of spice are similar to those of marijuana, but can result in high heart rates and seizures.

The passed bill also includes substances found in the recreational drugs known as bath salts in the listed controlled substances. Bath salts usually contain the synthetic matter, methylenedioxypyrovalerone, also known as MDPV, or a substance like MDPV. These drugs produce a high that is comparable to cocaine or methamphetamines, but can result in increased heart rate, severe hallucinations, paranoia, seizures, extreme violence and kidney failure.

“Although the bath salt and spice substances probably do more harm than good, they are synthetic drugs, and a new strain that is legal can easily be recreated in a lab,” states Darren M. Levitt. “Utah’s list of controlled substances will constantly have to be amended for every new recreational drug that comes along.”

Darren Levitt observes, “These types of synthetic substances should only be listed as banned drugs and criminalized under the Utah Controlled Substances Act once we realize they have caused a major problem, are truly found to be addictive, and have no legitimate medicinal purpose.”

Utah’s Controlled Substances Act places drugs, substances, chemicals and medications into certain schedules, ranging from the substances with the most potential for abuse and no medicinal purpose in Schedule I, to drugs that have widely accepted medical uses and very little likelihood of abuse in Schedule V.

The recently enacted law also expands the definition of tetrahydrocannabinols in Schedule I of the Utah Controlled Substances Act to include all tetrahydrocannabinols naturally found in the cannabis plant and the synthetic equivalents to those in the cannabis plant.

Additionally, the new law provides an affirmative defense against criminal charges for anyone who produces, possesses or administers any of the newly listed substances while they are engaged in medical research or they are licensed to possess the controlled substances for research.

The changes to the Utah Controlled Substances Act became effective at the beginning of July 2011.

Darren M. Levitt of Levitt Legal, PLLC is a criminal defense lawyer in Salt Lake City and represents clients throughout Salt lake County, Utah and the surrounding areas in Box Elder County, Tooele County, Utah County, Cache County, Weber County, Summit County, Davis County and Wasatch County.

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