Louisiana Decriminalizes Marijuana

Louisiana Decriminalizes Cannabis
Louisiana Decriminalizes Cannabis

Louisiana residents will no longer be arrested and imprisoned for possessing small amounts of marijuana after state legislators passed a bill to decriminalize pot. The push for decriminalization came from lawmakers who agreed that possessing marijuana should not result in someone being sent to prison or having to spend the rest of their life as an ex-felon. With marijuana possession now effectively decriminalized, many are now wondering when Louisiana might officially legalize cannabis for recreational use and open the state to cannabis operators. Keep reading this blog to learn more.

Louisiana Legislators Pass Bill to Decriminalize Possession of Small Amounts of Pot for Personal Use

It is now legal for Louisiana residents to possess small amounts of marijuana for their personal use. That’s because state lawmakers officially endorsed a bill to effectively decriminalize the possession of marijuana in most instances. The bill, known officially as House Bill 652, was sponsored by Democratic Rep. Cedric Glover, and it received enough bipartisan support to pass through both houses of the Louisiana State Legislature. Glover modeled the state law after a local ordinance in Shreveport. Glover then reached across the political aisle to get support from Rep. Alan Seabaugh, a Republican who represents that heavily populated city.

Governor John Bel Edwards has now signed that bill into law, which means that Louisiana residents will no longer have to worry about facing criminal charges for possession of marijuana in most cases. Gov. Edwards, a Democrat, said that he gave the measure serious thought before deciding that it was simply not right for the state to continue to incarcerate individuals “for minor legal infractions…that can ruin lives and destroy families.” Edwards added that marijuana possession and use are already legal in many other states, including neighboring Mississippi.

Cannabis Possession No Longer Results in Jail Time in Louisiana

The new law officially went into effect on August 1, 2021. Technically speaking, the law doesn’t actually “decriminalize” marijuana possession. The effect of the law, however, is the same as decriminalization since arrest and incarceration will no longer be options for law enforcement. Instead, anyone caught with a small amount of marijuana can be issued a ticket by police and subsequently face a relatively minor monetary fine. In fact, the maximum fine that can be imposed under the law is just $100, and jail time is no longer a penalty that can be sought by prosecutors and handed down by judges.

It is important to note that the cannabis decriminalization law does have certain limitations. For example, the new law only applies when a person is found in possession of 14 grams or less of marijuana, which is the rough equivalent of half an ounce. Anyone with more than 14 grams of marijuana must be able to show a valid medical marijuana ID card that allows them to have that amount of pot. This means that criminal charges – as well as penalties which may include jail time – could still be filed when someone is found carrying a large amount of cannabis in Louisiana. Additionally, the new cannabis law does not apply when a person is accused of distributing marijuana. Since drug distribution offenses are typically classified as felonies, this means that offenders could be subject to significant prison time if convicted.

What Is the Future of Marijuana Legalization in Louisiana?

At present, marijuana is legal for medical use by Louisiana residents. However, even with the recent passage of a decriminalization law, Louisiana remains one of a few states – including several Southern states – that have not yet legalized marijuana for recreational use. Earlier this year, a Republican senator in the State Senate proposed a bill that would have legalized cannabis across the board, but the legislation did not receive enough support from members of the State House of Representatives.

The good news for proponents of marijuana legalization is that there is growing enthusiasm for similar efforts not just in Louisiana, but across the country. In the 2020 election, voters in five (5) states showed overwhelming support for legalization measures. Since then, New Mexico, Virginia, and Minnesota have all made marijuana legal for recreational use. Cannabis industry observers believe that it is only a matter of time before Louisiana joins the rest of the country and creates its own legal cannabis market.

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Colorado Restricts Sale of Marijuana Concentrates

Colorado Cannabis Concentrate Law
Colorado Cannabis Concentrate Law

Colorado dispensaries will soon be required to limit the total number of purchases of marijuana concentrates. That’s because state lawmakers recently passed legislation to place restrictions on certain high-potency concentrates considered unsafe for children and teenagers. What effect could this have on Colorado’s thriving cannabis market? And how will the state’s cannabis operators adjust to the new regulations? Keep reading this blog to find out.

