Rapides Sheriff Mark Wood: As long as marijuana is illegal, 'we're gonna fight it'

·4 min read

Rapides Parish Sheriff Mark Wood said he knew it sounded like he was bragging, then admitted that was just what he was doing when talking about the work done over the past week by the Rapides Area Drug Enforcement (RADE) team.

Wood, along with police chiefs and mayors, during a Friday press conference stood beside three tables holding stacks of sealed packages containing more than 100 pounds of marijuana, bags of cannabis-infused brownies, gummy edibles, confiscated guns and cash, acid and more.

"I want you to look at the firepower they have taken off the streets," he said, calling the seized weapons "serious guns."

All of it was coming to Rapides Parish, he said. And he acknowledged that a lot of people would criticize the seizure of marijuana as its legalization becomes more popular across the country.

Sealed bags of marijuana, about 100 pounds of it in total, were on display Friday during a press conference for the Rapides Area Drug Enforcement unit.
Sealed bags of marijuana, about 100 pounds of it in total, were on display Friday during a press conference for the Rapides Area Drug Enforcement unit.

"It's illegal, and it leads to more things than you believe it does," said Wood. "You just talk to the states that legalized it, really look at those stats. Everybody thinks marijuana's gonna bring a ton of money to this state. It don't work like that.

"As long as it's illegal, we're gonna fight it with everything we've got."

Medical marijuana: Should Louisiana break up monopolies to lower prices?

When Wood became sheriff less than two years ago, he came in with an idea of how to tackle the drug problem that concerned so many residents.

The topics of drugs and the crimes committed by those who sell and use were hot ones during the campaign. Not long after he took his oath, RADE hit the streets.

Rapides Parish Sheriff Mark Wood (center) said his office would continue to make arrests and seize marijuana as long as it remains illegal in Louisiana.
Rapides Parish Sheriff Mark Wood (center) said his office would continue to make arrests and seize marijuana as long as it remains illegal in Louisiana.

2020: New drug interdiction unit started by Rapides sheriff goes public after 4th seizure

The unit has ballooned as more law enforcement agencies have joined. In 2021, investigations by the unit led to dozens of arrests and the seizure of narcotics, guns and money.

It's not been unusual for the unit's activity to draw attention from residents and passersby. But Wood's chief of staff, Tommy Carnline, said the department doesn't always share details from all those operations immediately.

That happened on Jan. 6, when a search warrant was being served at a residence on Sanders Street in Pineville.

'Fighting the same bad guys': New unit aims for police, public cooperation

After the news conference, the sheriff's office revealed that they seized 21 bags of marijuana that weighed almost 4 pounds, 106 THC vape cartridges, 30 oxycodone tablets, 55 Mexican Xanax tablets, more than $10,000 cash and three handguns at that location.

One of those guns had been reported stolen, and another had an obliterated serial number.

Other seizures reported early this year and during 2021 include:

  • A Tennessee man stopped on Interstate 49 on Jan. 12 was arrested after a search of his vehicle found 94 vacuum-sealed bags of marijuana, weighing more than 100 pounds.

  • In mid-December 2021, a vehicle on I-49 was stopped near Boyce. Twenty pounds of meth was found hidden in a box of baby diapers after a search.

  • In October 2021, RADE agents seized cocaine, fentanyl, marijuana, synthetic marijuana, morphine, oxycodone, Xanax, meth, suboxone, Ecstasy, more than $10,000 cash and 19 firearms. In all, 70 people were arrested.

  • In June 2021, a Lafayette man was arrested after a traffic stop on I-49. Agents found more than a pound of heroin and lesser amounts of fentanyl, meth, marijuana and cocaine.

  • Search warrants served in the Rapides Station area and Alexandria found meth and more than $35,000 cash in March 2021.

A bottle of grape-flavored Looney Rocks was among the items seized by the RADE unit this past week.
A bottle of grape-flavored Looney Rocks was among the items seized by the RADE unit this past week.

Investigations have led the unit into all areas of Rapides Parish, as well as into Grant Parish.

At Friday's press conference, Wood said more than $40,000 cash was seized this past week. That money will be funneled back into interdiction efforts through asset forfeiture, he said.

The Rapides Parish District Attorney's Office has an assistant district attorney, Tom Wells, working full time on asset forfeiture issues. District Attorney Phillip Terrell said Wells has been sworn in as an assistant district attorney in Grant Parish, too, so he can handle forfeitures in that parish.

When a judge approves the forfeiture, 60% of the money seized goes to RADE. Another 19% goes to the DA's office, while 20% goes to the Rapides Parish Criminal Court Fund.

Smaller amounts go to the Rapides Parish Clerk of Court Office and the Drug Asset Recovery Team, according to online records.

As Wood spoke about the efforts of the team, Woodworth Mayor David Butler stood nearby and gave a few "amens." The town's police department is part of RADE.

"That's a huge thing for us to do, but we believe in it," Butler said.

Wood said the unit will continue its operations.

"If you're selling it, RADE's coming, so get ready," he said.

Who's involved?

Law enforcement agencies participating in RADE:

  • Alexandria Police Department

  • Ball Police Department

  • Boyce Police Department

  • Cheneyville Police Department

  • Forest Hill Police Department

  • Glenmora Police Department

  • Grant Parish Sheriff’s Office

  • Lecompte Police Department

  • McNary Police Department

  • Pineville Police Department

  • Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office

  • Woodworth Police Department

  • Grant Parish District Attorney’s Office

  • Rapides Parish District Attorney’s Office

This article originally appeared on Alexandria Town Talk: Rapides Area Drug Enforcement team seizes 100 pounds of weed, $40K

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting