A Harvey man told authorities the four packages he received through the mail at an Elmwood business contained hemp and that he had the paperwork to document their legality.
But he was arrested and jailed because federal authorities said the packages contained marijuana that was illegally mailed through the U.S. postal system.
Agents ended up seizing about 400 pounds of marijuana after searching Urban Nola LLC, a business in the 900 block of Edwards Avenue in Elmwood, on Feb. 6, according to an arrest report.
Anthony Le, 35, whom state records list as a managing member of Urban Nola, was booked with felony possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service opened the investigation on Feb. 4 after local staffers intercepted three packages that smelled like marijuana, authorities said. The parcels were addressed to Urban Nola and had been mailed from Watsonville, California.
Boyca, a drug-sniffing State Police dog, “alerted” to marijuana in the packages, the arrest report said. Investigators opened the boxes and found vacuum-sealed bags that tested positive for marijuana.
A day later, a fourth box addressed to Urban Nola came through the postal system.
The post office delivered the four packages to the company’s Elmwood office in a “controlled delivery” and arrested Le when he accepted them. Investigators then searched the company’s office and found a total of 21 boxes containing about 400 pounds of marijuana, the arrest report said.
Le claimed the packaged plant material inside the parcels was hemp, a less potent and recently legalized cannabis cousin of marijuana.
Recently passed federal and state laws legalized “industrial hemp,” a cannabis plant that has a lower level of the psychoactive ingredient THC than marijuana. Hemp is used to make several products, including cannabidiol (CBD), paper, textiles and alcohol.
Legal hemp has a THC concentration of 0.3% or less, according to Mike Strain, commissioner of the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry, which regulates the state’s budding hemp industry.
Le showed the agents paperwork purportedly documenting the THC levels in Urban Nola’s plants. The arrest report did not reveal whether agents conducted their own THC-level tests.
Even if the plants meet the state and federal THC levels, Urban Nola has other problems, according to Strain and U.S. Postal Service inspectors. Le did not have any of the state licenses required to transport, process or possess industrial hemp, the arrest report said.
The hemp was also shipped from California, a state that has not yet been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to legally grow the product, according to Strain.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service did not comment directly on the investigation, but agent Tony Robinson said it’s illegal to mail marijuana through the postal system. People living in states where marijuana has been legalized often mistakenly believe that they can mail their weed, he said.
“Even though something might be legal to sell in a state, federal laws prevent them from mailing it through the U.S. mail,” Robinson said.
Le was booked into the Jefferson Parish Correctional Center in Gretna. He was released Friday on a $100,000 bond.
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