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New Law Decriminalizes Marijuana Possession in New Orleans – Here’s What You Need to Know

Posted on Apr 12, 2016 in Courts, Criminal Defense, Drugs, Legislation, Local Issues, Marijuana, NOPD

If you’re caught with a small amount of marijuana in New Orleans, you may not have to go to jail. In an effort to decriminalize marijuana possession in the city, Mayor Mitch Landrieu recently signed a law that allows offenders to pay a fine rather than serve jail time. The new law goes into effect on June 21, 2016. Although the new law reduces penalties for possession of marijuana charges, here is some important information for you to remember:
  • The new law does NOT legalize smoking marijuana in New Orleans. The law only reduces penalties for individuals caught with possession up to 14 grams.
  • The new law does not go into effect until JUNE 21. The lesser penalties will not apply prior to that date.
  • NOPD still has discretion to arrest and charge an individual with possession of marijuana under state law. State law carries higher penalties, including jail time. NOPD is working on creating guidelines to determine when an individual should be charged under the new local law or the stricter state law
  • The new law only applies to simple possession of marijuana. It does NOT apply to distribution or intent to distribute marijuana
  • Paying the fine means you're pleading guilty. While it may be easy to pay a fine,  once you pay, you are pleading guilty to the charge. A guilty plea may seriously impact your ability to travel, gain employment, and attend graduate school. You can contact an attorney to help you fight the charge so that your future will not be negatively impacted.
Until now, New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) already had the discretion to issue a fine instead of arrest for a first offense of marijuana possession, due to a local law passed in 2010. The new law, however, extends the lesser penalties to all subsequent marijuana possession offenses. NOPD now has the option to issue a ticket that carries a fine to individuals caught possessing up to 14 grams of marijuana. The fine varies depending on the level of possession:
  • 1st offense - $40
  • 2nd offense - $60
  • 3rd offense - $80
  • Subsequent offenses - $100
If offenders cannot afford to pay the fines, the new law also gives the court discretion to issue an alternative penalty, such as installment payments or community service. Read more about the new law in the New Orleans Advocate and NOLA.com. If you are charged with possession of marijuana in New Orleans, call Bloom Legal today at 504-599-9997 or fill out our online form to discuss your case. Our lawyers can help you understand the consequences of a marijuana possession charge, how the new local law may affect you, and how you can fight the charge.

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