Louisiana Marijuana Laws 2024

  1. Louisiana Cannabis
  2. Louisiana Marijuana Laws

Key Points

  • Medical marijuana is legal in Louisiana, but recreational weed remains prohibited
  • Louisiana first legalized marijuana for medical purposes in 1978, but medical cannabis did not become fully legal until 2015
  • Qualifying medical patients can legally obtain medical cannabis at the state's licensed medical cannabis dispensaries. State law prohibits them from growing their own marijuana
  • Penalties for marijuana-related crimes in Louisiana are severe, depending on the offense type and amount of cannabis involved

Related Pages:
Louisiana Drug Testing Laws >
Louisiana Marijuana Arrests - Statistics >

Is Marijuana Legal in Louisiana?

Marijuana is legal for medical use in Louisiana but remains prohibited for recreational purposes. However, in 2021, the state decriminalized the possession of up to 14 grams of cannabis and reduced the penalty to a fine not exceeding $100. The punishments for possessing more than 14 grams of marijuana and other cannabis activities in the state are severe, ranging from fines to jail sentences, depending on the amount of cannabis involved.

Louisiana originally legalized medical cannabis in 1978, but the legal framework for legal sale was not in place until 2015, after the state enacted a bill to legalize it fully. Under the state's medical marijuana law, only individuals living with certain medical conditions are permitted to use medical cannabis. They may only purchase it at state-licensed therapeutic marijuana pharmacies (medical cannabis dispensaries) and are prohibited from cultivating their own marijuana. Several amendments have been made to Louisiana medical marijuana laws since it was first enacted in 1978.

Louisiana Marijuana Laws in 2024

Several marijuana bills were introduced and passed in Louisiana between the 2022 and 2024 legislative sessions. While some have been enacted into law and a few killed, others are still pending at various legislative levels. Louisiana marijuana laws in 2024 include the following:

HB 135 (Act 438)

HB 135 was enacted to allow Louisiana-licensed therapeutic marijuana pharmacies to dispense medical cannabis to out-of-state patients with certain qualifying medical conditions. It also established the qualifications for such patients to be eligible for medical cannabis in the state.

HB 137 (Act 439)

Act 439 provides immunity from prosecution for patients enrolled in the Louisiana Medical Marijuana Program and exempts visiting qualifying patients from prosecution for certain violations of the Uniform Controlled Substances Law.

HB 190 (Act 444)

This bill authorizes certain nurse practitioners and medical psychologists to evaluate and recommend qualifying patients for medical marijuana treatment in Louisiana.

HB 629 (Act 473)

AH 629 was enacted to prohibit the search of an individual's residence without a warrant based on marijuana odor. Under this Act, the smell of cannabis alone cannot be a probable reason for law enforcement to search a person's house without a warrant.

HB 234 (Act 478)

Act 478 prohibits passengers in motor vehicles or operators of motor vehicles from vaping or smoking marijuana while operating on a right-of-way or public highway. This Act also stipulates the penalties for violating the prohibition against smoking or vaping marijuana in vehicles.

HB 697 (Act 491)

HB 697 was passed to reform the systems regulating the production and dispensing of medical marijuana in Louisiana. It transferred certain regulatory duties from the state's Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) to the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH). Under Act 491, the LDH is required to license and regulate laboratories that test medical marijuana products in the state. Similarly, this Act mandates the remittance of proceeds of certain fees to the Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR).

HB 698 (Act 492)

This bill authorizes the Louisiana Department of Health to charge and collect fees from individuals and contractors producing medical marijuana and remit proceeds of the said fees to the state's Department of Revenue.

HB 351

HB 351 seeks to prohibit the disqualification of qualifying medical marijuana patients from certain employee benefits and allow an exception to the defenses permitted for workers' compensation claims for a recommendation for medical cannabis.

HB 467

This bill seeks to increase the number of therapeutic marijuana pharmacies (medical marijuana dispensaries) to 30 with consideration to veteran, minority, or women-owned applicants.

HB 460

HB 460 seeks to mandate the Louisiana Board of Pharmacy to notify medical marijuana dispensaries within their region when they exceed 3,500 patients so they can expand satellite locations quarterly rather than yearly, as provided by current law.

SB 66

This Senate bill aims to permit licensed physicians to recommend medical cannabis through telehealth services.

HB 17

HB 17 seeks to provide for the cultivation, processing, and manufacturing of marijuana and cannabis products for adult-use purposes.

HB 620

This House bill aims to impose a 15% tax on the retail sales of marijuana (recreational) if legalized under different legislation. It also made provisions for how the funds (revenue) will be distributed.

