Mardi Gras Is Fast Approaching: What to Know About Marijuana Possession in Louisiana

french quarter mardi gras
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If you’re going to be in New Orleans for Mardi Gras, you may be wondering what the penalties are for possession of marijuana in Louisiana. Although medical marijuana is legal in Louisiana, it has yet to be implemented and the state has strict laws regarding recreational marijuana.

In fact, anyone caught in possession of marijuana in Louisiana better call their job to let them know that they will need to take some sick days as they could be facing two weeks in jail and a $300 fine, provided you are a first-time offender and you're caught with under a half-ounce. If you are caught with over a half-ounce of weed, you will be going up the river to a Louisiana parish jail for at least six months, plus you will have to pay a $500 fine.

So, if you were thinking about lighting up a fat doobie on Fat Tuesday as you sashay down the streets of the French Quarter with a handful of beads, you may want to reconsider because not only is recreational marijuana illegal in the state of Louisiana, smoking or inhaling cannabis is also illegal, and doing so may put a damper on your Mardi Gras celebration.

Punishments for Possession of Marijuana in Louisiana

glass container of marijuana

Those caught in possession of marijuana in Louisiana in large amounts will go to prison for several years. Anyone caught with more than 2.5 pounds of marijuana could face between two to ten years in prison and may be forced to work heavy labor. They will also have to pay between $10,000 and $30,000 in fines. People caught with more than 60 pounds of marijuana go away for five to 30 years of hard time and will have to pay up to $100,000 in fines.

Those caught with more than 2,000 pounds of grass will go to prison for 10 to 40 years and pay up to a $400,000 fine. If you are caught with more than 10,000 pounds of weed, forget about it. You will be doing hard labor in prison for 25 to 40 years and have between $400,000 to $1,000,000 in fines to pay upon your release. That is a lot of Fat Tuesdays in the state pen.

Medical Marijuana in Louisiana

the french quarter louisiana
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Louisiana legalized medical marijuana in 2015 when the state Legislature passed Act 261 allowing physicians to prescribe marijuana to potential medical consumers. However, medical marijuana has not yet been implemented in the state and is not expected to be until the spring of this year.

The state Legislature will permit the agriculture centers of Louisiana State University and Southern University to cultivate medical marijuana for the program. The two universities will be the only facilities allowed to grow medical marijuana legally in Louisiana.

No students will be permitted to work at the cultivation facilities for Louisiana State University, which will not be located on school property. LSU has partnered with GB Sciences to grow medical marijuana, and Southern University will use Advanced Biomedics in Lafayette to cultivate the school's medical marijuana for the state program.

Medical marijuana was first legalized in Louisiana in 1978, but no program was ever implemented, thereby making medical marijuana inaccessible to medical consumers in the state.

Once the Louisiana medical marijuana program is finally in operation, only 10 pharmacies will be allowed to distribute medical marijuana in the state. One pharmacy will be located in each region of the state, and only nine physicians will be authorized to prescribe medical marijuana legally to medical consumers. Medical marijuana will not be covered by health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid since the drug is not legal on the federal level.

Some say that the medical marijuana program in conservative Louisiana is too conservative. Paul Armentano is the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and says that the Legislature has set the medical marijuana program up to fail due to being overly strict.

"Louisiana seems to be an example of how to over-regulate the product. The program is not in the best interests of many of the patients it’s designed to serve," he concluded.

With only nine doctors in the entire state who can prescribe medical marijuana and 10 pharmacies available statewide, there will still be a lack of resources available for medical marijuana consumers in Louisiana.

Just remember that even if you have a medical marijuana license, smoking, vaping, or being in possession of marijuana in Louisiana is not legal. Those caught with up to 14 grams of marijuana may face a $300 fine and up to 14 days in jail.