Almost two weeks after University of Georgia football players Natrez Patrick and Jayson Stanley were arrested for cannabis possession while driving home from an upset victory in the SEC Championship, both players have resolved their criminal charges, but still face uncertain futures in both their status as athletes and students at UGA. Further, the ongoing situation highlights the constantly-weaving intersection of prohibition's racist realities, the struggles of piecemeal decriminalization and legalization legislation, and the push to bring medical marijuana into amateur and professional athletics.
According to ESPN, Stanley and Patrick were driving into Atlanta on the night of December 3rd when their car was pulled over for speeding. Reports indicate that Stanley was driving, and that during the traffic stop a police officer on the scene said that he smelled marijuana coming from the car. The officer searched the car, uncovering a literal speck of weed, smaller than a penny, which the police officer then bagged, tagged, and used as evidence in the arrest of both men. In the body camera footage released to media last week, the officer can be heard talking about the weed scraps and, as ESPN put it, "marijuana residue in an orange juice bottle."
Here's a photo of the pot discovered in Georgia LB Natrez Patrick's seat, which led to his arrest on Dec. 3 pic.twitter.com/STPMn27ULK— Mark Schlabach (@Mark_Schlabach) December 14, 2017
"All right, sir, unfortunately the marijuana was in your seat where you were sitting, and the bottle of the leftover marijuana was underneath your seat," the arresting officer told Patrick, who was in the passenger seat at the time of the arrest, as seen in the bodycam footage.
Despite Stanley's pleas that the 0.2 grams of bud were his, the officer arrested both men, charging both Stanley and Patrick with possession of marijuana and Stanley with an additional DUI count.
In the two weeks since the arrest, the possession charges against Patrick and Stanley's DUI have been dropped, but Stanley agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor possession of marijuana and speeding.
With the University of Georgia Bulldogs preparing to take one of college football's biggest stages at the Rose Bowl in just two weeks, the arrests and subsequent dismissal of charges has had CFB fans waiting for any administrative punishment that may follow, while the internet has largely focused on the photo showing the flakes of shake that lead to the arrest in the first place — an amount of marijuana that wouldn't even get a novice toker stoned.
For Patrick, the charges represented a third drug-related law enforcement run-in, putting his status for the Rose Bowl and any further UGA football engagement in jeopardy. University officials have not yet announced any subsequent punishment for the early December arrests.
"Obviously, the coaches are going to have make that decision," Patrick's attorney, William Healan III, told ESPN. "But from my perspective as his attorney, [Patrick] didn't do anything wrong and didn't commit a crime. It would be a shame to see someone punished after he was cleared in a court of law."
University of Georgia coach Kirby Smart has said that he is aware of the incident, but has not made any final decisions on Patrick and Stanley's future with the team.
"We've still got things we're finding out," Smart said. "We're trying to discover everything involved. We're disappointed in both young men but we've got a lot of information to still find."
The incident has, for some, been representative of America's ongoing problem with racially-charged prohibition tactics. The arrest highlights not only those who still face the brute of the War on Drugs (i.e. young black men like Stanley and Patrick), but also how a few miles of highway can make the difference between a criminal arrest and civil ticket.
Think they'd arrest a white dude for this amount of weed?— Greg (@sauerapplesauce) December 15, 2017
Hint: the answer is no https://t.co/Nk8584kBCG
Even though the duo was on their way back to the city of Atlanta, where decriminalization has turned minor marijuana possession into a civil offense instead of a criminal charge, the arrest was made in nearby Winder, Georgia, where legislation still reflects America's draconian War on Drugs.
While Atlanta's decriminalization effort was lauded by cannabis activists around the country, the rest of Georgia has been slower to assimilate to America's changing tide. Lawmakers have been slow to act, but Georgia's residents are ready to try their hand at welcoming at least medical marijuana. A recent poll of Peach State Republicans suggested that over 70% of the state's GOP stronghold supports a comprehensive medical marijuana program.
As professional athletes across all disciplines begin to use their public platform to call for cannabis reform in sports and society as a whole, Patrick and Stanley's case is a necessary reminder that while college athletes make the same sacrifices to their body and brain as professionals, they are not compensated for their work. Not to mention the fact that they can be cut from the team at any time, with scholarships taken back and lives ruined.
It is still not clear what will happen next for Patrick and Stanley, but the fact that they were placed in handcuffs for less than a gram of weed in the first place is cause for outrage, regardless if the student-athletes are allowed to ring in the new year on the football field or not.
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