HB 24

A companion bill to HB 17, HB 24 aims to remove criminal penalties associated with distributing, possessing, and dispensing recreational marijuana. This bill was killed in April 2023 by the House Criminal Justice Committee with a vote of 9-4.

HB 612

HB 612 seeks to levy a 5% tax on the wholesale of adult-use cannabis and a $10 tax on retail sales, in addition to local and state sales taxes, if recreational marijuana is legalized. This bill also stipulates the allocation formula for revenues generated from these taxes.

HB 286

This bill aims to expunge certain records of marijuana arrests and convictions for first-time possession of 14 grams or less of cannabis. This bill passed the Louisiana House by 69-30 and the state Senate by 32-7. It was signed into law on June 12, 2003 and went into effect on August 1, 2023.

Timeline of Cannabis Law in Louisiana

  • 1978 - The original bill, Act 725, that legalized medical marijuana in Louisiana was passed, but no legal cannabis product was available
  • 1991 - The Louisiana legislature passed Act 874 to amend the 1978 law (Act 725) to include spastic quadriplegia as a qualifying medical condition for medical cannabis. There was still no available means for qualifying patients to get medical marijuana
  • 2015 - The state passed Act 261, the third attempt to legalize medical marijuana fully, and it succeeded.
  • 2016 - Act 96 was enacted to make the first amendment to Act 261 and added more qualifying medical conditions for medical marijuana. Also, in 2016, the Louisiana legislature passed Act 567 to set out a license fee for therapeutic marijuana growers
  • 2018 - The list of qualifying medical conditions was expanded through the passage of Act 496. Similarly, Act 708 was enacted in the same year to add more eligible conditions for medical marijuana. Furthermore, the state legislature passed Act 715 to extend the termination date of the law permitting the recommendation of marijuana for therapeutic cannabis to 2025
  • 2019 - Louisiana passed Act 207 to create a system to enable physicians to report the health effects, events, and outcomes associated with qualifying patients' use of medical marijuana. The same year, the state enacted Act 284 to permit the use of metered-dose marijuana inhalers. Additionally, Act 331 was passed to tax the gross sales of therapeutic cannabis at 7%.
  • 2020 - In 2020, the Louisiana legislature passed Act 286 to one more time add more qualifying medical conditions to the list of eligible conditions for medical marijuana
  • 2021 - Louisiana enacted Act 424 to restrict the forms of medical cannabis physicians may recommend and limits therapeutic marijuana pharmacies from dispensing raw marijuana to persons
  • 2022 - Several marijuana laws were passed in Louisiana in 2022. Notable ones include Act 439, Act 491, Act 135, and Act 698

Federal Legalization of Weed in 2024

Some of the pre-2024 efforts to legalize marijuana at the federal level include the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act of 2020 (MORE Act) and the MORE Act of 2022. The MORE Act sought to remove cannabis from the list of Schedule I drugs and eliminate penalties for federal cannabis crimes. Also, the Act aimed to expunge past marijuana convictions for persons convicted of federal marijuana crimes. However, both bills were stalled.

In an attempt to move marijuana from the Schedule I list of controlled substances to a lower schedule of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the Marijuana 1-to-3 Act was introduced in January 2023. Currently, the bill is with the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Energy and Commerce. The content of this bill requires the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to transfer cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III of the CSA. Unlike Schedule I drugs, Schedule III controlled substances have less potential for abuse and are currently accepted for medical use.

In April 2023, Senator Merkley Jeff introduced the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE Banking Act of 2023). The SAFE Banking Act, if passed, is believed to help facilitate the legalization of marijuana at the federal level. Currently, many financial institutions are prohibited from providing financial services to approved marijuana businesses at the state level. The SAFE Banking Act of 2023 seeks to provide protections for federally regulated financial institutions, including banks and credit card companies, that serve state-licensed cannabis businesses.

Earlier in April 2023, Rep. Joyce David introduced the PREPARE Act of 2023 to set the basis for the federal legalization of recreational weed in the United States. The PREPARE Act is short for Preparing Regulators Effectively for a Post-Prohibition Adult Use Regulated Environment Act. This bill seeks the collaboration of diverse groups to discuss marijuana reforms whose outcome will potentially equip lawmakers with the information needed to establish a robust cannabis federal regulatory system. The PREPARE Act of 2023 is not expected to have an immediate practical impact on the nation's marijuana industry but may provide the framework for federal marijuana legalization.

Can I Use Cannabis in Louisiana?

