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Vermont Legalizes Marijuana: 5 Quick Facts You Should Know

It's official! Vermont became the ninth state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana on Monday. The state's Republican governor, Phil Scott, signed House Bill 511 into law after it cleared the state legislature earlier this month. The Green Mountain State joins a growing number of states to remove penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana. The law takes effect on July 1st. Yet aspiring cannabis connoisseurs should be wary of jumping into the Vermont "bud" business prematurely. Here are five quick facts to know about the state of the law in Vermont. 1. You Can Smoke It Vermonters can possess up to one ounce of cannabis under the new law, a limitation that's in line with recent legalizations in Colorado and Washington State. This limit is intended to permit the recreational use of the drug -- but not large scale supply and cultivation. 2. You Can Grow Some of It The law further removes criminal penalties for having your own marijuana plants. Vermont allows the possession of two mature marijuana plants and four immature plants, enough to permit the green-thumb ganja lovers to keep their own fresh supply at home. 3. But You Can't Sell It The law does not legalize a state marijuana market, however. The governor previously vetoed legislation legalizing the sale of marijuana, which the state is leaving open to further action at a later date. 4. You Need to Be Old Enough to Drink Vermont's decriminalization law only applies to people twenty-one years of age and over. Minors (and a great many college students) aren't included. And there are penalties for selling recreational weed to underage persons too. 5. Federal Law Hasn't Changed Despite state decriminalization, federal law still prohibits possessing marijuana. And, at least where U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is concerned, federal prosecution remains a possibility.If you run into legal issues with marijuana in Vermont or another state, contact a criminal defense lawyer for help. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) State Marijuana Laws (FindLaw's State Laws) Vermont Becomes Ninth U.S. State to Legalize Marijuana (Reuters)
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Connecticut May Soon Employ Deadly Police Drones

A Connecticut bill that originally focused on simply banning all weaponized drones recently had a controversial exemption carved out that's garnering national attention. That controversial legal exemption to the ban on weaponized drones would only apply to law enforcement agencies, allowing only police in the state to use weaponized drones. While it may seem logical to only allow police to use weaponized drones, if the bill passes, it would be the first law in the nation that actually authorizes police to use drones equipped with lethal weapons. North Dakota passed a law in 2015 that permits law enforcement to use drones equipped with non-lethal weapons like tear gas or pepper spray, and other law enforcement agencies use drones for surveillance purposes. Standard Drone Protocol If the bill passes, the state's law enforcement training council will be required to devise a standard operating procedure for when and how law enforcement can use weaponized drones. The bill itself contains some regulations regarding drone use, but leaves the specifics on training and use to be determined by the council. This type of regulatory framework will allow some leeway in how law enforcement use drones as the technology advances over time. Proponents have rallied their support around the contention that allowing law enforcement the right to use weaponized drones could help stop a terrorist attack, or other serious threat. However, there are equally strong contentions that allowing the use of drones will result in civil rights violations against certain segments of the population, as well as misuse by police. Police Drones While there have been plenty of other concerns raised about law enforcement's use of drones, particularly when it comes to surveillance and searches, equipping drones with weapons is a new frontier for policing. Although there is clearly a benefit to sending in a robot over a human in a situation where gunfire is likely to be exchanged, anyone who's seen RoboCop or any other similar fictional work involving robotic police, is aware of the ethical dilemma that can be expected when the human element is removed from policing. Related Resources: N.D. Farmer Convicted in 1st Domestic Drone Case (FindLaw Blotter) No First Amendment Right to Drone Surveillance, Conn. Court Holds (FindLaw's Technologist) Who's Afraid of Domestic Drone Strikes? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Drone Operator Attacked: Are They the New 'Glassholes'? (FindLaw's Legal Grounds)
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College Students Arrested Allegedly Selling Xanax to Undercover Officers

Four college students at DePaul University in Chicago have been arrested for selling over 100 Xanax pills to undercover officers. The sales occurred on four separate occasions, for various quantities and prices, over the last few weeks. While Xanax is commonly used to help individuals with serious anxiety or other mental health issues, the drug is also sought after by recreational users. Despite the fact that it is legally available to individuals with a prescription, an individual cannot legally distribute or sell Xanax, or any other prescription drug for that matter, to any other person. Unfortunately for both legal and illegal Xanax users, the drug is reportedly highly addictive, which can lead to severe dependency issues. Selling Prescription Drugs Is Illegal Although individuals can legally purchase prescription drugs if their doctor provides a prescription, without the prescription, it is illegal to buy, or even possess, prescription drugs. This is because prescription drugs are considered controlled substances, similar to the traditionally illegal drugs, like cocaine or heroin. As such, they're regulated by the federal government, as well as state law. Like most state and federal drug laws, penalties for possession and illegal sale of prescription drugs will vary depending on the type and quantity of the drugs involved, as well as the circumstances surrounding the sourcing of the drugs. For instance, if an individual is discovered manufacturing an illegal prescription drug, they could be facing much more severe penalties than for simply possessing, or buying, an illegal prescription. Penalties for Selling Prescription Drugs Since prescription drugs can be legally obtained via a prescription, many times individuals will steal prescription pads in order to get their supply from a legal drug store. However, doing so can result in serious related criminal charges for fraud, or even conspiracy. Also, doctors who are found to be complicit in prescription drug schemes can face censure and serious penalties from medical licensing boards, in addition to serious criminal charges related to drug dealing. For first-time possession offenders, frequently the penalties will not be severe, or rise beyond the level of a misdemeanor. The penalty may not even include any jail time, unless there are extenuating circumstances, like a stolen prescription pad. For first-time distribution offenders, penalties usually will include jail time, and are likely to be charged as a felony. Related Resources: Hit with a drug charge? Have the charges reviewed free. (Consumer Injury - Criminal) If Roommate Sells Drugs, Can You Get Arrested? (FindLaw Blotter) Ice Cream Truck Driver Sold Oxycodone Pills from His Truck (FindLaw's Legally Weird) Drug Trafficking/Distribution (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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Federal Criminal Prosecutions Fall to 20 Year Low

