At the intersection of Natrez Patrick, the Rose Bowl and Georgia’s revised substance abuse policy

I’ve gotten a few emails in response to my posts on the above subjects and read a bunch of things from others this week about the same.  Georgia, it’s safe to say, finds itself in a unique situation due to some unusual timing, and maybe it’s worth going back to sort a few things out to determine what’s the best way to go forward, particularly in Patrick’s case.

Let’s start with the obvious.  Georgia’s draconian substance abuse policy was created by Michael Adams, who is neither a public safety nor a health expert.  Adams was and is a politician, a politician who in this case wanted to show the world that he was serious about doing something.  My feeling is that enforcing a zero tolerance policy generally does more harm than good and what Adams came up with was no exception to that rule of thumb.  It’s hard to see what he accomplished, other than to put Georgia athletics behind the eight ball compared with its conference peers, something that was acknowledged early on as McGarity tried more than once to lobby SEC schools to bring their own policies in line with Georgia.

From there, it’s worth your taking the time to read this Q&A Ron Courson had with the media yesterday on the subject of the school’s revised policy.  He fielded a lot of good, tough questions, like this opening exchange:

What was the need to revise the substance abuse policy?

Courson: “I think with anything, you want to take a look at any existing policy you have, and things change. One of the biggest things we’re looking, drug rehab and substance abuse issues, you need to look at from a medical standpoint. I think many times in the past it was looked at from a disciplinary standpoint. Substance abuse is a medical problem just like any other medical problem we see. A great example, 15 to 20 years ago, orthopedics looked a protocols. If you had an MCL or an ACL protocol, you followed it. What we found, both didn’t work very well. You tried to use a cookbook approach and you needed to individualize everything. So we tried to craft our substance-abuse policy the same way — is look at it on an individual basis from a problem-solving standpoint. Every case is different. Every student athlete is different. So we’re trying to use that same philosophy and look at it from a problem solving standpoint. That was the main reason in looking at the protocol.”

Why was it in the past that a legal citation counted as a positive test? I assume what your saying, Ron, is why you felt the need to change it, but why was that previous policy in place?

Courson: “We tried to be consistent with university policy as well. Our student-athletes are actually students at the university as well. The university has an existing alcohol and drug policy as well. So we tried to standardize that. That’s where the level one and level two came from. That language actually existed with the university policy.

Read that carefully, and there’s plenty to unpack.  Courson is someone for whom I have a great deal of respect, so when he says it was time to view the policy from a medical standpoint, and not a disciplinary one, I take him at his word.  (I also think that’s the proper approach, for what it’s worth.)  Inherent in that change of philosophy is a rebuke of Adams’ vision, although Courson tries to be careful to avoid a hard distinction with that second answer.

In any event, if the school is to look at Patrick in light of what’s best for him, medically speaking, rather than in terms of pure punishment, the specific question then becomes does it serve that goal best to let him play or not?

Jeff Schultz votes not.

That the nation has become desensitized to all matters involving marijuana use, rightly or wrongly, and that Georgia has a stricter anti-drug policy than most collegiate athletic departments should not be a part of this debate.

There are only two factors that need be considered here when it comes to whether Natrez Patrick plays another football game for Georgia this season:

1. The kid has a problem. Patrick, a junior inside linebacker, has been either arrested, tested positive or been present for six incidents involving marijuana use in less than three years at Georgia. He has done so despite a disciplinary action that included a four-game suspension this season and repeated warnings that persisting in drug use could lead to expulsion. There’s a saying about addicts: Even when they know what will happen when they take that first pill, drink or fix, they still do so. That’s the “insanity” of the illness.

2. If the Bulldogs look the other way and allow him to play in the Rose Bowl against Oklahoma, they effectively will be endorsing and enabling Patrick’s behavior — past, present and moving forward. They will be saying, “This football game is more important than the kid’s well-being.”

Now, before any of you start throwing the click-bait card down, I don’t believe that’s where Schultz is coming from.  He’s written movingly about dealing with a substance abuse problem in his own family.  So what I read here isn’t cynicism.  Quite the opposite; he’s impassioned, even to the point of righteous, albeit misplaced, anger.  (I mean,“But Healan is a defense attorney. He’s not paid to have a conscience or an ounce of moral fiber.”?  Seriously?)

