Free Speech Isn’t Free – The Price Can Be Your Freedom

If the end of January is dragging for you, search “Spencer Boston” online and enjoy a laugh (or maybe suffer disgust) as you watch a twenty-year old Tennessee man light up a joint while standing in front of a criminal court judge. On Monday, Spencer Boston is reported to have appeared in Wilson County Sessions Court to answer a citation for marijuana. While at the podium in the courtroom, Mr. Boston calmly pulled a marijuana joint out of his pocket, lit it using a match, and enjoyed a puff before being manhandled by a court officer and shackled. He will serve ten days in jail not for the marijuana itself but for a contempt of court conviction. His drug charges are still pending. Before being taken into custody, Mr. Boston reportedly faced the civilians in the courtroom and stated, “The people deserve better.” Currently, the people – we taxpayers, that is – are footing his bill as he serves his sentence in the county jail. Was he wrongly jailed for free speech, or rightly imprisoned for breaking the law and disrespecting one of our judges? 

Cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, but to-date, a total of eleven states allow recreational use of marijuana, and over twenty other states have mixed laws on the drug, some permitting medicinal use. Two federal bills have been in the works that would decriminalize marijuana in different degrees, but both are expected to fail to become actual law in the near future. Tennessee remains in the minority of states in which marijuana use is fully illegal. 

My dad was right when he told me that “freedom isn’t free” – laws limit free speech, as Mr. Boston now knows, and our laws prohibit the use of weed in our state. Just this week, I saw a witness defend his marijuana use to a judge by stating that it would be legal in Tennessee in two years. I have no idea where this individual obtained his estimated timeline, but all I can say at this point is, follow the law and don’t smoke the ganja when you’re within the borders of the Volunteer State. But for those of you who tend to seek forgiveness instead of permission, call us when you get cited or charged for your greenery – we’ll be glad to help you figure out your options. Bad decisions can make good stories, and all of us at the Stanford Law Firm love a good story.