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Louisiana Law

2021 Louisiana marijuana laws: legalization rejected, but criminal penalties lowered

For years now, state and local governments all over the country have been moving toward marijuana legalization.

As of 2021, the recreational use of marijuana is completely legal in 16 states, while 28 other states have implemented some sort of marijuana reform, whether that’s medicinal marijuana or the relaxing of criminal penalties for possession.

Earlier this year, it looked like Louisiana was moving in that direction as well. While there have been some changes to marijuana law so far in 2021, including lower penalties for possession, an effort to fully legalize recreational marijuana failed to pass in the Louisiana House of Representatives on May 18, 2021 week. It is not likely recreational pot will be legal in Louisiana until 2022.

Louisiana criminal defense attorney John Radziewicz represents people facing drug charges like marijuana possession all the time. Below, he’s laid out a brief explanation of what exactly has changed this year, as well as his take on the future of marijuana legalization in Louisiana.

Marijuana legalization in Louisiana

There were a number of bills in the Louisiana House of Representatives this year that had to do with marijuana reform. The most comprehensive one was HB699, which would have fully legalized marijuana.

Here are some of the reforms that the bill proposed:

  • Legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 and older
  • Legalizing the possession of up to 2.5 pounds of marijuana
  • Requiring growers and sellers to be licensed by the state
  • Setting a 15% sales tax on the purchase of marijuana to provide revenue for the state

Although polls showed that a majority of Louisianans supported legalization, it was rejected in the house. A tax bill connected to HB699, which would have imposed the sales tax on the newly-legal marijuana industry, failed in a 48-47 vote.

This vote was largely seen as a sign that the main bill would never pass in the house, due to the resistance of conservative Republican legislators, and the lobbying by the Louisiana Sheriffs and Louisiana District Attorneys Associations.

In response, HB699’s sponsor tabled the bill, which means the House is no longer going to vote on it.

Other changes to marijuana law this year

While the broader legalization effort seems to be temporarily defeated this year, there are a number of other changes to marijuana law that are being considered in the Louisiana House, including one that’s already passed:

  • On May 11, the Louisiana House passed a decriminalization bill that lowered criminal penalties for possession of a small amount of marijuana. If the bill passes in the Senate, the possession of up to 14 grams of marijuana will no longer be punishable by jail time, and will only be punishable by a $100 fine.
  • In addition, there is another bill that the House is considering that would expand access to medicinal marijuana. The bill would allow medicinal users to smoke the flower of the plant, rather than just allowing gummies and inhalers like now.
  • And the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association, which led the push to reject HB699 this year, has committed to conducting research into the legalization of marijuana in years to come.

What this means for you

Marijuana legalization is a hot topic right now, and there are clearly a lot of changes that are being made to marijuana laws in our state. But what does all of this mean for the average Louisianan?

First, and most importantly, it is still illegal to purchase and possess marijuana in Louisiana (and under the Federal Laws)!

I do think that legalization is probably going to happen in Louisiana in the next couple of years– some Republican legislators even admitted that legalization is all but inevitable during the debate on the House floor. But it’s clear that there’s going to be a lot more debate before that happens.  We personally encourage you to contact your local representative to share your opinions on this issue.

The good news for pot smokers is that you no longer have to worry about facing jail time for possession of small amounts. If the bill is approved by the Senate, which seems likely, then sometime in the next year the law will go into effect.

However, it’s unclear now what effect the new law will have on those currently facing drug charges, as well as those who are already incarcerated for simple possession of marijuana.

The best thing you can do if you’re in either of those situations is contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Louisiana to discuss your options.

Contact a New Orleans defense attorney

At Crescent City Law, we help people who are cited for marijuana possession.  In many cases, we are able to get marijuana cases dismissed!

If you are facing charges for drug possession, we will make it our mission to make sure that your future is protected. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and talk about your case.

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