Authorities dropped misdemeanor weed charges against Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Deonte Thompson in April, according to court records.

Prosecutors in Alachua County, Fla., dropped the charges due to “insufficient evidence” after reducing them from a felony count earlier this year. Thompson was arrested Feb. 21 in Gainesville and charged with marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia.

When he was pulled over by police, Thompson was a passenger in a car with two other men. Officers searched the car and found 29 grams of pot in small plastic bags inside a duffle bag.

Thompson said the duffle bag was his, but the other men claimed ownership of the weed. All three were arrested.Deonte Thompson arrested

Possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana in Florida is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. But because police alleged the men in the car were holding 29 grams, almost exactly an ounce, Thompson was charged with felony possession and faced up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

The felony charge was eventually dropped to a misdemeanor. And that charge, along with the misdemeanor paraphernalia count, was dismissed in April. What this probably means is that prosecutors decided jurors might reasonably doubt whether Thompson was really in possession of the cannabis.

But Thompson is hardly out of the woods. The NFL can’t jail him, but league officials can inflict much harsher financial penalties than the State of Florida.

The standard penalty for a single case of marijuana possession is a one-game suspension. Thompson will earn more than $33,000 per game this year, meaning this could cost him more than six times as much as a felony conviction in Florida.

The wide receiver could be forced to undergo a substance-abuse program and unannounced drug tests, even though there was no trial or conviction. The NFL has perhaps the strictest anti-marijuana policies in professional sports – despite the fact that an estimated 50 percent of current and retired players use the drug, many to relieve chronic pain caused by injuries.

crime handcuffsThompson has been a middling player for the Ravens, known for his speed but not a top performer. He caught 10 passes for 96 yards and no touchdowns last year. A foot injury took him out of training camp and the first part of the season.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said in March that he was disappointed in Thompson.

“You can’t be riding around in a car with marijuana in your bag,” Harbaugh said at the NFL monthly owners meeting. “I don’t care what your reason or your excuse is for it. You can’t be riding around with guys that you have no business riding around with.”

Major marijuana lobbying groups have been pressing the league to loosen its policies and recognize the value of medical weed. In January, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said he would consider MMJ if doctors could prove it helps with concussions or other athletic injuries.

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