The medical use of marijuana in Louisiana has been legal since 2015; however, the recreational use of marijuana is still illegal in the state. Hence, if you intend to smoke pot in the state of Louisiana, you should repent, for you may end up incurring charges for the violations of the state laws on marijuana. In New Orleans, however, possession of marijuana has been decriminalized within the city.
Medical Marijuana Laws of Louisiana
On June 30, 2015, the then Governor Bobby Jindal had signed House Bill 149 which establishes the framework for the dispensing of marijuana for medical purposes. This bill, however, failed because of error in the bill’s wording which instead of using “recommend” made use of “prescribe.” The failed bill was then amended and proposed as Senate Bill 271 which was then signed by Governor John Bel Edwards on May 19, 2016.
This law allowed the medical use of marijuana for patients with qualifying debilitating medical conditions. However, the bill does not provide legal protection for patients, distributors, and growers. Hence, another bill, namely, Senate Bill 180 was then signed by the Governor that provides an exemption from criminal liabilities for those who legally possess medical marijuana.
This bill, however, overlooked the providing of legal protection for those who would cultivate marijuana for medical use. Hence, at present, this problem is still being ironed out in the Legislature.
Drug Possession Laws of Louisiana
The possession, use, and distribution of marijuana are still strictly prohibited in the state. The state likewise classifies marijuana as a Schedule I(C) Hallucinogenic Substance, and as such it is a controlled substance. Hence, before you even play around with marijuana, you should at least know the following punishments and penalties concomitant with any violation concerning the use distribution, and selling of marijuana within the state:
- If you are caught with 14 grams or less of marijuana, you will be fined $300 and/or maximum 15 days of imprisonment.
- If you are caught with14 grams but less than 2 ½ pounds of marijuana (first offense), you will be fined with $500 or/and up to 6 months of imprisonment, and there will be a one-time two-year cleansing period for any first-time conviction.
- For other convictions with less than 2 ½ pounds, you will be fined $1,000, and/or up to 6 months of incarceration. For third convictions, you will be fined $2,500 and up to 2 years of imprisonment. Fourth convictions will entail a fine of $5,000 and up to 8 years in prison.
- If you are caught with 2 ½ but less than 60 pounds, you will be punished with 2 to 10 years of imprisonment, and a maximum fine of $30,000.
- If you are caught with 60 but less than 2,000 pounds, you will be charged with a felony, 5-30 years of imprisonment, and fine of $50,000 to $100,000.
- If you are caught in possession of 2,000 but less than 10,000 pounds, you will be charged with a felony,10 to 40 years of imprisonment, and fine of $100,000 to $400,000.
- If you are caught with10,000 pounds or more, you will be charged with felony, plus 25 to 40 years of imprisonment.
The distribution of marijuana is strictly prohibited within the state and violations of the laws on distribution entail the following penalties and punishments:
- If you are caught distributing or cultivating marijuana, you will be charged with up to $50,000, and 5 to 30 years of imprisonment. Subsequent offenses entail 10 to 60 years of imprisonment and a maximum fine of $100,000. Your punishments will be further aggravated if you are selling to minor or selling near or within a school premise.
Can Employers Require Employees and Applicants to Undergo Drug Tests?
Louisiana does not restrict or prohibit drug testing of applicants and employees. However, employers should conduct drug tests according to the statutory requirements of the state laws and federal law.
- Employees of state contractors and state are undoubtedly subject to random drug tests.
- Those who are also employed in safety-sensitive positions are subject to random drug tests.
- Public employers, however, are required to publish their drug testing policy.
- Employers should shoulder the costs of drug testing.
- Substance and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) should conduct confirmatory tests on those employees who would test positive.
- Employers could require random drug tests if there was an accident that caused injury, death, or damages to properties within the workplace.
- Drug test results should be kept confidential.