According to new research released by the PEW research center, federal criminal prosecutions are on the decline. The new numbers show that federal criminal prosecutions have been on a consistent decline since 2011, and have even fallen to a 20 year low. Much of this is credited to the visionary approach implemented by former Attorney General Eric Holder to not prosecute every federal crime, but to focus on those where there is a substantial federal interest. Since 2011, there has been an approximate 25 percent reduction in new federal criminal cases. Federal prosecutors have gone from charging over 100,000 new cases a year, to charging about 77,000. The most common type of federal crimes that get prosecuted involve drug charges. Despite the recent trend among states to legalize marijuana, there are many other types of illegal drugs, and federal drug charges still account for the majority of federal prosecutions. However, over the past 5 years, there has been nearly a 25 percent reduction in drug prosecutions alone. Federal Crimes Prosecuted Less Most criminal prosecutions are handled by state and local prosecutors. However, when an individual violates federal criminal laws, such as those related to drugs, guns, or financial crimes, federal prosecutors can bring criminal charges in the federal court system. Also, deportation cases are also considered to be federal criminal prosecutions. Although violent crimes make up only a very small percentage of federal criminal prosecutions, that does not mean violent criminals get a pass. Typically, violent crimes are prosecuted by the states. According to the PEW research center, over half of all state prisoners have been sentenced due to violent crimes, compared to less than 10% of federal inmates. The only area where federal prosecutions were noted to have increased involved a small increase in prosecutions for gun and violent crimes. Looking Forward Although the newly appointed Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is taking a strong stance and wants to increase federal criminal prosecutions for drug and gun crimes, he will have to do so with a shrinking budget as the DOJ is one of the many agencies that has impending budget cuts. Related Resources: Daylight Savings Time Could Reduce Crime Rates (FindLaw Blotter) 10 States With the Highest Rates of Violent Crime (FindLaw Blotter) Gang Membership Up, Violent Crime Rate Down (FindLaw Blotter) What Is a Special Prosecutor? How Does It Relate to Recusal? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Calif. ‘Yes Means Yes’ Sexual Assault Bill Awaits Gov.’s Signature

California lawmakers approved a groundbreaking "Yes Means Yes" bill on Thursday, in an attempt to fight the growing problem of sexual assault on college campuses. The bill must be signed by Governor Jerry Brown before it becomes law, but if/when it becomes effective, all California colleges and universities will have to change their standards. The Los Angeles Times reports that the bill would require "affirmative consent" between college students hoping to have sex -- removing silence or lack of resistance as signs of consent. SB 967 Requires a Sober 'Yes' for Sex The "Yes Means Yes" bill, officially known as California SB 967, seeks to create more institutional protections for college students who may be sexually assaulted by their peers. Authored by state senators Kevin de Leon and Hannah-Beth Jackson, SB 967 sets the standard for consent to sex a bit higher than some colleges have in the past. And that standard is "affirmative consent." The consent of affirmative consent is best understood by the bill's slogan: "yes means yes." The old "no means no" doesn't create a very high burden on would be sexual assaulters to ascertain whether their partners' silence, intoxicated state, or lack of resistance is really tantamount to a "yes." And with the very serious charge of rape being a possibility for sex without consent, this is not a situation to trifle with. With only a "yes" (or each partner affirmatively consenting), can many of their sexual assault fears be silenced. The "affirmative consent" standard also would not allow accused rapists to claim that an intoxicated victim consented or that the accused was too intoxicated to confirm consent. For college students, this may mean a sobering new reality about drunken sex. Critics Worry About Consequences Not everyone is a fan of "Yes Means Yes." Writing for TIME, Cathy Young notes that this law will create "a disturbing precedent for government regulation of consensual sex" and place many young students at the mercy of "vague and capricious rules." While the California criminal law regarding sexual assault will not be altered by SB 967, disciplinary action from a rape accusation may lead to suspension or even expulsion. Students can still appeal these disciplinary actions, but the burden in school rape cases would certainly be shifted to the accused. According to USA Today, Gov. Brown has until the end of September to sign or veto the "Yes Means Yes" bill. Related Resources: California bill defines what it means to say 'yes' to sex (The Washington Post) 55 Colleges Facing Title IX Sexual Violence Investigations (FindLaw's Blotter) 5 Legal Tips for Sexual Assault Victims (FindLaw's Blotter) Calif. Egg Law Challenged in Federal Lawsuit (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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