Yes, qualifying cannabis patients can use cannabis for medical purposes in Louisiana, but non-medical (recreational) use of marijuana remains prohibited in the state. Some qualifying conditions for medical cannabis in Louisiana are cancer, PTSD, severe muscle spasms, epilepsy, seizure disorders, Crohn's disease, intractable pain, HIV/AIDS, and traumatic brain injury. Others include neurodegenerative diseases and conditions like:

  • Lewy body dementia
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Parkison's disease
  • Huntington's disease
  • Motor neuron disease
  • Spinal muscular atrophy

In order to access medical marijuana and medical cannabis products in Louisiana, qualifying patients aged 18 and over must obtain recommendations from physicians with marijuana registration permits. Such physicians must be in good faith with and certified by the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners. Cannabis patients who are minors require their parents’ or legal guardians’ assistance to administer medical marijuana.

How The Legal Sale Of Cannabis In Louisiana Happens

The sale of recreational marijuana is illegal in Louisiana, and only state-licensed therapeutic marijuana pharmacies can sell medical cannabis legally. However, Louisiana medical marijuana dispensaries may only sell medical cannabis to qualifying patients with recommendations from licensed physicians with marijuana registration permits. Qualifying patients are not at liberty to enter any of Louisiana's therapeutic marijuana pharmacies. Typically, a qualifying patient must designate a medical marijuana dispensary for marijuana purchases when obtaining a physician's recommendation for medical cannabis. This implies that a licensed medical marijuana dispensary will not sell medical cannabis to random patients who did not choose it (the dispensary) at the time of getting a recommendation for medical marijuana.

While at a Louisiana medical marijuana dispensary, the dispensary employees will look up the state’s cannabis registry to find a patient’s name and request to see the patient's government-issued ID for identification purposes. Therapeutic marijuana pharmacies may only sell up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana flowers to patients in a 14-day period or up to a 30-day supply of other state-approved cannabis products. Such products include edibles, topicals, metered-dose inhalers, and tinctures.

Penalties for Marijuana-related Crimes in Louisiana

The following includes the several marijuana crimes in Louisiana and their related penalties:

Marijuana Possession For Personal Use In Louisiana

  1. The possession of 14 grams or less of cannabis in Louisiana is a misdemeanor with up to a $100 fine penalty and no possibility of a jail sentence
  2. The first offense for possessing more than 14 grams of marijuana is also a misdemeanor that attracts up to $500 fine and/or up to six months of incarceration
  3. For a second offense, the possession of over 14 grams of marijuana is punishable by up to six months jail term and/or no more than a $1,000
  4. A third-time conviction for possessing more than 14 grams of cannabis attracts up to two years of incarceration and/or up to a $2,500 fine
  5. For fourth-time offenders, the possession of over 14 grams of marijuana is punishable by up to eight years of incarceration and no more than a $5,000 fine

Marijuana Cultivation Or Distribution In Louisiana

  • For first offenders, the cultivation or distribution of fewer than 2.5 pounds of marijuana is punishable by at least one year and up to 10 years of incarceration and a fine of up to $50,000
  • The first-time offense of cultivating or distributing more than 2.5 pounds of cannabis attracts a minimum of one year and a maximum of 20 years jail term and up to a $50,000 fine
  • For second or subsequent offenses of distributing or cultivating less than or more than 2.5 pounds of marijuana, the fine authorized and term of incarceration is doubled
  • Distributing any quantity of cannabis to a minor by an individual aged 25 years and over attracts a prison sentence of between 10 and 30 years
  • The distribution of any amount of marijuana to a minor who is at least three years younger is punishable by a compulsory minimum jail term of five years and up to 30 years of incarceration

Marijuana Possession With Intent To Distribute In Louisiana

  1. The penalties for cannabis possession with intent to distribute in Louisiana are the same as those authorized for cannabis distribution or cultivation
  2. Hash and Concentrates in Louisiana
  3. The penalties for possessing or distributing hash and concentrates in Louisiana are the same as those approved for marijuana, depending on the amounts involved

Driving Under The Influence (DUI) Of Marijuana In Louisiana

  • The first offense for a DUI of marijuana in Louisiana is a misdemeanor. It is punishable by the following:
  • A jail term of between 10 days and six months (all jail time can be suspended)
  • A fine of between $300 and $1,000
  • Driver's license suspension for 90 days
  • 32 hours of community service
  • Attending a substance abuse program
  • The second offense of DUI of cannabis is also a misdemeanor, and offenders risk the following punishments:
    • A fine of between $750 to $1,000
    • License suspension of up to one year
    • 240 hours of community service
    • Between 30 days and six months of incarceration (all but 48 hours of jail time can be suspended)
    • Subjection to a substance abuse evaluation
  • A third offense of DUI of marijuana in Louisiana is a felony punishable by the following penalties:
    • Driver's license suspension for two years
    • A compulsory $2,000 fine
    • Possible confiscation and sale of the motor vehicle in which the offender was caught
    • Joining a substance abuse class
    • A prison sentence of between one to five years (all but one year of jail term can be suspended)
  • A fourth offense of a Louisiana DUI of marijuana offense is a felony punishable by the following:
    • Compulsory psychological testing
    • Possible seizure and sale of the motor vehicle being operated at the time of arrest. The proceeds of the vehicle sale will be forfeited to the state
    • A mandatory $5,000 fine
    • Driver's license suspension for two years
    • A jail term of between 10 and 30 years (all but two years of the jail period can be suspended)

Marijuana Paraphernalia In Louisiana

Anyone convicted of possessing, displaying, or distributing drug paraphernalia in Louisiana faces up to 15 days of incarceration and/or up to a $300 fine.

