In Louisiana, the rules surrounding the way marijuana is governed are constantly changing. In August, Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) signed three bills into law that will dramatically expand the state’s medical cannabis program, including allowing medical practitioners to recommend patients with any weakening condition to use medical marijuana, offering protections for banks that service marijuana businesses, and establishing a task force to ascertain cannabis industry employment needs. Each law officially took effect on August 1, 2020.
From the specifics of each law to what it now means for Louisiana citizens, here’s everything you need to know.
What Does Each Marijuana Reform Bill Mean for Louisiana Citizens?
Marijuana laws are changing at a rapid pace across all 50 states. As it stands, 11 states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis, eight states still consider marijuana fully illegal, and the remaining 31 states—including Louisiana—have a mixed status. Louisiana hasn’t yet decriminalized marijuana but is one of 40 states to allow it for medicinal purposes.
The people of Louisiana have pushed for full legalization, but the state hasn’t fully committed. In fact, Civiqs Research—which has ongoing polling of more than 150,000 Americans—found that 68% of Louisianans believe “the use of cannabis should be legal.” These new state laws are a step closer to legalization.
The Medical Marijuana Expansion Bill
The first law—HB 819—allows physicians to recommend medical marijuana to treat any debilitating condition. Previously, there were only 14 conditions for which a physician could diagnose marijuana, such as HIV and cancer. Now, doctors can recommend cannabis therapy for “any condition” within their jurisdiction to treat that they “consider debilitating to an individual patient.”
For Louisiana citizens, this now means that you’ll now be able to get medical marijuana for any debilitating condition that your doctor sees fit for such treatment.
The Marijuana Bank and Credit Union Protection Bill
The second marijuana-related law—HB 211—protects banks and credit unions that service cannabis businesses from being penalized by state regulators. The bill will not only prohibit penalization solely due to marijuana-related banking activity but it will also prevent state regulators from encouraging banks to deny financial services or cancel accounts just because the account holder is a cannabis-related business, service provider, employee, owner, or operator. This condition applies, of course, only to those marijuana establishments that are legitimate and operating under the confines of Louisiana law.
The Medical Marijuana Task Force Bill
The final marijuana-related law put into effect on August 1 creates a task force to study and make recommendations relative to the cannabis industry’s projected workforce demands. Text of the legislation states the following:
“…there is a need to study the workforce demands and the skills necessary to supply the cannabis industry with a capable and complete workforce, including physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, and other healthcare practitioners.”
The task force has a goal of aiding politicians and lawmakers through the new cannabis era.
What Are the Common Types of Marijuana Drug Offenses and Their Penalties in Louisiana?
The Louisiana state and federal government spends a considerable amount of resources fighting illegal marijuana use and transportation. The most common cannabis-related charges are “possession” and “manufacturing and distribution.” The punishments for such crimes in Louisiana are some of the toughest in the country. As it stands, marijuana penalties are as follows:
- First offense: If you’re caught with less than 14 grams, you can face a fine of up to $300 and jail time for up to 15 days. Those with more than 14 grams can face up to $1,000 in fines and up to 6 months in jail.
- Second offense: If this is your second charge, you can face a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 6 months in jail.
- Third offense: For your third offense, you face a felony charge with possible sentencing of up to 2 years, hard labor, and a fine of up to $2,500.
Any subsequent offense could result in a prison sentence of up to eight years, hard labor, and a fine of up to $5,000.
Get Representation for Marijuana Charges in Louisiana
With the laws surrounding marijuana changing quite frequently, it’s important to find a defense attorney who is knowledgeable about up-to-date regulations and understands how to defend against criminal charges. If you’ve been accused of a marijuana-related offense in Louisiana, consider discussing your options with the experienced criminal defense lawyers at The John D. & Eric G. Johnson Law Firm. With over 25 years of experience, Attorney Eric Johnson has protected clients facing state and federal criminal charges throughout Louisiana
If you or a loved one have been charged with a marijuana-related offense, don’t hesitate to get an experienced legal team working for your defense as soon as possible. Eric serves to protect your rights and reputation. To schedule a free consultation, call (318) 377-1555 or complete our online contact form.