TAYLORSVILLE — Utah Department of Public Safety leaders promised Tuesday to do everything they can to ensure the rights of qualifying patients to possess medical marijuana are upheld in light of the new law in effect in the state.
Col. Michael Rapich of the department’s Utah Highway Patrol said troopers are fully invested in ensuring all legal protections are honored for those who possess and use marijuana lawfully.
“Absolutely our intent is to make sure their rights are upheld, and they are able to do so,” Rapich told the Deseret News in an interview at Department of Public Safety headquarters.
But Rapich also warned that the new legalization of medical marijuana in Utah does not give carte blanche to those wishing to use the drug. It is still illegal to possess or transport it in large amounts, and only patients with qualifying conditions can possess it at all, he reminded.
Jeff Chiu, Associated Press FILE – In this June 21, 2018, file photo, a laboratory manager holds a cannabis sample in Oakland, Calif.
Even for such patients, there is no tolerance for driving impaired, he said.
“It’s still illegal. We’ll still aggressively pursue that,” Rapich said.
He added that just as with any substance, a valid medical approval for having and using marijuana is not an effective legal defense against driving under the influence — a type of case highway troopers see “not infrequently.”
“You can do that with cough syrup.”
Rapich also noted that ignorance of requirements for marijuana use in the new law are no excuse for not abiding by them.
“If you’re going to use medical cannabis … know what the rules are,” he said. “I would hope that people are going to educate themselves.”