Last week I told you that Show-Me Cannabis Regulation had hired Gary Wiegert, who is also a Saint Louis City police officer, to lobby on our behalf in Jefferson City. When the Saint Louis Metropolitan Police Department saw this editorial on the subject by well-known Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan last Friday, they freaked out.
They called Gary and told him to immediately stop talking to the media and to cease any lobbying activities until his superiors could meet with him. Gary then called me, and I called a number of civil rights lawyers. Those lawyers unanimously agreed that because the department had allowed Gary to speak out on other issues and had already approved his application for secondary employment as a lobbyist, they could not censor him just because they didn’t like what he was saying.
Nevertheless, Gary was under a direct order, and he obeyed it. But the gag order did not work out as the police department intended, as it only attracted more attention. On my way to the Columbia trivia night on Friday, I stopped to give an interview with Charles Jaco for last weekend’s Jaco Report on Fox 2. Then, as I was driving, I spoke with Brittany Noble at KMOV, the CBS affiliate in Saint Louis.
News of the situation was picked up by the Associated Press and appeared in media outlets across Missouri, including those in Kansas City, Cape Girardeau, and Springfield! Gary was also defended by Bill Hennessy, his colleague at the Saint Louis Tea Party, who has been publicly advocating cannabis law reforms for some time now.
When Gary met with the bosses, they told him they were rescinding his application for secondary employment because he needs a business license to work as a lobbyist. I am no expert on Missouri regulatory law, but I have never heard of such a thing. However, even if true, it is funny that the department only discovered this problem when they found out what cause Gary was advocating.
Gary’s attorney Al Watkins thought that was strong evidence that the department was attempting to restrict his freedom of speech. Watkins appeared on Mark Reardon’s KMOX radio show to discuss the situation on Monday, and, on Wednesday, he filed a federal lawsuit against the department. If successful, the lawsuit would restore Gary’s ability to lobby for us, and that was also covered by The Riverfront Times, Fox 2 and KMOV.
We are receiving more media attention for this story than anything I have ever been involved with, whether at this organization or in any of my previous work. If you are pleased with the work we are doing, please support it by contributing now!
The legislature has recessed until Monday, March 25, and we hope to have Gary back lobbying for us in Jefferson City by then. Nonetheless, we all need to pick up the slack while he is gone. Please email your state legislators and ask them to support reform!
The hemp bill in the state senate and the House expungement bill (H.B. 511) were both assigned to committee within the past week, and Speaker Tim Jones (R- Eureka) indicated that he would assign the decriminalization and medical bills to committee, as well. However, if we do not keep the pressure on legislators, he might let the issue drop. We have also heard from individual legislators who say that they are willing to support reform legislation, but that they are not hearing from constituents who support the idea.
Legislators will not do the right thing if they think it will cost them votes! Show them that, in this case, the right thing is also popular by writing them now.