The tip came about a month ago when detectives with the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office learned marijuana was en route to Baton Rouge by mail.
Nearly three weeks later, in late April, detectives followed up on the tip by staking out a house in a suburban neighborhood nestled between Tiger Bend Road, Jefferson Highway and Antioch Road, according to Sheriff’s Office documents.
They were there for at least four hours, although it was likely longer. The documents do not indicate how the deputies passed the time while waiting.
Eventually a package arrived on the doorstep of a home in the 15200 block of Cocodrie Avenue. About four hours later, a white Toyota Camry Solara drove up, and inside sat the driver, a woman, along with her passenger, a man.
The man exited the car, grabbed the package, then returned to the Toyota with his prize in hand, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
Detectives followed the white car a few miles until they stopped it in the 17500 block of Azalea Lakes Avenue near BREC’s Manchac Park.
After receiving permission to search the car, the deputies looked inside and found a U.S. parcel package containing about a pound of marijuana, most of it of the “high-grade” variety, according to the affidavit.
Nothing about the stop seemed too interesting until, while under questioning, the man told deputies from where he ordered the drugs: Colorado.
Jonathan Morris Butler, 31, told deputies he had recently visited the mountainous state where people over 21 years old can legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana, which is about 60 average-size joints’ worth of weed. While there, Butler paid $2,000 to have a half-pound of the drug delivered to Cocodrie Avenue, which is not where Butler resides, the affidavit says.
Unfortunately for Butler, Louisiana has not enacted such permissive marijuana laws as Colorado — although even there it remains illegal to smoke weed in public. It’s also illegal there for individuals to possess as much marijuana as deputies claim to have found in Butler’s possession.
Deputies booked him into jail on a count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. He posted $6,000 bail and was released April 30, booking records show.
Butler is not the only Baton Rouge-area resident who has tried to smuggle drugs in from the marijuana-friendly state since it legalized the sale of small amounts of the drug for recreational use in late 2012.
In fact, postal inspectors have seen an increase in the amount of marijuana sent to the Capital City area from Colorado since then, said Stephaine Harden, U.S. Postal Service inspector at the Houston office, which services much of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi.
But the increase has been minimal, Harden said, adding most marijuana arrives in Baton Rouge from California. She could not specify how much marijuana arrives in Baton Rouge through the mail from Colorado.
Sheriff’s Office detectives agreed about California being the chief source for Baton Rouge marijuana, adding they haven’t seen the increase in drugs from Colorado, a Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman said.
A Baton Rouge police spokesman, too, said department detectives haven’t noticed the subtle increase.
But as Butler’s case and the inspector’s comments indicate, the effects of what’s happening in Colorado have already rippled into the swamps of southern Louisiana, if ever so quietly.
Ben Wallace covers law enforcement for The Advocate. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @_BenWallace.