Louisiana Marijuana Bill and its Effect on Military & Civilians

  • Published
  • By Courtesy article
  • 2nd Bomb Wing Legal Office

On 15 June 2021, the Governor of Louisiana signed House Bill 652, which lessened the criminal penalties for possession of small quantities of marijuana.  Prior to this, Louisiana law held that anyone who possesses, distributes, produces, manufactures marijuana was subject to hefty fines and imprisonment.  Now that LA HB 652 is signed into law, offenders who possess marijuana in small amounts will only face minor fines as opposed to jail time.  

Under the new law, offenders who possess less than 14 grams of marijuana (roughly 0.5 ounce) will be given a citation with a fine not to exceed $100.  Repeat offenders and/or those who possess a greater quantity of the drug are subject to increased fines, imprisonment, or both.  It is important to note that only possession of small amounts of marijuana is affected.  The legislation does not extend to distribution or production no matter the quantity.

Despite the passing of this bill, this change only applies to Louisiana state law.  Federal law still criminalizes the possession of any amount of marijuana and as such, military service members are still subject to the penalties under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) for possessing any amount of marijuana regardless of where it is possessed.  Possession references the actual physical custody or constructive possession.  Use, distribution, introduction, and manufacture of marijuana is also subject to disciplinary action.

Military service members are subject to the UCMJ and may not possess or partake in marijuana in any capacity.  Article 112a of the UCMJ states that possession of marijuana is punishable at the discretion of a court-martial and carries a maximum sentence of 2 years or 5 years in confinement (depending on the quantity) and a dishonorable discharge.  Furthermore, Barksdale AFB is federal property and is therefore subject to federal jurisdiction.  As such, civilians, residents, or any other individuals entering Barksdale AFB are not to possess marijuana at any point on the base, including when entering the base.  For civilians, possession of marijuana on base can expose you to up to a year in jail as well as a fine of $1,000.  

Please keep this information in mind when on base.  While Louisiana and other states may be moving towards a more lenient approach to marijuana, federal law overrides state law when on federal property.  Those who are serving in the military should adhere to the federal law and regulations set forth in the UCMJ.  Civilians coming to Barksdale AFB should respect the current federal law in place.  Otherwise, even the smallest possession of marijuana on base could negatively impact your career and personal livelihood.