Earlier this summer, the Louisiana State Senate approved a bill that would loosen the rules surrounding which doctors can recommend marijuana to patients and for what reasons. The changes in the law under House Bill 819, which took effect in August, allow doctors to recommend medical marijuana for any patient in need and removes restrictions on which doctors can recommend cannabis.
From the specifics of the new law to what it now means for Louisiana citizens, here’s everything you need to know.
What Are the New Marijuana Laws in Louisiana?
Sponsored by Republican Rep. Larry Bagley, House Bill 819 amends the previous 2015 ruling that only allowed doctors to recommend medical marijuana for patients suffering from serious conditions such as cancer, AIDS, seizure disorders, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, and others. Now, medical professionals can prescribe marijuana to patients for any condition they consider “debilitating to an individual patient.”
Likewise, under the previous law, patients who wished to access medical marijuana needed to find a doctor who had gone through a licensing process at the Board of Medical Examiners. Even when they did find an eligible medical professional, the doctor couldn’t prescribe marijuana but only “recommend” it. This discrepancy served to protect doctors from penalties.
House Bill 819 states that doctors now simply need to be in “good standing” with the Board of Medical Examiners rather than be a licensee.
What Do the New Marijuana Laws Mean for Louisiana Citizens?
The bottom line is that Louisiana citizens can now obtain medical marijuana for any condition their doctor sees fit. A handful of states, such as California, Maine, and Virginia, have enacted similar measures providing physicians with the ability to recommend medical cannabis preparations to any patient who they believe may benefit from them.
As it stands, only the agricultural centers at Louisiana State University and Southern University are authorized to grow cannabis in Louisiana, and only nine dispensaries can provide it to patients. Cannabis can only be consumed in non-smokable forms such as oils, pills, liquids, and topical applications. Likewise, it can be pulled through an inhaler for asthma patients.
The laws surrounding marijuana are ever-changing in the United States. Currently, 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.
House Bill 819 continues a slow-moving trend in Louisiana over the past several years toward loosening the restrictions on medical marijuana. Still, Louisiana is one of the strictest states in the country in terms of cannabis-related regulations after lawmakers agreed to one of the most restrictive marijuana programs in the country several years ago.
What Are the Common Types of Marijuana Drug Offenses and Their Penalties in Louisiana?
In Louisiana, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I Hallucinogenic substance. The most common cannabis-related charges are “possession” and “manufacturing and distribution.” Possession penalties include the following:
- Up to 14 grams: Up to 15 days in jail and up to $300 in fines
- Over 14 grams: Up to 6 months in jail and up to $500 in fines
- 5–60 pounds: 2–10 years in prison (with or without hard labor) and between $10,000 and $30,000 in fines
- 60–2,000 pounds: 5–30 years in prison with hard labor and between $50,000 and $100,000 in fines
- 2,000–10,000 pounds: 10–40 years in prison with hard labor and between $100,000 and $400,000 in fines
- Over 10,000 pounds: 25–40 years in prison with hard labor and between $400,000 and $1 million in fines
Penalties for manufacturing and distribution include imprisonment and hard labor for 5–30 years and a fine of up to $50,000. If you’ve been arrested for any type of marijuana offense, it’s important that you get in touch with a credible marijuana defense attorney as soon as possible.
Get Representation for Marijuana Charges in Louisiana
With the rules surrounding the way marijuana is governed constantly changing, it’s important to find a defense attorney who’s 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.
Eric is a problem solver who’s committed to thoroughly investigating your case and devising a successful defense strategy. He’ll launch a legal investigation into your case and the circumstances leading up to your arrest in order to present the strongest possible argument in court. To schedule a free consultation, call (318) 377-1555 or complete our online contact form.