Police Sergeant Lobbies for Lower Pot Penalties, Sues Department for Interfering

March 13th, 2013

Do police officers have the right to offer their opinion on the laws they enforce? This is the question at the heart of Sgt. Gary Wiegert’s lawsuit against the St Louis Metropolitan Police Department. Wiegert, a former head of the St Louis Police Officers’ Association and a registered lobbyist for the Tea Party, created a new organization called Show-Me Cannabis in support of the movement to decriminalize marijuana.

When the St Louis Metropolitan Police Department got wind of his new extracurricular activities, he was told to stop or else. In response, Wiegert sued, claiming he has a right to express his political opinions when off duty. Sgt. Gary Wiegert believes, as a police officer, in enforcing the current laws while working as a private citizen to reform them on his own time. Should off-duty police officers have the right to weigh in on the very laws that they are asked to enforce?

St Louis Is Considering a Bill That Would Reduce Pot Penalties

St Louis is in the middle of a serious debate on the decriminalization of marijuana. Alderman Shane Cohn recently submitted a bill that would reduce penalties on small amounts of marijuana, treating such offenses less like a crime and more like a traffic violation. Policy changes like these free up law enforcement resources to focus on violent and property crime.

Police officers deal with these issues on a daily basis. Sgt. Gary Wiegert believes that aggressive pot penalties tie up officers who should be dealing with serious crimes that affect the community at large. In fact, he believes so strongly in this that he is willing to risk losing his job by suing his own workplace. His organization has endorsed the city-level bill to reduce marijuana penalties.

Silencing the Free Speech Rights of Law Enforcement Officers

The Sergeant’s lawyer stated, “Gary Wiegert is not advocating that anybody break the law. He is advocating as a lobbyist for an organization that wants to create a new law… and that falls soundly within his First Amendment constitutional rights.” Should police officers have the right to lobby against criminal laws after they get off work? As long as they continue to enforce existing laws while on the clock, it would seem that they are doing everything by the rules.

America is supposed to be a pillar of freedom in the world. Law enforcement officers are there to protect the Constitution. Shouldn’t they also be protected by it? It’s unfair to silence officers who want to reform criminal laws. They’re the ones who have to enforce them. They’re the ones being asked to lock mothers away from their children over something that everyone knows isn’t truly criminal.

For opposing the failed War on Drugs and fighting for the free speech rights of police officers, Sgt. Gary Wiegert is this week’s Rebel of the Week winner.

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About the Author: Barry Donegan

is a singer for the experimental mathcore band , a writer, a self-described "veteran lifer in the counterculture", a political activist/consultant, and a believer in the non-aggression principle.