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Why Trevon Bluiett’s charge isn’t legally a big deal.

A marijuana arrest garners attention, but is it really any more serious than the accompanying speeding ticket?

Xavier v Arizona
Bluiett driving impaired
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Trevon Bluiett got picked up for marijuana possession in Indiana yesterday. Once again, a Xavier player has kicked off the off season by doing something is explicitly against the law. Last year it was JP on a table with his pants off and Myles Davis committing an act that skirted the lines of legally being domestic violence, now it’s a player with a controlled substance. For a team coming off an Elite Eight run and looking to be loaded for next season, these are not the headlines that should be made. If this feels different to you than last year though, there’s good reason for that.

It’s important not to be disingenuous here. Regardless of your personal feelings on marijuana it remains illegal in the state of Ohio and, more pertinently to this story, Indiana. Driving your car 75 in a 55, not signalling a lane change, and possessing marijuana are all, by definition of the law, not legal. This is not a political forum, nor is it the site of your favorite legalization advocate. The facts of this case are undisputed, Trevon was breaking the law.

And that’s where this breaks from anything else the Musketeers have encountered. Possessing marijuana might be illegal, but it isn’t criminal.* The marijuana citation that Trevon received carries no more legal weight than the speeding ticket that accompanied it. Both are minor misdemeanors. Had Trevon headed out to the local creek and tossed a line in without getting his fishing license first, he would have been committing what Ohio views as a more serious crime. Yes, fishing without a license is more serious than possessing weed. Had Trevon gone to a Reds-Cubs game and repeatedly yelled the F word at Kyle Schwarber (a reasonable and perhaps admirable thing to do), he would also be guilty of a more serious crime than having some weed in his car.

It’s also worth noting that there isn’t even a hint here that Trevon was driving his vehicle while impaired by the drug. That is, obviously, a much more serious charge. In Ohio, that is an OVI, same as if someone were to drive when drunk. That is a huge step up from just possession and isn’t the kind of thing that could, or should, just be shrugged off. Driving intoxicated is a reprehensible act that routinely kills innocent people. It’s not the kind of thing you get a warning for, and it’s not the kind of thing police officers ignore just because they have a minor weed charge. Trevon wasn’t charged with that, accused of that, or even suspected of that. The smell of marijuana, or hash oil, is noticeable in a car even if it isn’t burnt. Just that odor being present isn’t an indication that the driver was using it while driving.

So why the great moral outrage? Marijuana remains a stigmatized substance in parts of the public, despite the fact that the law imposes a harsher fine on a 17 year old who has cigarettes. The “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!?!” crowd is undoubtedly going to decry this as just another example of a fallen hero who ran afoul of the law. That is, of course, their right. There are a lot of people who see this is a major issue, regardless of what Ohio’s legislative branch the revised code say about it. For whatever reason, an arrest of this type garners far more attention than a traffic ticket with commensurate legal penalties would. Legally speaking though, this is no more serious than the myriad traffic offenses we all commit and collectively yawn at every single day.

Finally, the fact that Trevon was caught with marijuana doesn’t speak well to his decision making on this particular day. It seems highly unlikely that the police officer in question would have kicked his apartment door down to search for weed. Much like anyone caught speeding, there’s not a lot that Tre can do here to ameliorate the fact that he was breaking the law. Ultimately, he will have to answer for that willful violation. Should he return to Xavier, the school and the NCAA will also impose a punishment upon him. Whatever your personal view on the subject, Trevon was aware of the law and he broke it. As Xavier’s offseason moves forward, that decision is going to have a major impact.

*All examples taken from Ohio law


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