So while I don’t question his sincerity, I do question some of his logical underpinnings.  For one thing, that Georgia has a stricter anti-drug policy than most collegiate athletic departments sure as hell should be a part of this debate.  Not because of competitive disadvantage, but because of the protocol’s structural flaw of which Courson spoke.  Punishing Patrick purely for punishment’s sake isn’t more important than the kid’s well-being, either.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I suspect Schultz is more invested in the second reason — how Georgia and Smart will look if Patrick is allowed to play in the Rose Bowl — than anything else.  What he’s arguing is that even if Courson finds that, purely from a medical standpoint, Patrick’s suspension from the program won’t have any positive impact on his rehabilitation, it doesn’t matter.  In other words, the punishment is the program’s own reward, regardless of the effect on the kid.  I have a hard time swallowing that.

Which brings me back around to where I’m at.  I think it boils down to this:

  1. Natrez Patrick’s use of marijuana has been stupid, selfish and careless.  His suspensions have hurt his teammates and his coaches.
  2. His use of marijuana also violated state law and school policy.  If Smart decides on that basis alone that Patrick shouldn’t be allowed to suit up against Oklahoma, he’ll hear nary a word of disagreement from me.
  3. However, if the real issue now is Patrick’s well-being, then the ultimate arbiter of his fate isn’t me, Kirby Smart or Jeff Schultz.  It’s Ron Courson and Georgia’s medical staff.  Whichever way they decide, as long as it’s through an honest process without any pressure brought to bear by the coaching staff or other non-professionals in Butts-Mehre, I’m totally cool with their call.

I don’t have the first clue whether Natrez Patrick is a consummate dumbass or an addict.  Going back to my college days, I’ve known both types.  I had to help check a college buddy into a facility for substance abuse.  I also had plenty of college friends who used marijuana regularly but still managed to go to class, make good grades, graduate on time and go on to success in the business world and with their families.  Every case, every person, then, is different.  It’s Courson’s job to make an honest determination.  Let him do his job, if that’s how the school’s new substance abuse policy rolls.

I’m tired of empty gestures.  I’m tired of stupid gestures, such as surprise drug testing immediately following spring break.  Or the futile, feel good nonsense of taking pride in having a tougher drug policy than other schools for the mere satisfaction of occupying the moral high ground.  Or Jimmy Williamson taking it on himself to undermine a sensible amnesty policy enacted by the state legislature.

It shouldn’t be about making adults feel holier-than-thou.  It should be about making sure kids get the support they need when they do stupid things, which kind of goes with the territory.  If Patrick crossed a line where that help entails getting him off the field for good, so be it.  Just let that be an informed decision about his specific issues, not how we look at the school in the morning if he plays.

Okay, I’ll climb down off my moral soapbox now.

64 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, The Body Is A Temple

64 responses to “At the intersection of Natrez Patrick, the Rose Bowl and Georgia’s revised substance abuse policy

  1. Fitzdawg

    I rarely comment, but this deserves an Amen. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bulldog Joe

    Zero tolerance policies take the decision-making authority away from those in the best position to understand and solve the problem.

    Glad we finally found someone with the common sense and confidence to call it out.

    Like

  3. BulldogGemes

    Well done, Senator, this is why I come to your site multiple times daily, thanks

    Like

    • NG Dawg

      I couldn’t agree more. As always the Senator has spoken in a most eloquent manner. Thanks for being a reasonable voice in the wilderness.

      Like

  4. Excellent work, Senator. I want what’s best for Patrick, and if that’s not what’s best for the football program, I’m ok with that. Courson and his team are among the best in the business regardless of level. What he thinks should be the final arbiter of Patrick’s continued participation in football activities.

    Like

  5. gastr1

    I agree with the others’ comments about this post. Thank you.
    I’d like to add that the drug policy has often had the opposite effect in the “moral high ground” category in relation to public perception; I don’t recall our tougher policy ever getting mentioned by the national media as being the chauffer for Mudcat’s car, so to speak. But we do all know how Mark Richt lost control, time and again.

