Marijuana, also known as pot or cannabis, is a plant that has medical benefits and has often been used recreationally since around 500 B.C., according to history.com.
There is some evidence that ancient cultures knew about the psychoactive properties of the plant and the cultivation of varieties to produce higher levels of THC for use in religious ceremonies is not new to modern times, according to history.com.
Marijuana has been used recreationally by many different cultures and peoples and just about everywhere in the world.
So, it’s not surprising that marijuana is being used right here in Tooele Count. While individuals in Utah may now take legal medical marijuana, the illegal marijuana is still a problem in Tooele County, according to the Utah Highway patrol.
“Marijuana is actually a big problem in Tooele County,” said Sergeant Nick Street, public information officer with the Utah Highway Patrol. “The big problem in Tooele is illegally produced cannabis that is coming into Tooele County from 1-80 from Northern California and from cartels in Mexico.”
Illegal cannabis can be harmful to developing brains, according to Street.
“There are children as young as 14 or 15 using black market marijuana,” he said. “When we are young, our brain is growing and formulating. There is a time frame when someone is young, even up to the age of 30, where the receptors in their brain are more prone to addiction. Use of impairing substances during that time would be concerning. Levels of dopamine or serotonin could potentially lead them down a path of looking for a bigger buzz.”
There is a huge demand for marijuana all over the United States and since Tooele County is so close to 1-80 and relatively close to California, a lot of the drug gets dropped off here, according to Street.
“The demand has definitely increased in recent years,” said Street. “A lot of states have turned to recreational cannabis, because the cost and issues with producing marijuana themselves makes black market marijuana more effective cost wise.”
Utah Senate Bill 121 legalizing the use of medical marijuana went into effect on Feb. 28. 2020.
This bill allows certain individuals with qualifying conditions, such as autism, cancer, certain autoimmune diseases, PTSD, and others to obtain 20 grams of THC per dose to help with their conditions.
The bill does not allow individuals in the State of Utah to grow their own cannabis or to smoke it.
A company called Tryke has opened up in Tooele City. The company came to the county from Arizona in Jan. 2020 to grow medical marijuana.
Street said he believes the medical marijuana bill has been beneficial for the community.
“A lot of people have prescription cards now,” he said. “Positive things have been established concerning medical marijuana. We have established laws to regulate it to a certain degree. It’s important to have that doctor patient relationship when consuming marijuana. A medical professional can tell you how it will work in your body and what dose you need.”
Using black market cannabis can be very dangerous, according to Street,
“There is a high degree of danger,” he said. “We see it on our Utah roads a lot. We find impairment from marijuana or poor driving behavior. We can see when someone has been using when they are driving, because there are a lot of physical characteristics.”
The Utah Highway Patrol’s Criminal Interdiction team makes many drug busts related to marijuana on Utah roads each year, especially in Tooele County.
Last year they found 2,138 pounds of raw marijuana, 27.37 pounds of shatter called dabs, 7,685 vape cartridges, and 8,925 edibles on Utah roads.
According to Street, possessing marijuana can result in an infraction, misdemeanor, or a felony charge depending on how much marijuana the individual has, if they are transporting it over state lines, and if they plan on distributing it.
Another issue, according to Street is sometimes black-market THC products can be laced.
“I would encourage individuals to stay away from cannabis products, especially black market edibles,” said Street. “You may think you are getting a pure THC substance but these could be laced with differing amounts of fentanyl. Some individuals have even lost their lives, because their edibles or vape cartridges were laced.”
Street said he wants to make it clear that using marijuana as a medical prescription is not a bad thing.
“There are definite medical benefits to cannabis,” Street said. “Individuals should understand what is available if they are interested in it medically. It’s always important to speak with a medical professional about medical marijuana. I think we can also rest assured that what the legislators and our state leaders have passed is one of the better cannabis acts in the country when it comes to recognizing medical value and allowing patients in need to consume it.”
For more information about medical marijuana, visit le.utah.gov.