According to an article published this summer in the Salt Lake Tribune, Utah leads the nation in convictions for federal cases of “simple possession.” Basically, this is the federal crime you get charged with if you’re found with a personal amount of weed on any federal land: national parks, national forests, national monuments, and BLM land.
In some ways, it’s kinda surprising: Utah is filled with, well, Utahns, who are well-known for being a pretty clean-living bunch. On the other hand, it’s not at all surprising, as Utah has a bunch of famous national parks, which draw visitors from all over the nation and world–often places, like western europe or California, with more progressive views on marijuana.
There have been some positive steps recently as far as federal prosecution policy. The US Attorney General recently directed attorneys to consider filing lesser charges which avoid harsh mandatory prison terms, but it’s unclear whether this general policy will result in a reduction in misdemeanor charges, since those charges typically don’t result in prison time anyway. In any case, I’m still being contacted regularly by potential clients who were caught, cited, and prosecuted by federal agents on federal land for small amounts of marijuana, and I expect that will continue for the time being.
Usually, these potential clients have an upcoming court date in Moab, Salt Lake, or St. George, but many of them want to try and resolve their cases without “ever setting foot in [expletive] Utah again.” Technically, Utah isn’t responsible for federal policy, but I can’t say I blame them for the sentiment. Whether it’s because of geography or personality, or both, we’re still the site of the most small-time federal pot cases. Sadly, maybe Utah should amend it’s slogan from “Life Elevated” to “And Don’t Come Back!”