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  6. Tim B

    Ok, so if we’re going to treat it as a medical issue then come the first of next semester have players raise their hands if they are using and volunteer for treatment. Those that don’t obviously don’t want help and can be treated under the old policy. My suspicion is that most of the users don’t see it as a medical problem. We’re moving quickly back to the days when 1/4 of the starters are suspended for the first game or three or four.

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    • You think it’s easy for an addict to admit he/she has a problem with addiction?

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      • Tim B

        It is not easy. Until they are ready to admit then they aren’t ready for the cure. If they aren’t willing for their medical problem to be treated then they need to be quarantined before they have a chance to spread their problem to the rest of the team.

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      • W Cobb Dawg

        Is Natrez an “addict”, unlucky, or being unfairly persecuted? This latest run-in is nothing but a giant load of BS – the amount of pot was smaller than a fricken penny!!! The question to ask is whether smoking pot hampered his ability to attend class, play football, or function as any normal human being? The answer may very well be no. Does a positive urine test = addiction?

        From my viewpoint the kid has done little wrong, with the possible exception of parking in a no parking zone. He’s being branded an addict and being raked over the coals, while no one bothers to ask the basic question of whether Natrez has done any harm to himself or others. Let’s face it, schultz and his ilk always have the finger of righteousness pointed at somebody.

        The thing that always comes back in these situations is the fact the accused is being denied his basic rights. On top of that we have bs pot laws – and we all know it. It’s all a tempest in a teapot.

        I’m glad Kirby seems to be in Natrez’s corner. It’s a welcome change.

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  7. Bill Glennon

    Schultz is a self-aggrandizing jerk. I remember in 2003, before the Clemson game, he argued that Odell Thurman should be suspended from games because he was caught driving with a suspended license. He ALWAYS takes the side that UGA should suspend everyone for every rule violation so he can be sanctimonious. Always.

    UGA should change their policy in March to be like everyone else in the SEC and disclose it on a Friday afternoon about 6 pm. They should take not questions and just give a statement that they are doing it to balance the health concerns of their athletes and leave it at that.

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  8. 92 grad

    You know that old saying “if my boy played football I’d want him to play for coach smart” or whoever you’d pick.

    This post and the thinking going on at our football program are things that mama and the players can be proud to be a part of. These ultra talented kids can be confident that their well being matters here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • heyberto

      Your post reminded me of Kirby’s comments about Nick Chubb in Kirby’s first year, as Nick was recovering. He was asked about if he’d be ready for the UNC game shortly after he was hired. Smart said ‘Well, the most important thing is we have to do what’s best for Nick’. I think that’s telling about how Kirby views this stuff. I think we’ve seen similar sentiments expressed in different ways regarding players, so yeah.. I think that’s the right way and makes me proud.

      Like

  9. Silver Britches

    As a defense attorney, Jeff Schultz can kiss both sides of my ass.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. heyberto

    I like this take Senator. Lots of stuff I hadn’t considered before, and it makes a lot of sense.

    Like

  11. Mayor

    If Jeff Schultz is in favor of something that is reason enough right there to be against it. Consummate asshat.

    Like

  12. reality check here

    Zero tolerance means zero ability to use common sense.

    Due process is in short supply (or non existent) at colleges in general and Athens Clarke county in particular.

    Mike Adams is a sanctimonious jerk. Jeff Schultz is a sanctimonious, opinionated jerk. The Athens Clarke County authorities including the solicitor Chisolm are complete douche bags.

    I agree the whole outcome should be what is in Patrick’s best interest, but with all the sanctimonious jerks and douche bags involved it is a damn good thing he has a good lawyer. Otherwise I do not believe he stands a chance of playing.

    As you said Senator, “It should be about making sure kids get the support they need when they do stupid things…” I strongly agree with that. I do not trust the institutions to represent their best interests. I personally would never go to Athens Georgia if I did not have my lawyer on speed dial.

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  13. Hillbilly Dawg

    Well said. If I may, “fair and balanced.”
    Personally, I felt Shultz was a bit self righteous and I posted on his op-ed the he should “come down off the cross, we could use the wood.” Jeff should take some courses from you senator.