New Law Will Place Daily Limit on Purchases of Cannabis Concentrates from Colorado Dispensaries

For as long as recreational marijuana has been legal in Colorado, there have been debates about the physical and mental health effects on users, with a particular focus on young people who might have access to marijuana through either legal or illegal sources. Now, the Colorado General Assembly has taken action by passing legislation to restrict the amount of marijuana concentrates that can be purchased in a single day. The legislation, officially known as HB21-1317, received bipartisan support from legislators and was quickly signed into law by Governor Jared Polis. The action represents the most significant government regulation imposed on legal marijuana sales in Colorado since cannabis first became legal for recreational use in 2012.

Previously, Colorado dispensaries were allowed to sell up to 40 grams of cannabis concentrates or extracts to anyone over the age of 21. The daily purchase limit on concentrates has now been reduced to just eight (8) grams per day for most people, and just two (2) grams per day for anyone between the ages of 18 and 20. Moreover, all dispensaries must be connected to the state database that monitors concentrate sales in real time to ensure that no one goes “dispensary shopping” to make multiple purchases at different dispensaries. (This is a tactic that law enforcement agencies referred to as “pharmacy shopping” when the opioid epidemic exploded across the country.)

Colorado Legislators Pass Bill to Limit Access of Teenagers to High-Potency Marijuana Products

The stated purpose of the lawmakers who cast their votes in support of the legislation was to reduce the ability of children and teens to access potentially dangerous marijuana products. Concentrates are believed to pose greater risks because they contain much higher tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels than traditional marijuana products. Some of the most popular cannabis concentrates among consumers include crumble, kief, live resin, shatter, and wax. These types of marijuana products have become staples on dispensary shelves in recent years as more and more people look for alternative ways to consume cannabis.

Democratic Rep. Yadira Caraveo sponsored the bill and said that it was a necessary step to ensure that teenagers can’t easily get their hands on highly concentrated marijuana products, which might then be sold or given to children who would not otherwise be allowed to buy them.

In addition to restricting daily purchases of concentrates, there were a number of other provisions included in the Colorado cannabis law, most of which have the goal of shielding minors from dangers that might be posed by marijuana use. Those provisions include the following:

  • Cannabis products must come with packaging or labels that clearly state the suggested serving sizes.
  • Medical marijuana advertising can no longer target anyone under the age of 21.
  • Marijuana concentrate advertising must include an explicit warning about the risks of overconsumption of marijuana with high levels of THC.
  • People between the ages of 18 and 20 will have to meet additional requirements before they can be approved for medical marijuana cards. For example, the applicant must have an in-person consultation with more than one physician, and the patient must show up for additional appointments every six (6) months.
  • The Colorado School of Public Health, based out of Aurora, will launch an educational campaign aimed at raising awareness among young people about the effects of marijuana use, especially products containing high levels of THC.

Colorado Cannabis Market Is Thriving and Setting Record Highs

The new laws restricting some types of cannabis concentrates will not go into effect until January 1, 2022, so cannabis operators will have plenty of time to adjust their marketing and sales approaches in response to the changes. Despite the looming restrictions on concentrate sales, the Colorado cannabis market is expected to continue flourishing. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, legal marijuana sales in Colorado were on a steady upward trajectory. Since the pandemic, the cannabis market has exploded: marijuana sales at state-licensed dispensaries set an all-time record in the first three months of 2021, topping more than $560 million in revenues for the quarter.

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Marijuana Expungements Difficult in New Jersey

NJ Marijuana Expungements
NJ Marijuana Expungements

As soon as marijuana became legal for recreational use in New Jersey, one of the first questions that a lot of people asked was: What about those individuals who were previously convicted of marijuana possession? Now, the NJ Supreme Court has weighed in and set forth guidelines for anyone who wants to get a prior conviction for simple possession of marijuana removed, or “expunged,” from their permanent record. To find out more, keep reading this blog.

