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Does legalizing marijuana have an impact on crime?

This year, the governor of Louisiana signed two bills around marijuana law reform. They were the first reforms on marijuana laws in the state in 24 years, since legalizing medical marijuana in 1991. One bill set up a system for dispensing marijuana for medical purposes and allowed doctors to recommend marijuana to chronically ill patients. The other bill reformed criminal penalties for marijuana - it made possession a misdemeanor instead of a felony for the second offense. It also allowed first-time offenders to have the chance to remove their first conviction from their criminal record if they did not offend again within two years.

In addition, this year a law went into effect in New Orleans that decriminalized marijuana possession in the city. Instead of getting arrested for marijuana possession under state law, a person would get a ticket under the new city law that would require them to pay a civil fine between $40 and $100. This reduced the penalties and helped people avoid possible jail time.

Outside of New Orleans, however, state law has some of the harshest penalties for marijuana crimes in the country. A first-offense possession of marijuana can result in a person spending up to six months in jail.

Does medical marijuana accessibility increase or decrease crime?

Studies have shown that after marijuana is legalized for medical use, there were reductions in crime involving marijuana. This shows that marijuana dispensaries do not become magnets for crime. Studies also show that people may substitute alcohol for marijuana --- they would use marijuana and drink less. Since alcohol is the cause of more than 30 percent of motor vehicle crashes in the country every year, and almost 10,000 deaths, medical marijuana legalization could decrease traffic deaths. Studies show that in the first year after a medical marijuana law comes into effect, traffic deaths decrease between 8 and 11 percent.

How many people in Louisiana are arrested for marijuana crimes?

In 2012, there were 18,309 people arrested for possession of marijuana in Louisiana. For sale of marijuana, 2,437 people were arrested that year. That's more than 20,500 total people arrested in the state that year for a marijuana-related crime.

What are the penalties for marijuana drug crimes?

Although medical marijuana is legal in the state, using marijuana for recreational purposes is still illegal. Posession of 14 grams or less in a first offense can result in 15 days in jail and a $300 fine, but more than 14 grams increases that to 6 months in jail and a fine up to $500. Possessing between 2.5 and 60 pounds can result in two to 10 years in jail and up to a $30,000 fine. Anything more than 60 pounds is a felony, with penalties ranging from 5 years to 40 years in jail and fines between $100,000 and $1,000,000.

Selling marijuana also has strict penalties. Any amount of sale for the first offense can result in 5 to 30 years in jail and a $50,000 fine. First offense of selling to a minor can result in 5 to 45 years in jail and a fine up to $100,000. Selling any amount to an adult after your first offense increases the penalties to 10 to 60 years and up to a $100,000 fine. Selling any amount to a minor after your first offense can result in 10 to 90 years in jail and a fine up to $200,000.

What to do if you have been charged with a drug crime

If you have been charged with a crime involving marijuana or other drugs, taking immediate action to speak with a criminal defense attorney can help reduce the fines and jail time, and can help you reduce other consequences. Having an attorney with defense strategies that will protect your rights and reduce the impact the charge has on your life is imperative to getting your life back on track and moving on from the arrest. An attorney can help present you with your options. Especially if you are a first-time offender, there are options you can explore that will help having your charges reduced or dismissed.

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