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Lester Cotton arrested for Second-Degree Possession of Marijuana: Analysis

Well, that wasn’t smart, but it’s not the end of the world

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Alabama vs Clemson
Brandon Chicken is at it again!
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In the first story of the offseason, of what is hopefully not a trend before Labor Day, an Alabama football player was arrested for second degree possession of marijuana. Today’s offender is Lester Cotton.

According to Michael Casagrande

[Cotton] was pulled over at 11 p.m. Friday and arrested on marijuana possession charges, Tuscaloosa police confirmed Monday morning. Officers smelled marijuana during the traffic stop at the corner of Hackberry Lane and Paul Bryant Drive. Officers located an unspecified amount on a search of his vehicle.

Cotton was also booked on possession of drug paraphernalia.

Legally, what does this mean? Well, Alabama does not have a labyrinthine set of pot laws. They boil down to distribution charges (actual distribution or intent to distribute) or possession charges, which are again broken down into possession of an amount to distribute or simple possession for personal use. The latter sub-category, simple possession for personal use, is the charge that Cotton caught.

Under Alabama law (Ala. Code 13A-12-214(b)), simple possession for personal use is a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in county and a $6000 fine. As a practical matter, almost no one ever sees any time for simple unaggravated possession. It is even less likely that such charges are pursued against students, whose federal financial aid is contingent on not having a controlled substance violation. Usually, youthful offender status is received or the suspect (and he is a suspect at this point) is given pretrial diversion, counseling, probation, maybe a fine, often community service, and other remediative sanctions, in exchange for charges being dropped.

Given that the vehicle search also uncovered paraphernalia, it is very likely the cops only found a nominal amount of weed in a pipe or a dugout or a roach in the ashtray, and no baggies or scales or other items indicating anything beyond an incredibly piss-poor sense of judgment. Second degree possession could also be sustained if there were multiple suspects in a vehicle operated or owned by Cotton, and no one ‘fessed up to its ownership — the owner/operator is usually draws the possession charge. At this time, however, we do not how many other people were in the vehicle, if any.

Now, the football side could be much grimmer. For a nominal starter last season that Saban had frequently commented on the mental and disciplinary side of his game, internal discipline will likely be much worse than anything Tuscaloosa County will do to him. You can be certain Saban’s style of “counseling” involved one epic ass-chewing at the complex this morning and will have painful, protracted, concrete steps to get back in his good graces and in the mix for a starting role in 2017.

In summary, the sky isn’t falling, even though this sounds like a stupid decision. Then again, I’ve not met very many people who make great decisions while chiefing the Devil’s Salad. That said, it’s probably just as stupid to try and balance your county and municipal budgets on the backs of people nonviolently possessing a plant that grows feral in the State of Alabama. But, call me silly. Still, nothing major will come of this — and, since it wouldn’t for any 19-year old college student with a clean record, nor should it.