HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut lawyer is hoping his arguments in a drug case eventually are used by attorneys across the country to fight marijuana charges and bans on pot possession.
Aaron Romano says many state laws criminalizing marijuana were based on the federal Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which essentially criminalized marijuana by imposing harsh financial penalties. He argues the federal law was rooted in racism and bigotry against blacks and Mexicans and therefore was unconstitutional, as are the state bans based on the law including Connecticut’s.
“It was racially motivated and states just adopted it wholesale,” said Romano, a Bloomfield attorney who also is legal counsel for the state chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws. “With the growing awareness of cannabis’ health benefits … at this point there is no reason to maintain its illegal status.”
The prosecutor in the case, Russell Zentner, declined to comment, while at least one drug law expert doesn’t believe such an argument would be successful.
Romano made the unusual argument Tuesday in a motion to dismiss marijuana possession and probation violation charges against his client, William Bradley. The Clinton resident was caught with nearly a pound of marijuana in January while on probation for a previous marijuana conviction. He is detained while awaiting trial because he can’t post $150,000 bail.
Pretrial discussions in Bradley’s case are scheduled for Tuesday in Middletown Superior Court.
Romano said his arguments are different than past, unsuccessful challenges to marijuana bans because his case focuses on the discriminatory origins of such prohibitions, instead of how the laws have resulted in minorities being arrested at disproportionate rates compared with whites.
Romano’s motion to dismiss the charges against Bradley cites a variety of publications in saying century-old pot bans were rooted in discrimination. The