In May 2016, Louisiana passed a law legalizing certain kinds of medical marijuana in narrow circumstances. Since this law has passed, many Louisiana citizens are wondering what the specific distinctions are between possession of legal medical marijuana and a misdemeanor or felony possession charge. Here is an overview of the medical marijuana law, criminal possession laws and what to do if you are charged.
Medical marijuana restrictions
The intention of the new law is to establish a medical marijuana program where Southern University and Louisiana State University are the only licensed growers. It expands the eligible conditions and illnesses treatable by medical marijuana by adding seizure disorders. Other eligible conditions include cancer, muscular dystrophy, HIV and AIDS.
The law only legalizes the drug in oil form; it cannot be produced in a smoke-able form. Southern University and LSU have only recently begun searching for private partners to grow and produce medical marijuana. With no current distribution, it is virtually impossible to get ahold of medical marijuana in Louisiana.
Possessing marijuana is still illegal
Despite the legalization of medical marijuana and a reduction of some consequences for possessing marijuana from House Bill 149, possession of marijuana in Louisiana is still a criminal offense. For first offenses of possessing less than 14 grams, a conviction may result in a $300 fine and 15 days in jail. Those possessing more than 14 grams face a $500 fine and as many as six months in jail. It is worth noting that first and second offenses are eligible for probation in certain circumstances. First offenses can sometimes be expunged if there are no subsequent offenses after two years.
All states that have legalized marijuana in medical or recreational forms are at odds with federal law. Louisiana is in particularly uncharted territory because it is the first instance where universities will be producing the drug. The involvement of these institutes raises unprecedented questions regarding interference and funding from the federal government.
As states across the nation begin to make changes in laws regarding marijuana, it is no wonder there are so many questions. Understanding that marijuana is only legal in very specific medical situations in Louisiana should help citizens realize that possession is still illegal. With the changes in laws and the new territory for citizens, universities and even the state government, it is crucial to have legal counsel regarding criminal charges. Those who have been convicted of drug possession should consult a criminal defense attorney about their options.