Is Cannabis Legal in Louisiana?
The short answer is no, cannabis is not currently legal in Louisiana. The state has decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, but it is still considered a crime. There has been a push to legalize medical marijuana in Louisiana, but the law has not been passed yet.
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Cannabis is legal in Louisiana for medicinal purposes only. The state passed a law in 1978 making marijuana possession for any reason a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. In 1991, the penalty was reduced to up to six months in jail and a $500 fine for first-time offenders. In 2001, the state passed a medical marijuana law, but it was later overturned.
History of Cannabis in Louisiana
Cannabis has been illegal in Louisiana since 1915, though it was used medicinally prior to that time. In 1991, the state began allowing the use of medical marijuana for select patients with cancer, glaucoma, and other debilitating conditions. However, it was not until 2015 that lawmakers finally approved a comprehensive medical marijuana program. The first dispensaries opened in 2019.
In 2018, voters approved a ballot measure to decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use. The law went into effect in 2019 and applies to adults 21 and over. Possession of up to 14 grams (0.5 ounces) is now punishable by a fine of up to $100, with no jail time.
As of 2021, there are no laws legalizing or regulating the recreational use of cannabis in Louisiana. However, lawmakers are considering several bills that would do just that. If any of these bills are passed and signed into law, Louisiana would become the first state in the Deep South to legalize cannabis for adult use.
Current Cannabis Laws in Louisiana
As of January 1, 2020, medicinal cannabis is legal in Louisiana for individuals with a qualifying condition. For an individual to qualify, they must receive a recommendation from a licensed physician. Recreational cannabis, however, remains illegal in Louisiana.
Possession of cannabis in Louisiana is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 for first-time offenders. For second and subsequent offences, possession is punishable by up to 30 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $20,000. Possession of 14 grams or less of cannabis is punishable by a fine of not more than $300 for first-time offenders. For second and subsequent offences, the fine increases to not more than $1,000. Possession of more than 14 grams but less than 60 kilograms is a felony punishable by 2–10 years imprisonment and a fine of not more than $5,000.
Cultivation of cannabis is currently illegal in Louisiana. The maximum punishment for cultivation of cannabis is 20 years imprisonment with or without hard labor and a fine of up to $50,000. If an individual has been convicted of a prior felony drug offense, the maximum punishment for cultivation of cannabis increases to 30 years imprisonment with or without hard labor and a fine of up to $75,000.
It is currently illegal to sell cannabis in Louisiana. The penalties for selling cannabis depend on the amount sold and whether the sale took place within 1,000 feet of a school. For example, selling between two and sixty pounds of cannabis carries a potential sentence of five to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000.
In Louisiana, it is still illegal to consume cannabis in any form, including smoking, edibles, oils, and any other method of consumption. Penalties for possession and consumption of cannabis are tough in Louisiana, with first-time offenders facing up to six months in jail and a fine of $500. Subsequent offenses can result in harsher penalties, including up to five years in prison and a fine of $2,500. So while it may be legal to possess cannabis in Louisiana, it is still illegal to consume it.
Public Opinion of Cannabis in Louisiana
Cannabis opinion polls have been conducted in various countries to gauge public opinion on the issue of recreational and/or medicinal cannabis legalization. In the United States, support for cannabis legalization has increased in recent years, with a majority of Americans now supporting the move. A 2018 poll found that 60% of Louisiana voters supported the legalization of cannabis for recreational use, while just 32% opposed it. This was up from 53% support and 39% opposition in a 2017 poll.
Yes, medical cannabis is legal in Louisiana. The state has had a medical cannabis program since 1978, but it wasn’t until 2016 that lawmakers finally approved a method for dispensaries to begin operating. The program is very restrictive, however, and only a handful of dispensaries are currently in operation. Recreational cannabis remains illegal in Louisiana.