Alexandria Police Officer Brian Willett was charged today with several crimes for doing something that is perfectly legal in many parts of the country. Possessing a bag of weed and a gun in a so called "drug free zone." For that he is charged with marijuana possession, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a weapon with a controlled dangerous substance (CDS), and possession of drugs in a drug free zone. His arrest should not be considered a poor reflection of his character, but rather a poor reflection of Louisiana's draconian drug laws and possible racial bias.
DRACONIAN DRUG LAWS
Under Louisiana Revised Statute 40:964 (http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/Law.aspx?d=98877), marijuana is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance. Schedule I controlled substances are considered the most dangerous of the five schedules. Notable Schedule I substances include heroin, mescaline, and psychedelic mushrooms (psilocybin). Marijuana is number 19 on the list of dangerous hallucinogens right below lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) under its Spanish name Marihuana. As a Schedule I substance marijuana is considered more dangerous than cocaine, methamphetamine, morphine, and oxycodone all of which are Schedule II substances. Under Louisiana Revised Statute 40:966 (http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/Law.aspx?p=y&d=98880) anyone found in possession of marijuana "(b) On a first conviction, wherein the offender possesses more than fourteen grams, the offender shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars, imprisoned in the parish jail for not more than six months, or both." That punishment is considerably less than the punishment for possessing other types of Schedule I substances, but it is still draconian in that it criminalizes a harmless plant.
The Louisiana House of Representatives recently passed a bill that should reduce the penalty for less than 14 grams to a $100 fine (see PDF icon above map). That bill is currently pending before the Louisiana State Senate, but it does not go far enough. At least 16 states have fully legalized marijuana for personal recreational use, 12 have decriminalized possession and legalized medical use, 14 have legalized medical use (including Louisiana), 2 have decriminalized possession, and it remains fully illegal in 6 states (https://disa.com/map-of-marijuana-legality-by-state). We don't see how Louisiana can justify permitting medical marijuana use while at the same time classifying it as a Schedule I substance. Under Louisiana Revised Statute 40:963 (http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/Law.aspx?p=y&d=98876) Schedule I substances are defined as having "no currently accepted medical use". By legalizing medical marijuana the state has admitted that marijuana does in fact have currently accepted medical uses and therefore cannot possibly be considered a Schedule I substance. We would like to see Officer Willett's lawyer challenge the legality of classifying marijuana as a Schedule I substance under these circumstances. The argument would be that since marijuana was classified as a Schedule I substance that subsequent legislation has made it impossible for marijuana to fit the definition of a Schedule I substance.
The other charges Willett faces would not be possible if it were not for the draconian state of marijuana laws in Louisiana. If marijuana were legalized then a marijuana pipe would not be considered drug paraphernalia, possessing a weapon with marijuana would not constitute possessing a weapon with CDS, and you would be free to possess it in a drug free zone. Of those charges the most serious charge Willett faces is possessing a weapon with CDS. The relevant statute reads as follows"
"E. If the offender uses, possesses, or has under his immediate control any firearm, or other instrumentality customarily used or intended for probable use as a dangerous weapon, while committing or attempting to commit a crime of violence or while unlawfully in the possession of a controlled dangerous substance except the possession of fourteen grams or less of marijuana, or during the unlawful sale or distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, the offender shall be fined not more than ten thousand dollars and imprisoned at hard labor for not less than five nor more than ten years without the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence. Upon a second or subsequent conviction, the offender shall be imprisoned at hard labor for not less than twenty years nor more than thirty years without the benefit of probation, parole, or suspension of sentence." - Louisiana Revised Statute 14:95 (https://www.legis.la.gov/Legis/Law.aspx?d=78739)
The phrase "not less than five" constitutes a statutory minimum of 5 years just for possessing a weapon with more than 14 grams of marijuana. It is widely recognized in many jurisdiction that an ounce (28 grams) or less is considered a personal amount. In this case, a police officer increased his exposure for possessing more than half an ounce from a maximum of 6 months to a minimum of 5 years just for carrying his service weapon.
IS THIS RACIST?
We don't mean to sound racist, but judging by the look of Willett we think he might be African American. It is well known that racism runs rampant in the old south and often black officers are ganged up on by their white colleagues in efforts to get rid of them. Alexandria, Louisiana still has a street named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee where black people were massacred in 1942 (https://www.fox8live.com/2020/11/17/heart-louisiana-alexandrias-lee-st-riot/). We doubt that a man with Willett's complexion was not looked down upon by his fellow white officers. Maybe Willett thought that by joining the force he could lick enough boots to avoid being treated like any other black man, but obviously he was wrong.
Officer Brian Anthony Willett did nothing wrong. The police always have discretion not to enforce the law and that discretion is best exercised in cases involving outdated laws criminalizing harmless activities.
NOTE: We rarely support officers, especially when they are charged with breaking the same laws they swore to uphold, but ironically this is the second time this week that we have come to the defense of an officer charged under an unjust law. Earlier this week we came to the defense of an officer charged with possessing an unregistered firearm on the grounds that gun registration laws violate the 2nd Amendment and he appeared to have been targeted for speaking in favor of Qanon theory (https://copblaster.com/blast/35557/qanon-cop-alfredo-luna-jr-arrested-for-2nd-amendment-exercise).