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  14. Normaltown Mike

    fiat justitia ruat caelum is no way to write a policy that is ostensibly for:
    (1) the protection and edification of students
    (2) related to a substance as banal (& widely accepted as such) as marijuana

    Like

  15. Bill Glennon

    The big problem with “The Georgia Way” is that it is a thankless endeavor. No one outside of Butts Mehre thinks that UGA is a paragon of morality. No one cares. “The Georgia Way” is a loser methodology. UGA has had Jan Kemp, Jim Harrick, Ring-gate, Jersey-gate, swimming scandal and countless Fulmer titles in the SEC’s trophy case for most arrests in a season. All these happened while doing things the Georgia Way. Every time UGA self-flagellates, they get no mercy from the NCAA, the media or their fellow schools and give more power to the Schultzian/Williamson busybodies. What if UGA would have fought the NCAA over the PE course with Harrick? What about Gurley? Auburn fought for Cam Newton and UNC fought for their curriculum, and they won. They won or retained their titles. UGA lost and keeps losing.

    Then, when you try to stand up for your athlete at long last, you get crapped on my the click baiting media who want a story. Stand your ground and fight for your players and program for a change. There is no good that is going to come out of suspending Patrick for this game. Not for him. Not for the school. You are just feeding the insatiable appetite of the busy bodies.

    Do I think there should be a drug policy? Yes. Do I think UGA should go way out of their way to find violations? No.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Greg

      ^^^ THIS!…

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      • DawgFlan

        Bravo.

        Still, we can move away from “The Georgia Way” and not become Auburn.

        There are very few things in life more important than integrity, but when integrity is branded and boasted about as some sort of black & white, objective identity a la The Georgia Way, there is no avoiding the self-inflicted wounds, the slings of hypocrisy, and arrows of criticism. The world is messy, nuanced, and ever-changing, and requires lower-case, hard-working integrity instead of the “Integrity®” sold by politicians and influence-peddlers.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Erk's Forehead

          “Not become Auburn” Agreed. But we DO want to become Alabama. Where players are turned over to coaching staff for discipline. Or when backup TE’s are busted dealing in the football dorm, arrested & released and then nothing ever happening. Where character issues never truly come to light until after their college days are over.

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    • dawgman3000

      Comment of the decade.

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    • Bulldog Joe

      The Georgia Way was a smokescreen to cover MFA’s own transgressions and reallocation of athletic department funds.

      The fact it has lasted seventeen years is amazing.

      Like

  16. Jeff Sanchez

    Amen. Standing O.
    One of the best posts I’ve ever read here.

    Like

  17. Mary Kate Danaher

    “It shouldn’t be about making adults feel holier-than-thou.”

    Amen to that, Senator.

    Like

  18. Former Fan

    I remember how Gene Stallings dealt with David Palmer back in the day. At the time, I was one of those “you screw up your off the team” types. Palmer got arrested for drunk driving. That was back in the time when society was really trying to crack down on it too. There were plenty of calls for Coach Stallings to kick Mr. Palmer off team Tide. However, to this day, I remember something Coach Stallings said… it was along the lines of “If I kick him off the team, I have less influence on him. It may come to that. But right now, he is on the team and we are working for his good.” To my knowledge, Mr. Palmer never drove drunk again. So long as we are using discipline for the sake of the one displined, I am for it. When it comes to just sheer punishment, well, that’s what prisons are for and the only positive that comes out of those is getting criminals off the streets. Punishment for punishments sake doesn’t make bad apples good ones. Discipline can help. Helping college kids is important. Punishment and using the kids (i.e. removing all discipline because the kid happens to be good) does nothing but hurt the kids and the programs in the long run.

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  19. Tommy

    Well said, Senator. Almost 20 years in, Butts-Mehre is finally joining the 21st century. Better late than never.

    Having lost friends and family to addiction, I’m amazed there are still so many people out there who ascribe so much free will to addicts (which is what is presumed in a disciplinary approach). I’ve watched loved ones with so much to live for — children, grandchildren, etc. — bypass it all for the bottle, some powder or pills en route to an early grave. It’s absolutely soul-crushing for everyone involved.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Ginny

    What I don’t understand is how he can pass the Barrow County drug test and then fail the Athens-Clarke drug test a few hours later. At least that is what was reported. Makes no sense.

    But yes, this should be treated as a medical issue, as should all drug addiction in every part of society.

