The legality of marijuana is mixed in Louisiana. Medical marijuana was recently legalized in the state when the Louisiana State Legislature signed SB 143 into law in June 2015. However, there were many delays and hoops to jump through which took four years to overcome. So, despite being legalized in 2015, medical marijuana didn’t become available to patients until August 2019. The agricultural program at Louisiana State University and Southern University were chosen to grow marijuana for the state and 9 medical dispensaries opened.
Unfortunately, Recreational marijuana is illegal in the state of Louisiana and has not yet been decriminalized. Meaning, if you are caught with marijuana the judge has no choice but to sentence you to the mandatory minimum sentence. For example, if you are caught with anywhere between 2.5 to 60 pounds of marijuana, the mandatory minimum sentence is two years in jail and cannot be less. New Orleans however, decriminalized the use of marijuana instructing police enforcement to issue tickets costing $40 - $100 for small amounts of marijuana. There have been other attempts for local decriminalization of marijuana, but it remains a criminal offense on a state level.
Louisiana allows for the sale of medical marijuana; however, they limit the types of marijuana that is allowed. For example, purchasing actual flower and smoking marijuana through pipes, bongs, joints, etc. is considered illegal. Patients are only allowed to purchase marijuana in pill form or through “inhalers” that have a metered amount administered at a time. Unfortunately, the backlash of this is that medical marijuana becomes exceedingly expensive as it must go through rigorous testing and processing making it less accessible to low-income patients.
As mentioned above, the state limits the variety of marijuana allowed to be purchased within the state. One is not allowed to purchase smokable marijuana and must buy pills, edibles or inhaler devices that work as vaporizers but limit the dosage per puff. Louisiana has also limited the number of dispensaries to 9 across the entire state. When entering a dispensary, you must be 21 years or older and have your medical marijuana card and your state-issued ID.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Louisiana relaxed a few of its rules to mitigate the spread of the disease. This includes delivery. Therefore, during the crisis people are legally allowed to have licensed dispensary employees deliver marijuana to their door. It is unclear how this rule will change or if it will be kept after the pandemic is over, but for the time being, delivery is legal.
Medical marijuana dispensaries across Louisiana on average close much earlier than in most other states. In fact, there are generally just two times when stores choose to close: 4:00 pm or 8:00 pm. There is no law restricting closing times, so be sure to check out your favorite dispensary’s store hours before you make the visit!
Holding recreational marijuana of any kind without a valid Louisiana medical card is illegal and not yet decriminalized. Therefore, the only way to purchase marijuana is to hold a valid MMJ card from the state.
Those who have a medical marijuana card can purchase a 30-day supply that is recommended by their doctor. Therefore, each patient will have a legal purchasing limit that they cannot exceed per month. If a patient is caught purchasing or possessing more than their legal amount, they will face 6 months of incarceration and a $500 fine.
Louisiana does not allow for a huge variety of medical marijuana products. In fact, they do not allow the purchase of actual flower for any reason. That’s right - you are not allowed to smoke weed in the state. Instead, one can only consume edibles, pills, oils, creams or a metered “inhaler” of sorts. This inhaler is just like the one used for asthma, but with THC that gives a uniform dose with every inhale.
The purchase of any marijuana or marijuana products without a valid medical card is still illegal in the state of Louisiana. Since it has not even been decriminalized there is no legal state-licensed business to purchase recreational cannabis and no system of taxes implemented.
Medical users are exempt from sales tax in Louisiana but instead, the state government issues a “stamp tax” for any marijuana product sold within the state. Each tax stamp costs $3.50 per gram and it must be visible on every marijuana product. If an individual is caught without a stamp tax, they must pay a fine of 200% of the original tax stamp and can be sentenced to prison for up to 5 years. While these stamp taxes aren’t directly charged to the customer, the expenses of the tax raise the price of the final product by a significant amount.