Possible Remedies For Louisiana Marijuana Laws Offenders

The following are some defense strategies that can be deployed against marijuana-related charges in Louisiana:

  • Defendants can say their rights were violated at the time of arrest. Right violations may include unlawful search, illegal traffic stops, and refusal to permit defendants to get an attorney
  • Defendants can claim medical exceptions if they qualify for therapeutic marijuana use and have recommendations from licensed physicians
  • Challenging law enforcement to provide evidence of the marijuana crime, especially where there is little or none
  • Quickly considering a diversion program like the Louisiana cannabis abuse program, where after completion, charges may be dropped to avoid a criminal record

What is Louisiana’s Cannabis History?

In 1906, the United States Congress enacted the Pure Food and Drug Act in an attempt to prohibit the consumption of marijuana. While the law did not ban marijuana, it significantly increased the cost of marijuana consumption by adding the labeling requirement. Several states enacted laws that prohibited the cultivation and consumption of weed between 1914 and 1925, and those legislations were met with little opposition. As a result, federal lawmakers were motivated to pursue the prohibition of cannabis at the federal level.

In 1937, the federal government enacted the Marijuana Tax Act to tax and regulate cannabis rather than ban it, making it less liable to legal challenges. However, the Act essentially prohibited the sale and possession of marijuana in reality, as more strict measures followed. The United States Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, establishing schedules (categories) of drugs and placing them on different levels depending on their potential for abuse and perceived medical benefit. Marijuana was categorized as a Schedule I substance, the most restrictive category believed to have the highest potential for abuse with no medicinal usefulness.

In 1978, Governor Edwin Edwards signed a bill, Act No. 725, into law to legalize medical marijuana in Louisiana, changing course from the nationwide ban on cannabis. It was the state's first attempt at legalizing medical cannabis. There were several bottlenecks in implementing the provisions of Act 725. In 1991, another medical marijuana law (Act 874) was passed to authorize doctors to offer a medical cannabis evaluation and prescribe it. However, there was no viable framework to enable qualifying cannabis patients to access medical marijuana.

In 2015, Louisiana got it right when Sen. Fred Mill sponsored SB 143 (Act 261), a bill that eventually legalized medical marijuana fully in the state. Act 261 empowered three state agencies to develop a framework for a medical cannabis prescription, cultivation, and dispensary system. Between 2015 and 2022, several amendments were made to the 2015 bill, including the expansion of the list of qualifying medical conditions for medical marijuana in Louisiana. More recently, in 2023, the state legislature introduced HB 17, a bill seeking to permit the cultivation, manufacturing, and processing of cannabis for recreational purposes. It is currently referred to the House Committee on Judiciary. HB 24 was also introduced in 2023 in a bid to remove criminal penalties associated with distributing, possessing, and dispensing recreational marijuana. It failed at the Committee level.

Other 2023 bills introduced in the Louisiana legislature that affect cannabis policy in the state include SB 66, a Senate Bill that provides regulations for using telehealth to certify medical patients, and HB 460, a House Bill that mandates the Board of Pharmacy to publish reports on the number of patients registered in the Louisiana medical marijuana program. The Bill proposed publishing these figures quarterly, rather than annually, to better inform licensed dispensing organizations to open more locations to cater for the growing number of qualifying medical cannabis patients in the state. The Governor signed HB 460 and SB 66 into law on June 13, 2023 and June 12, 2023 respectively as Act 311 and Act 322.

What are Restrictions on Cannabis in Louisiana?

Some of the common restrictions on marijuana in Louisiana are:

  • The recreational use of cannabis is banned. Marijuana is only legal for medical use in the state
  • Marijuana consumption while operating a motor vehicle is prohibited in Louisiana
  • Qualifying cannabis patients in Louisiana cannot cultivate their own marijuana. They may only access medical cannabis legally from state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries
  • Qualifying patients may only purchase up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis flowers every 14 days or get a 30-day supply of other marijuana products approved for medical use in Louisiana
  • Only physicians licensed by the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners with marijuana registration permits can recommend a person for medical cannabis
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