Probably once a week, I get asked if a California Medical Marijuana Card makes any difference in Utah. In a word, no. A medical card from a CA doctor does not allow you to have marijuana in Utah, or marijuana paraphernalia. Arguably, it does not even make it legal to have the chemical residue of marijuana in your body, if you are driving (see my page on DUI Metabolite).
That being said, there are some situations where it may help: when negotiating plea deals with prosecutors, it can sometimes help me get better terms for the deal if my client is a resident of a state where she uses legally (either a recreational state or a medical state and she has a card), and they were just passing through Utah without using. For instance, some courts are big on sending marijuana defendants to treatment. But I think most prosecutors and many judges agree that there’s not much point in making someone to do “treatment” for a substance that’s legal where they live, and that they will probably continue to use. Also, as mentioned above, it’s “arguably” not a defense to our DUI metabolite law that the defendant used the substance under a doctor’s orders, but that means it arguably is a defense too. In short, the issue hasn’t been decided definitively by our upper courts, and until it is, defense attorneys like me will continue to try and convince local judges that Utah should not criminalize behavior in other states, that has no real effect on us here, such as when someone drives into Utah with the inactive metabolites of marijuana in their system.
There are also some situations where having (or rather, showing off) your medical marijuana card can hurt you. Many crafty police officers, when they see your California license plates, will ask if “you happen to have one of those medical pot cards”. This is a question you should probably not answer, if you do. Many officers will understand this as “probable cause” or at least “reasonable suspicion” that you currently have marijuana, and it will make your traffic stop turn into something much more unpleasant. It’s never a great idea to lie to a police officer, but it’s entirely within your rights to say “you know, I feel this situation has gone far beyond the reason you stopped me [for speeding], and I don’t feel comfortable answering any more questions without my attorney present.” For more information about handling an encounter with the cops on the side of the road, see my post: The “Consensual” Police Encounter.Content by Dain Smoland (Google+)