In March this year, the New Orleans City Council voted 7-0 to approve new standards to reduce the number of arrests for low-level drug offenses.

Before this ordinance was enacted, New Orleans police officers were already allowed to issue a ticket for first-offense possession, but were still able to use state laws to arrest offenders. Now police are allowed to issue a court summons for repeat offenders, instead of an arrest.

Is it legal to smoke marijuana in the city?

While the new law does not make it legal to consume marijuana in the city, it does lessen the penalties for possession of minor amounts and allows the cases to be tried in municipal court instead of in the criminal district court.

Will I be arrested for possessing marijuana?

The police department is still determining guidelines that specify in which situations it is more appropriate to arrest the offender versus issue a citation. Depending on the circumstances, an offender with a small amount of marijuana may still be arrested.

What if I have other drugs in my possession?

For possession of something other than a “minor amount” of marijuana or other drugs, the laws in New Orleans remain strict and follow the state regulations.

The severity of a drug possession charge is going to depend on the type of drug or drugs the police find.

Schedule I drugs include heroine, MDMA and LSD. These carry up to a 10-year prison sentence and a $5,000 fine. Schedule II drugs (cocaine, methamphetamines, etc.) also have a $5,000 fine but the prison sentence is only five years. Drugs such as steroids are in the Schedule III category and also come with a $5,000 fine and five years in jail. Jail time may or may not include hard labor.

If you have been charged with drug possession in New Orleans, it is important to understand your rights. For advice on how to handle a possession charge contact a criminal defense lawyer experienced with drug offenses.