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Louisiana relaxes marijuana laws but it remains illegal for the vast majority

Medical marijuana is now legal in Louisiana, under strict conditions. Lawmakers have also reduced sentencing for low-level marijuana crimes.

Louisiana has yet to join the growing number of states to make recreational marijuana use legal. In June, however, Governor Bobby Jindal signed legislation that reduces the criminal penalties associated with marijuana possession crimes. Marijuana can also be used for medicinal purposes in the state, after a bill authorizing the growth and prescription distribution of marijuana to certain patients became law earlier in 2015.

Previously, Louisiana numbered itself among the strictest states in the nation in regards to sentencing for simple marijuana possession. Under the new law, people convicted of a second marijuana offense will receive up to six months in prison, with maximum jail time increasing for each subsequent offense. Previously, judges could sentence a second marijuana possession offense with up to five years in jail.

Medicinal marijuana remains difficult to obtain and use legally

Patients are also facing serious obstacles to obtaining medical marijuana. In most other states which have legalized medicinal marijuana, physicians are allowed to “recommend” marijuana as treatment, which can help to reduce the risk that a physician will have his or her license revoked for prescribing an illegal drug under federal law. In Louisiana, however, physicians must actually prescribe the drug, which means that they are automatically under the oversight of the Drug Enforcement Agency. Under federal law, marijuana remains a Schedule I illegal substance, considered equally as dangerous as LSD or peyote. Because of the wording of Louisiana’s law, it remains to be seen whether patients who would qualify for medical marijuana will even be able to legally obtain it.

Many crimes still associated with the cultivation and use of marijuana

Despite the relaxation of some sentencing guidelines and recognition that marijuana has useful medicinal purposes, there are numerous crimes still associated with marijuana use in Louisiana. Regardless of the drug of choice, it is still illegal to drive under the influence of an intoxicating substance in the state, for example, whether it be alcohol, marijuana, or prescription pain medication.

In addition, marijuana cultivation still carries significant penalties, as does trafficking. As of July 21, only two Louisiana State University Agricultural Centers are able to grow medical marijuana in Louisiana. And while possession charges may not result in as significant of jail time, distribution of recreational marijuana is a serious crime in Louisiana that can result in significant consequences.

Help with Criminal defense

Despite the recognition that marijuana laws can be overly harsh and that marijuana does have medicinal value, the use of marijuana remains a crime for the overwhelming majority of people in Louisiana. And a person convicted of a marijuana faces serious repercussions, including a negative impact on that person’s work, social standing, and freedom.

If you have been charged with a crime associated with marijuana, you should contact the experienced criminal defense firm of Damico & Stockstill, Attorneys at Law, to defend your rights and understand your legal options.

Keywords: Marijuana, marijuana penalties, medical marijuana, possession charges, drug crimes.