Policeman Can Lobby for Marijuana Reform

     ST. LOUIS (CN) – A police officer can lobby for less restrictive marijuana laws so long as he’s not in uniform, off duty, and doesn’t claim to represent the police, the St. Louis City Police Chief said.
     Gary Wiegert sued the department in March, claiming that a department order requiring officers to get authorization for secondary employment is unconstitutional. The Police Department officially gave up the fight Tuesday, according to a sent to Wiegert from Police Chief D. Samuel Dotson III.
     “On the condition that you are off duty and not in uniform and do not hold yourself out as representing the views of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department when so engaged, your proposed request for secondary employment as a lobbyist will be allowed,” Dotson wrote.
     Wiegert has lobbied and plans to continue to lobby for a group called Show-Me Cannabis. It advocates giving police officers the option to write tickets to people found with a small amount of marijuana, rather than pres criminal charges.
     Dotson’s letter states that Wiegert’s lobbying could be revoked if a recent state law, HB 307, is found to be invalid by a court.
     HB 307 allows first responders, such as police officers, to participate in political activities.
     “That was put into place because all too often cops, who have been sworn in to uphold the Constitution, were denied their right to free speech,” Wiegert’s attorney Albert Watkins told the Courthouse News.
     “Because they wore a uniform, they couldn’t hold a political opinion.”
     Watkins said the Police Department’s stance was undermined again when the City of St. Louis adopted a law giving police officers the option of writing tickets to people found with a small amount of marijuana.
     Watkins said Wiegert will continue working with Show-Me Cannabis to try to make the law statewide law.
     Watkins described mixed emotions even though the department’s decision was a victory for his client.
     “First, I feel a great deal of pride knowing that justice has been served and the integrity of the Constitution was maintained,” Watkins said. “It’s rewarding for Mr. Wiegert and its rewarding for our firm.”
     Watkins said the only regret is that resolution of the dispute, which brought national attention to Show-Me Cannabis, will deflect the spotlight from the group’s cause.
     “The attention toward the lobbying effort was more than what money could buy,” Watkins said. “It was almost like winning the lottery for Show-Me Cannabis.”
     Missouri is called the Show Me State.

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