Marijuana: Free-Speech Lawsuit Sparks Questions About St. Louis Police Stance on Pot
"I think there's some misunderstanding," Payne says. "He's not lobbying in Jefferson City for full legalization. There's no full legalization bill on the table right now. His job is much more focused.... And he is not claiming to represent the department. He never has been. He is representing himself and Show-Me Cannabis when he is lobbying."
Wiegert's lawsuit alleges that he got the necessary approvals to lobby at the capitol, but when police officials found out it was for Show-Me Cannabis, they retroactively denied his approval, citing an unrelated license issue.
A police spokeswoman yesterday declined to comment, citing pending litigation, and deferred to Police Chief Sam Dotson's original statement, which says, in its entirety:
Sgt. Wiegert is not representing the Department. His comments are his own and not what is expected of our officers. The Department will not comment any further on an ongoing personnel matter that is subject to legal action.
Wiegert and Show-Me Cannabis say it's clear the department is trying to block his lobbying because of his affiliation with a pro-legalization group, even if that's not what Wiegert is promoting. And regardless, they argue, he has a right to free speech.
"It's unconstitutional," says Payne. "This is clearly an infringement on Sgt. Wiegert's freedom of speech.... They did approve it, then it became an issue when they found out what he was lobbying for."
He adds, "They are trying to find anything they can use to keep him from speaking out."
(Interestingly, when Daily RFT asked Mayor Francis Slay about the decriminalization proposal last month, he said that he opposes legalization -- which, again, is not on the table anywhere in Missouri at this time.)
Here's how Wiegert's legal team describes his marijuana stance in the lawsuit:
The undertakings by the Plaintiff as a lobbyist for Show-Me Cannabis related to furthering legislation designed to provide law enforcement authorities with the option of issuing a summons for an ordinance violation to individuals found to unlawfully possess small amounts of marijuana in quantities presumed to be for personal consumption rather than require the time consuming process of arresting, booking, processing, and transporting criminally accused to be held while the officer applies for a warrant, thus permitting the law enforcement officer to remain on the streets to address more serious and threatening situations in furtherance of the safety and welfare of those for whom the police are charged with the duty of serving and protecting.
Of the decriminalization proposal, Payne says, "We do ultimately want full legalization. But this is a step in the right direction."
Here's the full complaint filed yesterday.