Whether you’re walking down Bourbon Street or chilling in one of the parks along the Mississippi River, chances are you’re going to encounter cannabis in the Big Easy. After all, New Orleans is a global mecca for having a good time.
But despite the city’s feel-good status, Louisiana weed laws don’t follow that same chilled-out vibe. So before you go lighting up a joint or passing around edibles, be sure to take a moment to learn about the city’s weed laws. It’s a little complicated, so we tapped a handful of experts and wrote up a guide to help you out—here’s everything you need to know about legal weed in New Orleans and Louisiana before your next visit.
Is weed legal in Louisiana?
No, and most observers believe it won’t be anytime soon. Nearly half of Americans now live in a state where it’s legal, but Louisiana has yet to follow suit.
“The chances of legal marijuana coming to New Orleans entirely depend on the Louisiana legislature, which is notoriously conservative,” says Peter Robins-Brown, executive director of Louisiana Progress. “But as a city that relies on tourism—and tourism that’s tied to having a good time—New Orleans would benefit from marijuana legalization more than most other places.”
Weed is, however, decriminalized in Louisiana—and it’s also possible to get some flower for medicinal use.
“The Big Easy has always been on the forefront of cannabis decriminalization,” argues Suzette Toledano, a New Orleans attorney specializing in cannabis name and likeness branding, having handled the intellectual property aspects of acquisition of rights for the Willie Nelson and The Grateful Dead cannabis brands.
In 2021, Governor John Bel Edwards signed a bill which decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana statewide—possession of fewer than 14 grams of cannabis is punishable by a $100 fine and no threat of jail time for the first and every subsequent offense.
So if I can’t buy it, how can I get weed?
Securing medical cannabis is the one and only legal option in New Orleans. Louisiana became the first Deep South state to legalize some types of medical cannabis back in 2016, but those forms were extremely limited and flower was not allowed.
Restrictions have been loosening in recent years, and as of August 1, 2022, the Louisiana Department of Health assumed regulatory authority over the state’s medical marijuana program, making it easier for qualified patients to gain access to state-grown medical weed.
How do I get a prescription for medical marijuana?
Similar to a handful of states, Louisiana doesn’t offer a medical marijuana card; instead, approved medical marijuana patients have their name added to the statewide medical cannabis patient registry.
To be added to the patient registry, you first have to find a physician who has been certified by the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners; you can look for doctors with a “therapeutic marijuana registration permit” on this database.
Once you’re evaluated by a certified physician—you’ll need to provide relevant medical records, a government-issued ID, and documentation that establishes your status as a Louisiana resident—they’ll determine whether medical marijuana can be recommended. If so, you’ll have your name added to the statewide medical cannabis patient registry, and you’ll also receive a recommendation to take to the state-licensed medical cannabis pharmacy of your choice. There are currently nine licensed pharmacies in Louisiana; H & W Drug Store on Tchoupitoulas Street is the only New Orleans location.
Can I use an out-of-state medical marijuana card in Louisiana?
No. Louisiana does not accept out-of-state medical marijuana cards.
Where can I legally use medical cannabis?
Tread carefully—it’s safest to consume in the privacy of your home. Public use and consumption of cannabis isn’t specifically mentioned in the state’s legislation regarding controlled substances. Still, the statute does indicate penalties for the possession, production, manufacturing, and distribution of cannabis.
While the state’s medical marijuana act doesn’t issue any guidelines regarding public consumption by patients, registered patients with approved forms of cannabis are protected from prosecution for the possession or distribution of cannabis, as long as it adheres to the state program.
What are the approved conditions?
Louisiana removed restrictions from its list of qualifying illnesses following the passing of Act 286 in 2020, which states that any physician recognized by the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners may recommend medical cannabis to any patient suffering from a debilitating medical condition.
What kind of medical cannabis products can I get?
Patients are able to obtain 2.5 ounces of flower every two weeks from their pharmacist.
Other acceptable product forms include oils, extracts, tinctures, sprays, capsules, pills, solutions, suspension, gelatin-based chewables, lotions, transdermal patches, and suppositories.
What does the future hold for legal weed?
Industry watchers are keeping an eye on Louisiana politics in 2023, but regardless of how things shake out in Baton Rouge at the state level, it seems like only a matter of time until Louisiana joins the growing ranks of those that have fully legalized adult-use cannabis.
“There’s now a growing consensus that Louisiana, and thus New Orleans, will allow legal marijuana at some point in the not-too-distant future, but when that will be and what the program will look like are very much up in the air,” says Robins-Brown.
And any dreams of being able to enjoy cannabis as part of a big night out in NOLA are a long way off, as it’s unlikely the city will see any cannabis-friendly venues open anytime soon.
“Until adult-use cannabis is legalized in Louisiana, pure cannabis consumption lounges, where no alcohol is permitted, are a long way off in New Orleans,” he explains.
Robins-Brown is confident in the future, citing many benefits to be gained by legalizing marijuana, with few downsides.
“Whether it’s a significant tax windfall, new businesses and jobs, money saved from reducing marijuana enforcement, or responding to fairly overwhelming public interest, lawmakers everywhere, even in seemingly unlikely places, are going to eventually understand that there’s little choice but to legalize,” he says. (Full Story)