Drug Ring Using Commercial Flights to Bring Marijuana to Louisiana Shut Down

No tunnels, no secret passageways, no speedboats, no subterfuge. The drug ring busted shuttling drugs

Bundle of confiscated marijuana plants wrapped in plastic

No tunnels, no secret passageways, no speedboats, no subterfuge. The drug ring busted shuttling drugs into Louisiana used commercial flights, bringing in 10–32 pounds of marijuana with each trip. According to the indictment that named 14 defendants and five co-conspirators, the drug ring has been running marijuana steadily into Jefferson Parish since 2014.

But it is not just marijuana trafficking charges that are on the table. The group named is charged with racketeering and money laundering as well as bribing commercial airline employees, contractors, and government employees.

Though many view marijuana as a “harmless” drug because so many states have legalized it for medical and recreational use, the version of the drug that is sold on the black market is an entirely different substance than the high-end version sold at a premium on dispensary shelves. Despite legalization that is rampant across the country, there is a strong black market for marijuana, even states where the drug is available in any form for recreational use. In states like Louisiana, where the drug is significantly limited in availability legally—medical marijuana is legal but not in any form that can be smoked—the black market for the drug is thriving.

Why Is Black-Market Marijuana Dangerous?

It has become clear in states where the drug is legal for recreational use that there are a number of ways in which the drug can be dangerous to users. As a result, many states are playing catchup as they add limitations and regulations to every aspect of the industry, from how the plant should be grown and processed to the packaging and “best by” dates on the end products. Especially for edibles, it is clear that marijuana can be deadly if used improperly, and government officials are working overtime to protect consumers as they discover what needs to be addressed by trial and error.

When it comes to the completely unregulated black market, there is no one there to provide oversight, to collect data on what is causing harm, and to identify the manufacturers that are producing an inferior product and putting lives in danger. The street version of marijuana may be coated in chemicals, laced with fentanyl, or otherwise harmful to buyers. If the states that have legalized marijuana are concerned about its safety, then buyers who purchase the drug from completely unregulated growers and distributors have a lot to be concerned about.

Should Marijuana Be Legalized in Louisiana?

Many brush off the idea that marijuana is a dangerous drug due to the increasing perception of the substance as mild. In fact, many are asking why we are spending government and state resources on investigations targeting drugs rings that specialize in marijuana shipping and sales, especially when there are deadlier drugs on the street. In light of the opioid epidemic, it is true that we are in crisis due to high rates of overdose caused by other substances, but it is also true that illegal marijuana sales contribute significantly to the funding of deadly drug cartels that traffic in a range of deadly substances.

Bluntly put, the purchase of any illegal drug is a tax-free contribution to deadly drug cartels and the gangs that support them with zero guarantee that the substance is what it is purported to be and not going to kill the user. Marijuana is not exempt. As the black market for the drug continues to thrive, providing access to the substance to those who cannot afford expensive dispensary prices, it is clear that the substance is not harmless—not for the end consumer and not for the people who are harmed in its production, distribution, and sales.

What Do You Think?

How do you think illegal marijuana sales and trafficking should be handled in Louisiana? Do you think it is a valid concern for law enforcement and government officials, or do you believe they should pay more attention to other drugs and/or to treatment that can help people in crisis due to addiction to heal?

Since joining the Townsend content team, Shlomo has become a thought leader in the addiction field. He is a Seinfeld junkie, a recovering Twitter fanatic, and a sports expert. He enjoys milk shakes and beautiful views from rooftops.