Casey Hardison says the Wyoming Controlled Substances Act is unconstitutional, and he got to say so Tuesday in Teton County District Court.
The well-known chemist and anthropologist has been preparing his argument for years, an argument that also applies to the U.S. Controlled Substances Act.
Hardison said drug laws are “an assault on his due process and equal protection rights” protected by the constitution because the controlled substance act doesn’t apply to use of spirits, wine, malt beverages or tobacco.
“It is as if the majority is saying these are good drugs and those are bad drugs,” Hardison told 9th Judicial District Judge Timothy Day and 21 others during Tuesday morning’s virtual hearing. “It is precisely this kind of arbitrary, absolute power in Article 1 Section 7 the Wyoming Constitution prohibits. The act must be declared null and void.”
Hardison, 49, is in Teton County Jail awaiting trial on five felony charges of delivery of marijuana and aggravated assault. Agents with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation said Hardison tried to run them over with his car during a botched undercover drug raid in Jackson in 2018.
Senior Assistant Public Defender Elisabeth Trefonas and Fremont County Public Defender Bailey Lazzari are representing Hardison in the case.
Trefonas said the state has yet to provide any evidence for the aggravated assault charges against her client.
“There appears to be a lack of video in the aggravated assault and a lack of reports from the officers involved in those,” she said in court.
Trefonas argued to have Hardison’s bond lowered to $25,000. He’s been in jail since July when he was picked up in California. The Wyoming Supreme Court has suspended in-person jury trials because of the pandemic, and Hardison’s trial is scheduled for January.
Trefonas said Hardison is committed to helping with his own defense in his criminal case and is not a flight risk.
“I do see this moving to trial,” Trefonas said. “But I don’t see him waiving a right to a speedy trial if he stays in custody.”
Teton County Deputy Prosecutor Carly Anderson said the state thinks Hardison is a flight risk.
“There was a warrant out in the case for over two years,” Anderson said. “We are dealing with five felony cases, and two of them are violent felonies.”
Anderson also argued that Hardison’s opinions on the lack of constitutionality of the state’s drug laws are just his way of trying to legalize marijuana, which she said was a legislative issue.
“Defendant guises his case for legalization of marijuana under constitutional arguments,” Anderson wrote in her most recent reply in the court’s case file. “A review of defendant’s constitutional challenges will show he failed to meet his high burden of proving the unconstitutionality of the Wyoming Controlled Substance Act and the court should deny his motion to dismiss.”
Hardison replied that the state misrepresents his argument.
In his written reply to the state he writes: “In a drug user’s right to equal treatment under law, the real issue is the majoritarian shaming and their unwillingness to apply the same rules to their drugs of choice, their drug preference, the drugs to which they orient. They should try and explain it to a 4-year-old why the law exists as it does. Defendant’s 4-year-old doesn’t get it; and he grew up over many years through the tobacco smoke line in the room of Alcoholics Anonymous as his father got ‘sober’ whilst chain smoking cigarettes and drinking dozens of cups of coffee daily. Drugs are everywhere. This law has not and will never achieve its purpose to ameliorate the harms of drug use. By shaming controlled drug users into the shadows for their drug orientation, their drug preferences, the Act causes more harm than it prevents.”
Judge Day asked Trefonas to provide the case to the Wyoming Attorney General in case that office wants to intervene.
Hardison’s pretrial conference is set for Dec. 8.