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Pot-Reform Cop Sues Police Commission

ST. LOUIS (CN) - An officer sued the St. Louis Police Commission, claiming it violated his speech rights by threatening to discipline him for advocating reform of marijuana laws.

Gary Wiegert sued the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners and its five members, in Federal Court.

He seeks a declaration that a Police Department order requiring officers to get authorization for secondary employment is unconstitutional.

Wiegert, a 32-year veteran of the police force, also has worked as a lobbyist for the Tea Party and has a long history of Libertarian political associations.

He recently worked as a lobbyist for Show-Me Cannabis, which advocates giving police officers the option to write tickets to people found with small amounts of marijuana for personal use, instead of filing a criminal complaint.

Wiegert says Show-Me Cannabis does not seek legalization of marijuana and does not advocate violating the law.

"The draconian charges and consequences arising out of possession of small amounts of marijuana, in plaintiff's view, has become a detriment on society's resources and to society," the complaint states. "Plaintiff does not believe nor does he advocate individually or as a lobbyist for legalization of marijuana. Plaintiff believes that penalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, rather than incarceration, would improve society. For this reason, it is imperative to plaintiff's political views be heard in addition to the contradictory message from public figures. For all these reasons, this public platform is the only place where plaintiff's political message can and must be delivered in a timely and relevant manner to those whom his lobbying efforts have been and will be directed."

Wiegert claims the police department did not object to his advocacy until the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an article about it on March 8.

Then the department revoked his application under the pretense that he didn't have a business license, Wiegert says in the complaint.

He claims the department threatened to discipline him if he resubmitted his application and threatened to prosecute him criminally if he continued to lobby without a business license.

"As a result of threatened employment-related and other sanctions arising out of plaintiff's prospective lobbying activities, plaintiff has been chilled in his efforts to engage in protected speech activities inspired by his political beliefs within the City of St. Louis," the complaint states.

"Unless defendants and their agents are enjoined from enforcing their prohibition on plaintiff's lobbying activities, plaintiff will sustain immediate harm and will be irreparably harmed and effectively chilled from expressing his political beliefs, for which legal relief alone in an insufficient remedy."

Wiegert seeks costs and declaratory judgment.

He is represented by Albert Watkins, with Kodner, Watkins & Kloecker.

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