    What I struggle with though, is the fact that at the end of the day, regardless of why Patrick did it and whether or not it was “against policy,” there are still consequences for your actions. He has knowingly made decisions that have hurt the team. I guess the debate now is whether those “consequences” are just handled internally or not.

    Like

    • Chopdwg

      Agree. Whatever our team’s policy is, for situations like this, needs to be followed. That’s what will happen to Natrez Patrick from now on, if he becomes an NFL player or a part of any type of business team: he’ll be expected to abide by the same rules as everybody else in his organization, and those rules will quite likely involve random drug testing.

      If our policy’s wrong, by all means let’s change it! But if our current rule says “three strikes and you’re out,” and Natrez’s positive drug test is the third strike, he should be off the team.

      Like

    • DawgFlan

      It was mentioned in a comment in a separate post, but it is possible that the two drug tests have different thresholds for registering a positive. The UGAA could use a threshold that indicates recent use, while the ACCPD could use a lower threshold that would show a positive for Patrick simply being in a car (and breathing) where another person was smoking.

      Like

  21. Coweta Dawg

    My interpretation of Shultz’s column is that the kid’s got an addiction. If UGA wants to help the player, don’t enable his use. I get that and don’t question Shultz’s motives behind the column. I don’t agree with the conclusion that to help the kid, you’ve got to sit him. Make treatment a prerequisite to playing. Require involvement in a 12-step program. There are other options to help the kid here than the most extreme one that punishes (the kid, his teammates, the fans) yet fails to rehabilitate him one whit.

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    • Dawgwalker07

      The problem is Schultz doesn’t know if he has an addiction. Shultz is assuming he does because of the history (the most recent of which doesn’t indicate he did anything illegal, by the way) and telling UGA that they should treat Patrick like he has an addiction based off that history too. Yes, help a player if he needs it. But what’s really going on here and what actions need to be taken? I trust Ron Courson to know the answer to that question a lot more than Jeff Shultz.

      Like

  22. Good post. I think you are dead on.
    I read Shultz’s article last night, and man oh man was he getting killed in the comments there. I think some Dawg fans would have given him a beatdown and car trunk ride a la Billy Batts if they were able.

    Like

  23. Great comments Senator and everyone in this thread, I agree with most of what has been said.

    One thing that’s bugged me a bit the past month: I don’t think it’s fair to automatically label Natrez an addict. There’s never been a report that his health or safety has been in danger from marijuana use. He’s a starting LB on a championship team – he’s clearly in great physical condition and his marijuana use hasn’t prevented him from being an essential part of one of the best defenses in the country.

    Having multiple run-ins with the law for drugs or alcohol doesn’t automatically make you an addict. Given how many people use them and go unpunished, it couldn’t just mean you’re unlucky.

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  24. Jared S.

    Hope Natrez beats his demons, whether great or small, and Georgia does what’s in his best interest, as well as fairly applying their own policies.

    Go Dawgs.

    Like

  25. Butler Reynolds

    If it was cocaine, then maybe you could call it substance abuse. But it’s just weed. When Don Leeburn finally allows Georgia to be the 47th state to legalize marijuana (ahead of Alabama, Mississippi, and Utah), our great grandchildren will look back on stuff like this and pshaw in disbelief.

    BTW, Michael Adams deserves to have a robust case of diarrhea at least monthly.

    Like

  26. MGW

    First of all, easy on the lawyers there, Jeff. Pray that you never have to learn about a good defense lawyer’s conscience or moral fiber through personal experience.

    Second, they’re not saying “football is more important than Patrick’s well being.” They’re saying it has nothing to do with it in this case, and it doesn’t.

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  27. Debby Balce

    What bothers me about Schulz’s stance is the lack of due process. I go back the the Duke Lacrosse story and the athletes lost their playing time for trumped up charges. The optics were not good so everyone wanted to crucify them in the name of justice before the trail. Patrick deserves his day in court. I would say the probation violation charge should be dismissed because the arrest was dismissed. How can you violate probation for an arrest that was dismissed. I have addicts in my family. I understand addiction. I do not think this is addiction. He is not failing out of school or being unable to fulfill his playing duties. I don’t like the use of marajuana but it is legal in some states now. I am glad that the health of the student is the focus.

