Marijuana is a hot topic in the media these days. More television shows and movies show people using or even growing the plant. Canada just became the first member of the G7 to legalize marijuana for recreational adult use. Many states here in the U.S. have legalized either adult recreational or medical use of marijuana.
However, it’s important for people who use marijuana recreationally or medically to understand that the laws can’t change as fast as public opinion shifts on this topic. Louisiana may have a medical marijuana law, but it has not taken effect yet. People can still get arrested and prosecuted for simple possession, even if they have a qualifying medical condition.
First time offenders could face reduced penalties
The good thing about Louisiana’s approach to marijuana is that first time offenses involving less than 2.5 pounds of marijuana can result in just a ticket and fine. Those caught in possession of 14 grams (half an ounce) or less will face a fine of up to $300 and potentially up to 15 days in jail. Possession more than 14 grams but less than 2.5 pounds can result in a fine of up to $500 and as long as six months in jail.
First time offenders can have a one-time record cleansing after their conviction if they do not end up charged with any other crimes for at least two years after their initial marijuana offense. However, those who get caught more than once for possession could face more serious consequences.
Subsequent offenses carry harsher penalties
For any offense after the first, the penalties for marijuana possession are the same for any amount up to 2.5 pounds. A second conviction or guilty plea can result in up to six months in jail and fine of as much as $1,000. Third convictions carry a fine of as much as $2,5000 and up to two years of imprisonment. Fourth possession offenses carry as much as $5,000 in fines and up to eight years in jail.
If there’s any bright side to these harsh laws, it’s the fact that hash and other marijuana concentrates have the same penalties as natural-state marijuana. There are, of course, other potentially complicating factors. Charges related to possession within 2,000 feet of a drug-free zone, like a school, college, playground or church, can result in 1.5 times the maximum sentence for the offense. Additionally, anyone 19 or older convicted of a marijuana offense will likely lose their driver’s license for anywhere from 30 days to a whole year.
Anyone facing marijuana possession charges in Louisiana should take the charges and potential consequences seriously. Failing to do so could mean jail time, hefty fines and a criminal record that could haunt you for years.