Updated August 2019
While marijuana has still not yet been decriminalized or legalized in Louisiana, recent medical marijuana legislative developments show that the state government is making efforts to make life easier for patients seeking medicinal cannabis.
Recreational Marijuana in Louisiana
While recreational marijuana remains illegal in Louisiana, in June 2015 Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law Senate Bill 143 to reduce penalties for possession. According to the new law, a first time offender possessing 14 grams or less of marijuana is punishable by 15 days in prison and $300 in fines. The first time offense of carrying more than 14 grams but less than 2.5 pounds is punishable by 6 months in jail and a payment of $500 in fine. Possession of more than 2.5 pounds of marijuana is punishable by a minimum mandatory sentence starting from 2 years going up to 25 years. Possession of more than 60 pounds also requires offenders to pay heavy fines ranging from $100,000 to $1,000,000.
Sale of any amount of recreational marijuana, whether as a first offense or subsequent offense, is punishable by a minimum mandatory sentence of at least 5 years. Distribution of marijuana also leads to life prison terms for up to 90 years and heavy fines ranging from $50,000 to $200,000.
Marijuana possession in the city of New Orleans was decriminalized on March 23, 2016 after Mayor Mitch Landrieu signed into law Ordinance 31,148. The law allows law enforcement to issue a ticket rather than arresting for marijuana possession and reduces penalties from jail time to a civic fine of $40 to $100.
Medical Marijuana in Louisiana
The Louisiana State Legislature signed SB 143 into law in June 2015 to lay the framework for medicinal marijuana access, but regulatory hurdles have caused the program’s launch to be delayed. To try to kick-start the program, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a bill in May 2016 that expands the program to include more conditions and allows doctors to “recommend” rather than “prescribe” marijuana to patients.
Medical marijuana in Louisiana is on schedule to become available to patients sometime in August 2019. Agricultural centers at Louisiana State University and Southern University have been selected to grow cannabis for the state, overseen by the state agriculture department. Nine dispensaries have been selected throughout the state.
Medical marijuana will be allowed in the form of medicinal oils, pills, liquids, and topical applications. In June 2019, Louisiana lawmakers passed a bill allowing for the sale and use of cannabis inhalers.
Despite launch delays, lawmakers have continued to make efforts to improve the program. In June 2018, Gov. Edwards signed into law two measures that expand the state’s medical marijuana program. House Bill 579 adds glaucoma, severe muscle spasms, intractable pain, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and Parkinson’s disease as qualifying conditions. House bill 672 allows for medical marijuana to be used in the treatment of autism spectrum disorder.
A full list of the conditions that are approved for medical marijuana under Louisiana law is as follows:
- Cachexia or Wasting Syndrome
- Crohn’s Disease
- Intractable Pain
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Seizure Disorders
- Severe Muscle Spasms
Consumption of CBD from Hemp Oil in Louisiana
Hemp-derived CBD products are legal under Federal Law in the United States; however, individual state laws are dynamic and fluid. Individual states may enact their own laws governing hemp-derived CBD.
Cultivation of Cannabis in Louisiana
Cultivation of cannabis for any purpose is a major offense in Louisiana. Cultivation of any amount of marijuana as a first offense is punishable by a 5-year minimum mandatory sentence and 30 years maximum prison time, along with up to $50,000 in fines. Soliciting a minor to cultivate marijuana can lead up to 90 years in jail, with up to $20,000 in fines.
In June 2019, Louisiana lawmakers approved a measure that allows state farmers to get into the hemp-growing business. The measure also authorizes and regulates sales of hemp-derived CBD.
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Author: Eve Ripley