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  28. sniffer

    Somebody was smoking in that car. Somebody was driving well over the speed limit. Somebody should have known that bad circumstances would follow a police stop.

    There’s nothing medical about any of the facts stated above. Maybe these aren’t the circumstances that lead to changes in Mr Patrick’s behavior. But they’re coming. I don’t see that the UGA medical staff has sufficient time to help Natrez. Let’s be clear, he either needs help desperately or he’s a particularly dense knucklehead. There are no other categories for him. And, to all you crying for poor Natrez, you won’t know him after January when he’s signed and draft prepped. Nor will he be in the pantheon of GA greats who brought us glory. We want him to help us beat OK. Then he can go smoke his brains out. We won’t care. And to say different, it’s a lie. He has brought embarrassment to this program and national shame. I wish him well. But I don’t think he cares.

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    • Got Cowdog

      National shame, Bro? Embarrassment? He passed the drug test. The driver stated he had no knowledge of impropriety. The charges were dismissed. What happens if you hop in the truck with me and I got a roach under the seat. I’m 45 in a 35 through Statham and get pulled over. You get hauled in and charged with possession even though you had no idea the weed was in the car. Should your employer fire you?

      Like

      • sniffer

        If he doesn’t have two priors, nothing happens. It’s not this instance that is problematic, necessarily. He may or may not play. But if he doesn’t play, its not because somebody if being unfair to him. He has had two prior arrests. Two, with a third arrest thrown out. What about that scenario isn’t shameful? Does he have a weed problem or is he too stupid not to smoke for a few days and get through the season?

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        • Got Cowdog

          You didn’t answer the question. And since when is being proven innocent or having charges dismissed shameful? Regardless of priors

          Like

      • sniffer

        BTW, Cowdawg, there was weed in the car and he knew it. Somebody had been smoking, the cop smelled it and the driver stated it was his, not Patrick’s. Still want to ask about getting fired over not knowing weed was present? That was a dirty ride from the beginning. Your choice of qualifiers doesn’t change it. He knew, Stanley knew and the cop knew.

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    • Debby Balce

      He was not driving the car.

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      • Tim in Sav

        Ok Debby, He was IN a car at 2 am going 82 in a 55 zone with a friend who was high or drunk and he was hanging on to his place on the team by a thread. Please twist yourself any way you must to proclaim his outstanding decision making abilities.

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        • Got Cowdog

          I’m gonna throw this out there, just for funsies. Barrow County did not say that Squire Patrick was not stupid or that he made good choices. I am not saying that either. What Barrow County said was that Natrez had no knowledge that weed was in the car therefore was not “in possession of”, Case dismissed. The discussion between Sniffer and I is speculative, as the decision was already made by those who matter that he was not “riding dirty”.
          With the dismissal of the charge I suspect his Counselor will also have the resulting ACC drug test dismissed. Until that issue is disposed he’s innocent. No reason for him to be punished until a court of law determines that he should. So why not let him play?

          On the issue of whether or not I think smoking weed is OK? I’ll call it the lesser of two evils. I’m fond of good bourbon and stouts (Turbo Dog, y’all) But I’ve not seen those that partake of the hallelujah hay do anywhere near the amount of dangerous, mean, and stupid shit that drunk people do. YMMV of course.

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          • sniffer

            What Barrow County said was that Natrez had no knowledge that weed was in the car therefore was not “in possession of”, Case dismissed.

            I’ll defer to your knowledge of what Barrow Co said they knew . What I will say is this. If the arresting officer said Patrick had no knowledge of the presence of weed in the vehicle, then said officer is lying through his teeth. Upon questioning the two, the driver stipulated that the weed was his, not Patricks. So, weed was present, acknowledged and possession explained. How, in gods name, can you claim Barrow Co has said Patrick had no knowledge and is therefore innocent? Methinks you’re full of shit or making it up as you go. As usual, link to Barrow Co’s statement or it didn’t happen.

            I’m in the camp that we need him to help beat OK. I dont fall for the story that he is innocent or a victim. Smoke weed, I don’t really care. Be stupid, smoke weed, you’re gonna pay the piper.

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  29. Mike Cooley

    Really good post,Senator.

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  30. Stoopnagle

    So did the fired cop who did the right thing ever get any payback?

    Like