New Utah bills that may affect you: free-range parenting, medical marijuana, more

Children walk to school on their own. Hundreds of new Utah laws went into effect Tuesday, including one for free-range parenting that wouldn't make it illegal for parents to let their children do things like walk to school on their own | Photo by Zaikina, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Among the more than 500 new bills that went into effect in Utah Tuesday include changes to rules about alcohol at restaurants, a bill to let parents allow their kids to roam freely and the prospect of medical marijuana to be used for a narrow range of purposes.

Most of the laws passed by the state’s Legislature this year go into effect 60 days after the end of the short legislative session, which was Tuesday. Here are some of the new laws that may affect you:

Free-range parenting

Utah is the first in the country to pass a law explicitly saying parents aren’t breaking the law if their kids travel alone to school, the playground or do other activities by themselves, as long as they’re mature enough to handle it. The law doesn’t specify how old children should be to be alone.

The measure has inspired supporters in New York and Texas to follow suit.

Read moreUtah becomes a trendsetter in free-range parenting laws

Marijuana plants are for sale at Harborside marijuana dispensary in Oakland, California, Jan. 1, 2018 | Associated Press file photo by Mathew Sumner, St. George News

Medical marijuana

Terminally ill people within six months of dying may soon be able to buy a very narrow range of marijuana products from a yet-to-be-created state-run dispensary. Farmers will also be able to grow marijuana for research purposes.

An initiative with much broader rules for consuming marijuana is expected to be on the ballot before voters in November.

Read more: Governor signs law allowing terminal patients ‘right to try’ medical marijuana

Good Samaritan Law

Utahns who break car windows or use force to remove a confined child from a car will now be given with civil immunity.

The bill, which amended the Good Samaritan Law, is aimed at protecting people who break into cars to save children if the environment is too hot or too cold. Animals, however, don’t get the same treatment under this new bill; citizens who break into cars to rescue pets may not have civil immunity.

Read more: Should bystanders be allowed to smash window to remove child from hot car?

This 2017 Fox 13 News file photo shows Utah’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s template signs that every Utah bar and restaurant were required to display as of May 9, 2017. Salt Lake City, Utah, April 25, 2017 | File photo by Fox 13 reporter Ben Winslow courtesy of Fox 13 News, St. George News

Alcohol at restaurants 

Utah restaurant owners will be able to take down state-mandated signs near their doors reading: “This premise is licensed as a restaurant, not a bar.” The signs were part of a massive liquor-reform bill last year but didn’t seem to be making a difference, lawmakers said.

Bars will still have to post signs identifying their status and saying people under 21 are not allowed in.

Read more: Utah restaurant owners rejoice: Puzzling signs may come down

Domestic violence

People in dating relationships will be able to obtain protective orders against dangerous partners, fixing what lawmakers have described as a gap in current law. Previously, people in a relationship could not get a protective order if they were not married or didn’t live together.

The bill was introduced after the murder of a woman and her 6-year-old son by a former boyfriend last year.

Read more: Bills strengthening domestic violence laws find support in Utah Legislature


Fireworks-enthusiasts now have six fewer days to fire off their fireworks in July. Instead of allowing fireworks use three days before and after Independence Day and Pioneer Day, the new law allows fireworks two days before the holidays and one day afterward.

Fireworks surrounding New Year’s Eve and the Chinese New Year were not affected by the new bill.

Read more: Herbert signs bill reducing days fireworks can be used 

Police dogs

K-9 officer Tess lies next to a stash of drugs she helped uncover, Washington County, Utah, Aug. 24, 2015 | File photo courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Intentionally killing a police K-9 officer is now a second-degree felony, which can carry the weight of one to 15 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

The new law was sparked after Washington County Sheriff K-9 officer Tess was shot in the face by a carjacking suspect in Washington County in August 2017. Tess survived the attack and is now retired.

Read more: Legislature passes bill increasing penalty for killing police dogs

Locks on classrooms

School districts now have the option to install barricade locks on classroom doors. While the bill doesn’t give schools funding for the locks, it allows certain locks to be placed on classroom doors that would be breaking fire codes elsewhere.

The timing of the unanimous vote on this bill in the Utah Legislature was coincidental, but came a day after 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz gunned down students and staff at his former school in Parkland, Florida.

Read more: Lawmakers pass bill allowing barricade locks on classroom doors

Free speech at college

There’s a new resolution encouraging state institutions of higher learning to protect students’ civil liberties, especially those covered by the First Amendment.

The idea for this resolution came about after incidents where free speech on Utah campuses may have been encroached, including a free speech lawsuit against Dixie State University in 2015, which was filed after the university tried to prevent students from posting flyers around campus that made fun of political figures.

Read more: Utah legislators consider resolution to protect students’ First Amendment rights


Teenagers who leave polygamous communities will have more legal protection from parents who could expose them to sexual abuse or forced marriage. The new law changes the system of notifying families about runaways to state that authorities — and not the home where the child is staying — are required to notify the child’s parents.


Utah residents who will be 18 by the general election can vote in the party primary elections, even if they are only 17 at the time. Lawmakers hoped that the measure would increase teenagers’ participation in politics.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • utahdiablo May 9, 2018 at 9:17 pm

    With all the “Free – range” kids walking across the busy streets trying to get to school, or the movies, or the mall or wherever.. hopefully the dangerous southern Utah drivers with be more careful…probably not, but we can only hope

  • Dennis May 9, 2018 at 11:14 pm

    Does free-range apply to parents who let young children run around barefoot in the cold of winter and the scorching days of our summers? Just wondering.

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