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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Scythian Real Estate is a privately held cannabis real estate fund that works with major cannabis companies throughout the United States. Scythian provides capital to cannabis operators through sale-leaseback transactions involving retail dispensary properties. If you are a cannabis operator thinking about expanding into a new market, email Scythian today.


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