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Marijuana laws in Louisiana: What Has Changed?

Until not so long ago, Louisiana was known as the incarceration capital of the country. While the legislature did reduce various penalties over the years, many still continued to be astonishingly harsh, and even tore families apart.

Then came the year 2021. It was a remarkably successful year as the Louisiana Legislature passed the limited decriminalization law for small amounts of marijuana, made progress toward legalization, and expanded the medical marijuana program.

The Welcome Revisions to Cannabis Laws in Louisiana

● Earlier in 2021, House Bill 699, which proposed to legalize recreational marijuana in Louisiana, did not pass the House. Then, in June 2021, HB 652 was signed by Governor John Bel Edwards. This law reduced the penalty for possession of marijuana to a fine-only offense to be enforced by a summons (instead of an arrest), with a fine of up to $100. By doing so, it must have easily saved thousands from being incarcerated, owing to small amounts of marijuana. Even for those who couldn’t pay, the court was asked to use its discretion and ask for payments in installments or order community service as an alternative for the fine.

● However, individuals found in possession of over 14 grams of marijuana would still be punished severely, just as before. HB 652 also did not knock off the harsh penalties on proven intent to sell or distribute any amount of cannabis.

● Later in August 2021, the New Orleans City Council approved a set of 3 ordinances, under which, any individual who had received a summons for marijuana possession would have it immediately forgiven, with no action needed either from the ticketed individual or the court. It is estimated that about 10,000 convictions and pending case penalties for small amounts of cannabis possession have been pardoned as well as any future summons.

● But, the Smoke-Free Air Act still makes smoking marijuana in public a ticketable offense.

Louisiana’s Medical Marijuana Law

In the past, the medical cannabis law in Louisiana prohibited inhaled and flower cannabis. It was observed that banning flower would drive up the costs, making medical marijuana inaccessible to most low, as well as middle-income patients, while rendering many cannabis businesses in the state economically unfeasible. This changed in June 2021 when Gov. John Bel Edwards signed Louisiana Senate Bill 391 into law, which took effect from January 1, 2022.

Before this, in 2020, Louisiana’s list of qualifying conditions were found to be unduly restrictive, which was corrected to a good extent when Gov. John Bel Edwards signed HB 819. This law allows doctors to recommend medical marijuana for any medical condition that the physician “considers debilitating to an individual patient”, and that they are qualified to treat. Also, several conditions, such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, traumatic brain injury, ALS, and chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia or sickle cell anemia, were added to the list of debilitating conditions.

Final Word

To summarize, there has been a limited medical marijuana program in Louisiana since 2020. With 9 dispensaries that are spread across 9 different regions of the state currently, doctors may recommend cannabis for any debilitating condition. But, when it comes to cultivating and producing cannabis in the state, there are only 2 entities that possess the licenses to do so. One is Louisiana State University’s Agricultural Center, and the other one is Southern University’s Agricultural Center. While the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry oversees them both, the dispensaries are licensed by the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy.

In addition, being in possession of cannabis up to 14 grams, attracts only a penalty of $100 instead of jail time. Plus, patients are allowed to smoke whole-plant marijuana flowers. Governor Edwards brought the state as close as he could legally to legalizing the use of cannabis. He believes that while legalization is inevitable, it’s also unlikely to happen in the state during his term.

Contact Us Today

Gaynell Williams LLC Attorney at Law offers a free initial consultation to discuss your case. The first consultation can be in person or it can be virtual, on the Internet. Call Gaynell Williams today at (504) 302-2462 for a free consultation as soon as possible. We will work around your schedule. New Orleans lawyers Gaynell Williams LLC Attorney at Law have offices in Gretna and Downtown New Orleans by appointment only.

This information has been provided for informational purposes only and is not intended and should not be construed to constitute legal advice. Please consult your attorney in connection with any specific situation under Louisiana law and the applicable state or local laws that may affect your legal rights.

© 2022 Gaynell Williams

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