Most cannabis consumers, at some point or another, likely concoct a go-to excuse to have ready, just in case they run afoul of the law. With options ranging from the timeless “I was just holding it for a friend” to far more elaborate (if equally implausible) rationales, one can truly begin to feel as if they’ve heard them all.
Anecdotally, it also appears parents and law enforcement alike are rarely, if ever, sympathetic to these efforts. Perhaps the issue is not thinking big enough?
For Teton County inmate Casey Hardison, however, the crux of the matter is a big as the state’s constitution itself. After being arrested in California in August and extradited back to Jackson, Hardison is now currently awaiting a criminal trial in Wyoming on five pending felony charges.
In response, the alleged cannabis dealer is looking to free himself by arguing that Wyoming’s Controlled Substances Act is unconstitutional.
In order to understand Hardison’s argument, it’s important to have a sense of the case against him. The whole matter is actually quite complex, given Hardison’s past legal issues, the extradition, and the circumstances surrounding the day of his arrest as well.
Emily Mieure of the Jackson Hole News & Guide described the event as “a botched bust with Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation agents.”
According to Mieure, agents with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigations tried to arrest Hardison in Jackson in 2018 in an undercover drug sting.
“The setup was the result of an extensive DCI investigation into Hardison’s drug habits,” Mieure explained, “[but] the raid left Hardison with $6,000 of government cash and the cops with two pounds of marijuana. It also resulted in a short police chase through town. The agents said in documents that Hardison almost ran them over when he tried to escape arrest. But Hardison said he thought he was being robbed.”
As a result of the alleged vehicular incident, Hardison’s five potential felony charges cover both acts of delivering cannabis and aggravated assault. Though the aggravated assault component clearly complicates the matter, Hardison’s legal argument is, by comparison, fairly clear-cut — if extremely unusual.
In September, the accused filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in Teton County District Court in which he argued that his detention is unlawful due to a contradiction between the state of Wyoming’s constitution and laws. Specifically, Hardison sees the Wyoming Controlled Substances Act as “a separate but equal legislation scheme” by not also applying to substances like spirits, wine, and tobacco.
The consequences of this unbalance, Hardison argues, is a state legal system ripe for discrimination.
“By picking and choosing only a few to whom they will apply legislation,” he wrote in his court petition, “the state acts arbitrarily with respect to petitioner’s liberty.”
In an exclusive quote provided to Bloom & Oil, Hardison further clarified his stance and emphasized the racial justice component of his argument.
“My liberty is in jeopardy,” he wrote. “My life was nearly in jeopardy when they attempted to arrest me with guns drawn and someone was willing to shoot me over a plant. I don’t want people dying over this stuff anymore. Look no further than Breonna Taylor. What I’m fighting against was racially motivated in origin.”
Speaking with Mieure of the Jackson Hole News & Guide by phone from Teton County Jail, Hardison explained that, by definition, alcohol and tobacco should also be subject to control under Wyoming’s Controlled Substances Act because they are “substances other than food that intend to affect the structure or function of the body.”
The idea that Hardison is working towards is not without its supporters. The success in Oregon of a recent statewide measure to decriminalize small amounts of all hard drugs speaks to Hardison’s belief that the current system is one in which the substances that make corporations rich are allowed to legally prosper while the ones more commonly found in communities of color remain an excuse for detainment and arrest.
“It’s just so blatantly unjust, unfair, irrational, and arbitrary that alcohol and tobacco users don’t have to suffer these punishments, deprivations of liberty, and invasions of privacy,” Hardison told Bloom & Oil. “Why do we pick and choose what is okay and what isn’t? I’m going for it because it’s wrong and unfair.”