The possession of marijuana is limited to the doctor’s recommendation of each patient. There is no universal possession limit, but instead, each doctor will determine the right amount of marijuana that a patient gets per 30 days. Therefore, within a month, a patient may possess no more than the total prescription given by the doctor that month. Possession limits are very strict in Louisiana as even a medical patient can get into some serious trouble if they possess more than they are supposed to. If a patient possesses any amount over their limit, they can be sentenced to up to 6 months in prison and will have to pay a $500 fine. Therefore, be safe and never hold more than your doctor instructs.
Throughout the state, there are drug-free zones that have serious penalties for holding any type of controlled substance including marijuana. Therefore, even medical patients are not allowed to possess or have consumed marijuana within 2,000 ft of these zones. Drug-free zones include areas like elementary schools, high schools, college campuses, religious buildings and public housing. If one is caught using, distributing or possessing medical marijuana within 2,000 ft of a drug-free zone, they are punished with 1.5 times the maximum sentence and maximum fines.
Areas in Louisiana that DO allow the use of marijuana:
Areas in Louisiana that DO NOT allow the use of marijuana:
As you may know, marijuana of any kind is still illegal on a federal level. Essentially what this means is that any land that is owned by the federal government puts you in the feds jurisdiction where marijuana is illegal. Therefore, if you are caught possessing and/or consuming marijuana on federally owned land, you will be prosecuted by the feds.
While current polling around the state shows that voters want to legalize recreational marijuana, it remains illegal and bills have continued to fail. New Orleans is the first city to take lead by decriminalizing marijuana and asking law enforcement to issue tickets rather than spending money and time to arrest people. Despite this, marijuana arrests in Louisiana are rampant especially in how black citizens are 3.4 times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than white people.
Medical marijuana on the other hand is beginning to become more popular in the state as doctors are finally expanding their intake and allowing for more and more medical patients to register. That being said, there are only 9 medical dispensaries currently in Louisiana and only two authorized cultivators.
The application to obtain a medical marijuana card in Louisiana is fairly straightforward with four steps:
1. Obtain a physician’s certification that you are diagnosed with one of the approved medical conditions in the state OR that you suffer from a debilitating condition that could be improved by marijuana.
2. Next, complete and submit the medical marijuana application to the Louisiana Department of Health.
3. Provide proof of Louisiana residency through your state-issued ID.
4. Submit the application fee ($75)
Your doctor is responsible for maintaining records of your condition and how medical marijuana is affecting you. To keep their medical marijuana card, users must regularly schedule checkups and update the doctor’s recommended dosage accordingly.
Out of state medical cards are not allowed in Louisiana under any circumstances. Therefore, only valid medical patients who live in Louisiana are allowed to purchase from dispensaries.
State-licensed medical marijuana patients are legally allowed to transport marijuana in their cars within the state boundaries of Louisiana. However, any marijuana product within the vehicle must be sealed and out of reach of the driver, including the glovebox. It is always best practice to store any marijuana in the car in the trunk or behind the backseat of the vehicle
There is no legal limit that is safe to drive in the state of Louisiana. Any sign of impairment will warrant a drug inspecting officer to be notified and sent to investigate one’s driving condition. Driving under the influence of marijuana is always a bad idea and can result in massive legal problems similar to that of a DUI. If found driving under the influence of marijuana, one’s license will be suspended, and they will have to pay massive legal fines and carry out court-mandated punishment. If you are high, don’t even think about driving and utilize Louisiana’s public transportation or apps like Uber or Lyft.
As you may know, the state borders are under federal jurisdiction, where weed is still illegal. Therefore, driving across state lines puts the driver and anyone in the car under federal law. If caught transporting marijuana across state lines, one will be prosecuted on a federal level which levies massive fines and possible jail time, even if weed is legal in the state you are driving to. Therefore, be smart and never attempt to cross state lines, the feds will be looking for you!
Growing marijuana in Louisiana is illegal under any circumstance. Even medical patients aren’t allowed to possess actual flower. They instead must consume marijuana via oral ingestion or vapor inhalation. Getting caught growing any amount for marijuana is massively penalized and will lead to jail time and huge fines. Therefore, medical patients must purchase all of their marijuana from state-licensed dispensaries.