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Penalties for marijuana offenses in Louisiana

Several states have relaxed marijuana laws. It would be a mistake to think this trend has influenced enforcement of laws here. Louisiana laws describe marijuana as a schedule I controlled substance, ranking alongside heroin and cocaine as one of the most dangerous hallucinogenic drugs.

Also among schedule I drugs are synthetic marijuana, derivatives and compounds. Tetrahydrocannabinol, a psychoactive ingredient known as THC, is also on the list.

What are the consequences for drug possession? The financial damage for a first-time offender, with possession of less than 60 pounds of marijuana for personal use, is up to $500. The fine also may be attached to a jail term of up to six months. In addition, your driving privileges will be stripped for at least a month and possibly up to one year.

Probation eligibility is available for first and second offenders. A court can order a defendant to perform community service and enter a substance abuse program, paid for by the defendant. A second offense may lead to a fine of as high as $2,500 and a five-year prison term – penalties for subsequent convictions are significantly higher.

Penalties vary for drug offenses based on the drug's ranking on the CDS schedule, the quantity and the drug's alleged purpose. For example, a defendant convicted of possession of 2,000 to 10,000 pounds of marijuana could be fined as much as $400,000 and imprisoned for as long as 40 years – and that's for possession, nothing else.

Punishments are harsh for marijuana cultivation or drug trafficking. Under Louisiana laws, marijuana distribution or cultivation can equal maximum penalties of a $50,000 fine and a 30-year prison term. Severe penalties are added for drug charges involving minors and possession or sales in drug-free zones.

The good news -- a criminal defense lawyer protects defendants' rights, works to get drug charges dropped or reduced and negotiates the lightest possible sentence.

Source: State of Louisiana, "Louisiana Rev. Stat. § 40:966" Dec. 01, 2014

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