Louisiana Cannabis Laws

Is Cannabis Legal In Louisiana?
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Louisiana Law: 

StateRecreationalMedical MarijuanaCBD

Federal Law:

Recreational Medical MarijuanaCBD

Is recreational cannabis legal in Louisiana?

No. Recreational use of cannabis in Louisiana is illegal, and any cannabis offenses result in mandatory minimum sentencing. 

Yet there has been progressing in the state such as Gov. Jindal, in 2015, singing into law a bill reducing penalties for cannabis possession. There also have been local efforts in Baton Rouge and New Orleans to decriminalize a small amount of possession showcasing constituents’ desire for progress. 

Is Medical Marijuana legal in Louisiana?

Yes. Medical Marijuana became legal in Louisiana in 2015 with SB 149, which set up a legitimate framework for dispensing medical marijuana in the state. 

Like many state-organized programs, there were a lot of bureaucratic issues that prolonged patient’s lawful access to marijuana treatment. It wasn’t until mid-2019 when medical marijuana became available to patients in various forms of oils, pills, liquids, and topical products via nine medical-only dispensaries dispersed through the state. 

Throughout the delays of dispensary openings, lawmakers worked to expand the state’s medical-marijuana program. Lousiana HB 579, HB 672 in 2019, and HB 819 in 2020 added more qualifying conditions for marijuana treatment including PTSD, intractable pain, cancer, and autism among others. Now, any debilitating condition examined by a doctor could be eligible for treatment with medical cannabis. 

Are CBD products legal in Louisiana? 

Yes. Since the passage of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, hemp-derived CBD products are legal under federal law in the United States; as long as they contain at most 0.3% THC. 

Any and all CBD in food and drink is still federally illegal.

Louisiana Cannabis Timeline:

1937: The Marihuana (archaic spelling of Marijuana) Tax Act was enacted banning cannabis at the federal level. Medical Marijuana use was still permitted.

1951: The Boggs Act, Sponsored by Hale Boggs and signed into law under President Harry S. Truman, This act set mandatory sentencing and increased punishment for cannabis possession. 

1969: The Marihuana Tax Act is deemed unconstitutional in the landmark Leary v. United States. Timothy Leary, a professor, and activist was arrested for the possession of marijuana in violation of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act. Leary then challenged the act on the ground that the act required self-incrimination, which violated his Fifth Amendment rights. (The self-incrimination clause provides various protections against self-incrimination, including the right of an individual to not serve as a witness in a criminal case in which they are the defendant, better known as “Pleading the Fifth”.) The unanimous opinion of the court was penned by Justice John Marshall Harlan II and declared the Marihuana Tax Act unconstitutional. Therefore, Leary’s conviction was overturned.

1970: The Controlled Substances Act is enacted (replacing the unconstitutional Marihuana Tax Act). Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug, determined to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, thereby prohibiting its use for any purpose. This act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon. 

This legislation created five classifications, with specific qualifications for a substance to be included in each. The substances scheduling (classification) are determined by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Yet, Congress does have the power to schedule or de-schedule substances through legislation. Substance scheduling decisions are based on its potential for abuse, accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and international treaties.

Classification of Controlled Substances:

Schedule I: High potential of abuse, not acceptable for medical use

Schedule II: High potential of abuse, sometimes allowed with “severe restrictions” for medical use

Schedule II: Medium potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

Schedule IV: Moderate potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

Schedule V: Lowest potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

1984-1986: Mandatory Sentencing and the three-strikes law were created under the Reagan Administration. This accounts for some of the harshest drug laws created including mandatory 25-year imprisonment for certain drug offenses and the promotion of the death penalty to be used against “drug kingpins”.

1998: House Joint Resolution 117, encouraged by the passing of California’s Prop 215, the House of Representatives passed this measure to support the existing Federal legal process for determining the safety and efficacy of certain drugs.  

2014: The Rohrabacher–Farr Amendment passed in the U.S. House and signed into law prohibiting the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws.

2015: Louisiana SB 143, Gov. Jindal signed into law reducing penalties for cannabis possession including first-time possession which will only be punishable with a $300 fine and 15 days in jail.

2015: Louisiana Medical Marijuana HB 149, is signed by Gov. Jindal setting up a legitimate framework for dispensing and medical marijuana in the state. 

2018: Farm bill legalizes low-THC hemp nationwide and effectively de-schedules hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) from the Controlled Substances Act.

2019: Medical Marijuana is first legally dispensed in Louisiana, along with qualifying conditions added to Louisiana’s MMJ program via HB 579 and HB 672.

2020: HB 819 Expands Lousiana’s medical marijuana program, making it one of the most comprehensive states for treatment.

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