Texas A&M’s finest made national sports headlines Tuesday night when a University Police Department officer arrested former student, hometown hero and NBA Champion Alex Caruso for having fun and being cool at the wrong place and time.
The charges were possession of marijuana (less than two ounces) and possession of drug paraphernalia. Usually, this would imply getting pulled over with a sandwich bag of jazz cabbage. In this case, Caruso made the mistake of trying to bring an herb grinder with “marijuana residue” (read: a weed crumb that wouldn’t be enough to get a mosquito high) onto an airplane at Easterwood Airport.
In a promising indicator of marijuana reform’s growing popularity nationwide, most reactions range from “That’s dumb.” to “How can you still arrest somebody for that in 2021?” There is, as always, a vocal subset of people dedicated to condemning Caruso’s lack of responsibility at severe risk of receiving an atomic wedgie. “The law is the law,” these enterprising Poindexters say. “He should’ve known better to bring paraphernalia onto a plane.”
Sure enough, Caruso should have known better. Texas A&M UPD officers’ reputation for treating stoners like public menaces precedes them, as does the TSA’s reputation for being less than understanding in these situations. He would have been much better off throwing the grinder away and buying a new piece with his $2.75 million annual contract after he touched down in L.A. Rest assured, dweebs, someone on his coaching staff will give him an earful about being more careful.
That said, Caruso is not a villain for breaking an archaic state law born from an embarrassingly resilient moral panic and preserved by a rogues’ gallery of blind legalists, willfully ignorant prudes and (ahem) “special interests.” I have yet to see one defense of this arrest that doesn’t begin and end with “he broke the law” as if that law were the 11th Commandment and not a myopic stain on our democracy.
As one state after another lifts their punitive restrictions on marijuana without societal collapse, Texas lags behind in embarrassing fashion. In a state that supposedly worships rugged individualism and unfettered personal freedom, a widely popular drug that accounts for zero overdose deaths annually is still penalized as harshly as heroin.
Caruso will be fine in the long run. But every day, regular Texans get criminal records and see their lives thrown off course by weed arrests that prevent no harm and protect nobody. There will be more outcry as we see more college and professional athletes get dragged through the mud for this kind of thing. There can never be enough, not until our state and national legislators do something they’ve only done on rare and special occasions: the right thing.