Cop’s Free Speech Rights Violated For Supporting Cannabis Law Reform
St. Louis police officer Gary Wiegert has served over three decades protecting Missouri’s largest metropolitan area, but now his rights are under attack. Sergeant Wiegert’s experience on the force led him to believe that Missouri should decrease penalties for marijuana possession. A believer in small government, Wiegert has been lobbying for the St. Louis Tea Party for a few years before picking up another client, Show-Me Cannabis Regulation (SMCR). Unfortunately, the sergeant’s higher ups decided to put the kabosh on his lobbying once they got wind of his work to reform Missouri’s cannabis laws. Fortunately, however, Sergeant Wiegert isn’t one to give up his First Amendment rights without a fight.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan commenting on SMCR hiring an active police officer to lobby for cannabis law reform:
Colorado and the state of Washington recently legalized the recreational use of pot. A number of states have already legalized its medicinal use. I got an email last week from “Marijuana Majority” with the news that state legislative committees in Hawaii and New Mexico have approved bills to decriminalize marijuana possession.
More startling — and much closer to home — was the news Thursday that St. Louis police Sgt. Gary Wiegert has joined Show-Me Cannabis as a lobbyist. Show-Me Cannabis favors treating pot like booze. Regulate it and tax it.
Wiegert is a sergeant in the Third District. He is also past president of the St. Louis Police Officers Association. Show-Me Cannabis is not his only client. He also serves as a lobbyist for the St. Louis Tea Party. The Show-Me press release touted his police background and his work with the Tea Party.
As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, the St. Louis Police Department wasn’t too pleased with one of its own working to lessen penalties for marijuana possession:
Police Chief Sam Dotson said Friday that political lobbying by a veteran sergeant for a pro-marijuana group is “not what is expected of our officers.”
Wiegert also lobbies for the St. Louis Tea Party.
Later in the day, Dotson released a statement saying in full, “Sgt. Wiegert is not representing the Department. His comments are his own and not what is expected of our officers.”
The Post-Dispatch followed up on the story, reporting that Sergeant Weigert is planning on suing the department:
A St. Louis police sergeant who moonlights as a lobbyist for Show-Me Cannabis plans to take the department to court for allegedly stifling his pro-pot politicking.
News that Sgt. Gary Wiegert was registered as a lobbyist for the organization that advocates for legalizing marijuana raised eyebrows last week and prompted Police Chief Sam Dotson to release a statement denouncing Wiegert’s views as his alone and “not what is expected of our officers.”
But it didn’t end there, alleges Wiegert’s attorney, Albert Watkins.
Watkins said Wiegert’s superiors on Friday issued a verbal “gag order” asking him to refrain from any political statements until they could meet to discuss his lobbying activities. Watkins said the department also today revoked Weigert’s approval to work a secondary job as a lobbyist.
It was a tremendous coup for the cannabis law reform movement to hire an active St. Louis police officer to lobby for marijuana law reform in Middle America. Sensing the importance of such a hire, the local law enforcement establishment acted quickly to violate Sgt. Weigert’s free speech. While the higher ups are going to try and argue that their permission to lobby was only revoked due to a technical violation (supposedly because he didn’t get a business license for his address), it is clear that they are only punishing the sergeant because of his support for cannabis law reform. It isn’t just a coincidence that the department allowed Sgt. Wiegert to lobby for the St. Louis Tea Party for a few years and only had a problem with his lobbying activity once he started working for Show-Me Cannabis Regulation.
We are proud to support the efforts to hire Sgt. Wiegert and assist him in his battle to protect his free speech rights. It is a shame that a dedicated officer’s rights are being trampled, but the Sergeant isn’t going to take this violation lying done and we are going to help him every way that we can. Please consider making a donation to help us aid Sgt. Wiegert in this important fight for freedom. Supporting Sgt. Wiegert, can only help give other police officers the courage to speak out against the failure that is cannabis prohibition. We all know that we need more law enforcement officers like him, willing to speak truth to power.
Republished with special permission from the National Cannabis Coalition