ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis' police chief has reversed course and will allow a veteran officer to moonlight as a lobbyist for a pro-marijuana organization, the attorney for the officer said Wednesday.
Police Chief Sam Dotson wrote to police Sgt. Gary Wiegert on Tuesday, informing him that his request for "secondary employment" will be allowed.
Wiegert, a 32-year veteran of the department, filed a complaint earlier this year in U.S. District Court claiming the department violated his First Amendment rights to free speech for revoking approval of his lobbying work on behalf of Show-Me Cannabis. He was lobbying the Missouri Legislature to treat arrests for small amounts of marijuana possession like a traffic ticket, rather than a misdemeanor.
Messages seeking comment from Dotson were not immediately returned Wednesday. The chief said in a statement at the time Wiegert's lobbying job was disallowed that the officer's comments on behalf of the lesser marijuana law "are his own and not what is expected of our officers."
Secondary jobs are common among St. Louis police officers — many work security in their off-hours, for example. Approval from the department is required.
Wiegert worked for three years as a lobbyist for the St. Louis Tea Party. In February, he submitted a new application to the department. The application did not require him to state for whom he would lobby. It was approved but revoked after the department learned Wiegert was lobbying for the pro-marijuana group.
Wiegert's attorney, Albert Watkins, said the department's tough stand against Wiegert actually helped the pro-marijuana movement.
"They brought more attention to the very cause they were trying to depress than Wiegert did standing on the highest mountain lobbying," Watkins said.
In May, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay signed a bill making possession of small amounts of marijuana an ordinance violation punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. Previously, it was a misdemeanor that could net up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.