Is Marijuana Illegal in Louisiana?

June 30th, 2023

Is Marijuana Illegal In Louisiana?

In a nutshell, yes. While illegal, most places allow you to carry a small or personal amount. However, if you get caught with 14 grams or less, and it’s your first offense, the maximum fine is $100.

The big trouble comes with you have a massive amount of marijuana. Those first or second-time offender protocols no longer apply, and mandatory minimums exist.

How Louisiana Deals with Marijuana Possession Charges

The Louisiana Law is outlined in L.A. Rev. Stat 40:966. The penalties are minimal if you possess 14 grams or less, and it is your first possession charge. If you are charged with less than 14 grams of marijuana, the punishment is a fine of up to $100. The penalties increase if you are arrested and convicted multiple times. Some jurisdictions, like Baton Rouge and New Orleans, have ordinances that make them fine-only cities for individuals possessing under 14 grams, regardless of the criminal history. The ordinances don’t make smoking legal in those cities, but they limit the fines and remove jail time for the equation.

Can Possession of Marijuana be a felony in Louisiana? 

In Louisiana, possession of marijuana becomes a felony when it is such an amount that the charge becomes possession with intent to distribute or there are additional facts that could show it is not for personal use. There is no specific amount to become a possession with intent to distribute marijuana. It is fact-driven.

Also, possession of marijuana third offense is a felony. It is punishable by up to two years in jail. The amount possessed must exceed fourteen grams for the marijuana third offense provision to be applied.

What makes marijuana a felony? In Louisiana, marijuana, like any charge, becomes a felony when it could be punishable with hard labor. If you possess more than two pounds of marijuana, it can be a felony. Additionally, it can also be a felony if you are:

  • Producing/growing
  • Manufacturing
  • Distributing
  • Possessing with the intent to produce, manufacture, or distribute

These charges can include marijuana, but the penalties are even more severe.

What are some common defenses?

One of the most compelling arguments exists if there is a violation of your constitutional rights. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution protects people from unlawful search and seizure. An unlawful search and seizure is one where a police officer searches your person or premises without either a search warrant or probable cause. Probable cause refers to evidence that a crime is present.

Not all warrantless searches are illegal. The police do not need permission if:

  • You consent
  • It’s an emergency
  • They are arresting you
  • Evidence is in plain view, and the police are authorized to be in the room

To determine whether your stop and search was constitutional, the court usually asks:

  • Did you expect a degree of privacy in your home or property?
  • Was the expectation reasonable?

In other words, you need to establish that you had a “legitimate expectation of privacy.” For example, if the police search your apartment without a warrant, they need permission. However, only you can give that permission. Your landlord cannot do this, nor can your roommate. (Though your roommate can consent to search of the common area or their room — not yours.)

What Are Lab Mistakes or Missing Drugs Defenses?

In some cases, the police charge you with a possession without proof that you had drugs in the first place. The prosecution must produce a criminalist laboratory report indicating you possessed a controlled dangerous substance. The analyst must also testify. There are also other defenses here that can include a break in the chain of custody of the evidence, which can render it unusable.

Second, the prosecution needs to be able to produce the drugs they seized upon arrest. If they lose the substance, we can move for a dismissal. This does happen.

Keep in mind the laws and interpretations are continually changing. The above references laws in effect as of 2023 outlined in LSA R.S. 40:966. As rulings come down from different courts and jurisdictions, these rules are apt to change. 

If you or someone you know has been arrested or has a question about possession of marijuana, whether the charge is a felony or a misdemeanor, and what are possible defenses, do not hesitate to contact the law office of Larrion L. Hillman at 318-549-9810. This blog is not intended as legal advice, nor does it form an attorney-client relationship. Larrion Hillman practices criminal defense in Caddo Parish, Webster Parish, Bossier Parish, Shreveport, and Bossier City, Louisiana. And remember, keep calm and let Hillman handle it.

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