The University of Kentucky Wildcats dismissed senior linebacker Jason Hatcher, an NFL prospect, after he was arrested and charged with trafficking marijuana.

Jason HatcherHatcher, a rising star on the team, was arrested in Franklin County, Ky., early on the morning of Feb. 22. He now faces charges of trafficking between eight ounces and five pounds of marijuana, speeding, tampering with evidence, and possession of pot paraphernalia. The trafficking and evidence charges are both felonies.

Officials at UK announced Hatcher’s dismissal at a press conference later in the day. They declined to comment further on the incident.

Police say they stopped Hatcher for driving 81 mph in a 70 mph zone on I-64 in Franklin County. The arresting officer smelled marijuana and was preparing to search the car when he saw Hatcher try to search his own car with the light from his cell phone, county Sheriff Pat Melton said.

Cops found a pound of marijuana

The officer then found a quarter pound of marijuana in Hatcher’s pants and the rest of the pound hidden in a vacuum-sealed plastic bag underneath the passenger-side floor board, Melton said.

This isn’t Hatcher’s first brush with trouble over cannabis. He was suspended for two games last year for unspecified violations of team rules. The year before, he and University of Louisville wide receiver James Quick were cited for marijuana possession on the Louisville campus. The charges were dismissed by a court after Hatcher took a drug education class.

Hatcher was a star linebacker at Kentucky before his dismissal. In 2014 he racked up two sacks, 39 tackles, and 5.5 tackles for loss. He was seen as a major recruiting score in 2013, choosing Kentucky over Louisville and USC, among other teams.

Hatcher showing promise

football marijuanaWildcats Coach Mark Stoops recently said he thought Hatcher was showing signs of improvement on and off the field, and was likely to make a big difference for the team.

“I do,” Stoops said. “If he continues to just stay on the course that I saw from him in particular since this last suspension as you move forward through this year, I saw some growth in him as a person and on the field. . . . I would love to see him just have a big senior year on the field and off. He’s doing the right things, and I expect him to stay that way.”

Penalties for marijuana offenses remain stiff in both the NCAA and NFL. Multi-game suspensions are common, and penalties increase with subsequent violations of team rules. Possession arrests almost always trigger suspensions of at least one game at both the college and professional level.

Hatcher’s alleged offense is worse than simple possession, so it’s not surprising the team dismissed him. Now they face a dearth of talent, a situation that could have been avoided with legal weed. After all, football players like to smoke the stuff, too.

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