NJ Cannabis Decriminalization Law Allows for Expungement of Past Marijuana Convictions

It used to be illegal for anyone to have any amount of marijuana in New Jersey. A person found in possession of marijuana could be arrested and charged with a drug crime that carried the very real possibility of jail time. Worse yet, anyone found by law enforcement with a large quantity of marijuana on their person or under their control could be charged with the crime of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, an offense that often resulted in significant prison time. Much of that changed, however, when the state officially legalized marijuana for recreational use in February 2021. Now, it is no longer against the law for individuals to possess small amounts of cannabis for personal use.

One thing that NJ lawmakers gave plenty of consideration to when creating the rules and regulations for the state’s new cannabis economy was what to do about the hundreds of thousands of people who have previously been convicted of simple possession of marijuana. After all, given that cannabis possession was now legal, it seemed unfair to continue to punish individuals who still have to explain their criminal records for a prior marijuana-related conviction.

The types of marijuana offenses that used to be prohibited by the NJ Criminal Code included the following:

  • Simple possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana
  • Selling less than 1 ounce of marijuana
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia
  • Driving under the influence of marijuana
  • Possession of marijuana in a motor vehicle

A drug crime conviction can do real damage to a person’s life, especially when that person applies for a job, attempts to get housing, or seeks student loan assistance. That is why other states, like Colorado and Illinois, have specifically allowed for prior marijuana convictions to be expunged from permanent records.

NJ Supreme Court Says Marijuana Charges Can Be Removed from Criminal Records

The good news for anyone who has been arrested for, charged with, or convicted of a marijuana offense is that they should have the ability to get the drug offense removed from their permanent records. That’s because the NJ Supreme Court recently issued a ruling that reiterates what state lawmakers already stated in the marijuana decriminalization bill: that certain marijuana offenses are supposed to be automatically expunged from people’s records now that cannabis is legal. The court noted that as many as one million people may be in line to have marijuana charges expunged under the guidelines established by the cannabis decriminalization law.

The court’s ruling could have an effect not only on individuals who were already convicted of marijuana crimes, but also people who are currently moving through the NJ criminal justice system with pending charges for marijuana possession, as well as people presently incarcerated in a state or county correctional facility on marijuana charges.

NJ Automatic Expungement Process for Cannabis Convictions Still Not Ready

The bad news for anyone with a previous marijuana arrest or conviction is that the process for clearing a marijuana offense from a person’s criminal record can be complicated and time-consuming, not to mention expensive if the assistance of an attorney is needed. That’s because the process for clearing any criminal conviction, guilty plea, or arrest from a person’s record is hard. Expungement applications typically take more than a year to work their way through the legal system before they are approved and implemented. And even when the application has been approved, the assistance of a qualified attorney may be required in order to notify all the relevant government agencies so that they can seal the individual’s records.

Although the decriminalization legislation included provisions mandating “automatic expungements” for marijuana convictions, the automatic expungement process for marijuana convictions has not yet gone into effect. Moreover, it is unknown when that process might be ready for implementation because “technological modifications” are still needed for the courts’ case management systems. This means that, at least for the foreseeable future, someone who wants to get their marijuana arrest, conviction, or guilty plea removed from their record will have to file an expungement application and then wait patiently for that application to be granted.

Marijuana Decriminalization Expected to Create Burgeoning Cannabis Economy in New Jersey

The main reason that marijuana convictions are now eligible for automatic expungement is that recreational marijuana is finally legal in New Jersey. Industry observers expect the state’s new cannabis economy to generate hundreds of millions of dollars. The regulated industry is already attracting major cannabis operators who see an opportunity to get in on the ground floor, so to speak, and establish a strong presence in the Tri-State Area, especially now that recreational marijuana is also legal in neighboring New York.

Contact Scythian Cannabis Real Estate

Scythian Real Estate is a privately held cannabis real estate fund that has strong relationships with several of the country’s top cannabis operators, including Grassroots Cannabis (Curaleaf) and The Green Solution (Columbia Care). If you are a cannabis operator interested in adding capital through a sale-leaseback transaction, or if you are looking for assistance with entry into a new cannabis market, Scythian may be able to help you. Send us an email today.