All posts tagged: Pittsburgh defense attorney

Medicinal Marijuana: Side Effects May Include Drowsiness and the Munchies

Watching TV last night.

A commercial comes on for some new wonder drug “which may be right for you”.

The list of potential unwanted side effects of this drug was long and ended with, “… and in rare cases, death”.

Wow. A medication which even in rare cases could result in death… Must be a serious medical condition, right?

Wrong.

It’s a drug that helps you maintain clear skin.

Yep, it must really be better to look good than to feel good.

About ten minutes later, another commercial about prescription medications comes on, but this one is from a law firm.

“If you or someone you love was prescribed blood thinning medications Xcelroco or Prodaxa…”

Yep, big lawsuit.

Now bear in mind, all these medications were approved by the FDA.

How many of these drugs have been recalled over the years? How many serious side effects have these medications been traced to?

These medications come about because a pharmaceutical company gets a patent on a new drug. They then do clinical studies and present that information to the FDA, which in turns decides whether or not to approve said drug.

Which brings us to medicinal marijuana.

Although there is a lot of research out there about the efficacy of medical marijuana, the patent is not owned by a pharmaceutical corporation that can do clinical trials and submit those results to the FDA.

The legal status of marijuana actually inhibits clinical trials as does the fact that the patent on THC is actually owned by the United States Government.

That’s right. The same government that keeps marijuana listed as a Schedule 1 narcotic (no medical efficacy) also owns the patent on THC for it’s medical efficacy in treating cancer and brain trauma.

Hence, no clinical trials are possible.

Sounds like the fox is guarding the hen house.

Meanwhile, the FDA is approving drugs based on clinical studies they actually have no hand in administering, and many of these drugs are wreaking havoc on patients.

Contrast that with medicinal marijuana.

Zero cases of overdose.

Zero cases of death due to toxicity.

Zero dangerous side effects– unless you consider passing out in front of the TV following a Doritos binge dangerous.

One thing seems certain; We’re likely going to see many more of these lawsuit commercials regarding prescription drugs.

Fortunately, it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever see a wrongful death medicinal marijuana lawsuit.

Maybe if someone gets too high and chokes on a Dorito…

 

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Vinni BelfioreMedicinal Marijuana: Side Effects May Include Drowsiness and the Munchies
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2017 World Medical Cannabis Conference & Expo

October 20, 2017, Pittsburgh

Patient advocacy is the cornerstone of this event, sponsored by Cannabis Certification Centers, Greenhouse Ventures and The Healing Center.

The World Medical Cannabis Conference & Expo was a well attended affair.

Dr. Bryan Doner (right) greets patients at the CCC table.

Ken Shultz, Dr. Bryan Doner (CCC) and Patrick Nightingale

We look forward to working with Compassionate Certification Centers as they help patients get the medicine they need.

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Vinni Belfiore2017 World Medical Cannabis Conference & Expo
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Marijuana Arrests on the Rise in Pennsylvania

On October 17, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced the first medical marijuana grow facility is ready to start growing marijuana.

The PA Department of Health has approved Cresco Yeltrah to begin growing and processing at their facility in Jefferson County, PA.

Ironically, we currently have a case in Jefferson county which concerns someone who legally purchased a bag of edibles (gummies) in the State of California and is being charged with Possession with Intent to Deliver in Jefferson county– a very serious charge. Unfortunately Jefferson county officials are not as open minded about marijuana use as the location of a professional grow in their county would imply.

A marijuana arrest can follow a person their entire life, negatively affecting their ability to work, find housing and even to travel out of country.

While we see marijuana arrests declining in cities like Philadelphia, which decriminalized marijuana possession last year, and Pittsburgh, which has an unofficial decriminalization policy that results in a citation, the statewide numbers are increasing.

Between 2010 and 2016, marijuana related arrests have risen by 33% in Pennsylvania.

Even more alarming, African Americans are EIGHT times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites.

The fact is, usage rates among black and white citizens are about the same, yet the chart below makes it clear black citizens are being  targeted by law enforcement in a disproportionate way.

Source: American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania

Regarding the new facility in Jefferson county, the Governor said the number one priority is getting medicine to the Pennsylvanians who need it.

While we applaud the Governor’s concern for patients, we can’t help but wonder why his concern for the citizens of Pennsylvania seemingly does not extend to citizens who face life long consequences for merely possessing marijuana.

According to Governor Wolf, full decriminalization and or legalization is, “not on the table” at this time.

In light of this new data, and the fact that Governor Wolf has been a vocal proponent of more sensible marijuana policies, we would ask Governor Wolf to reconsider if maybe now is the time to move forward with decriminalization of marijuana.

This is not something he can simply sign into existence, but it is something he can and should take the lead on.

From a strictly financial view, a plan for legalizing marijuana could bring in millions in revenue for Pennsylvania’s empty coffers, creating a budget surplus that would benefit all the citizens of Pennsylvania.

From a humanitarian view, that revenue could be used to help alleviate the increasing opiate crisis here at home, offering treatment options and education for young people to avoid getting hooked on these very dangerous drugs.

When a group of citizens is being singled out for arrest, apparently based on race, there is a problem for all the citizens of Pennsylvania.

Justice is, after all, supposed to be blind.

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Vinni BelfioreMarijuana Arrests on the Rise in Pennsylvania
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Patrick Nightingale Hosts West Virginia Cannabis Seminar

Patrick Nightingale displays his medical marijuana card, issued by the state of California

The first ever West Virginia medical cannabis seminar was held in Morgantown, WV., September 30 with Cannabis Legal Solutions founding partner Patrick Nightingale hosting the event.

CLS is a proud sponsor of WV Cannabis Seminar

Although West Virginia’s medicinal law is very similar to Pennsylvania, there are some differences, most notably in that there are a couple qualifying medical conditions West Virginia does not include.

Naturally, there are also state and local laws in West Virginia regarding things like zoning that may vary as well.

In addition, the actual number of available licenses is smaller in West Virginia due to a smaller population in that state.

Ultimately, Cannabis Legal Solutions has the knowledge and experience to guide our clients through the process of getting licensed, ensuring complete compliance, setting up your business, including real estate and contract legal matters, and assisting with the legalities of day to day operations in both Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

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Vinni BelfiorePatrick Nightingale Hosts West Virginia Cannabis Seminar
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Fix PAT with Pot

Pennsylvania is experiencing a budget crisis. No shock there. The state has been experiencing budget shortfalls for what seems like forever.

This morning, WTAE TV 4, Pittsburgh, is reporting on proposed legislation in the state House that would significantly cut funding for public transportation. The cuts would have a catastrophic effect on Pittsburgh public transportation.

The Port Authority of Allegheny county could lose as much as $100 million between the loss of funding coupled with the loss of revenue the proposed cuts would cost PAT through discontinued routes and service cuts.

It would mean a significant loss of jobs as well, forcing layoffs for a substantial number of PAT employees.

The loss of evening and weekend service would leave thousands in Pittsburgh without the means to get to and from work, school, doctor appointments, grocery shopping, etc. It would force PAT to raise rates (that are already among the highest in the nation) to levels that would disproportionately impact the poor and disenfranchised, as well as senior citizens who depend on buses and the T to get around town, and would leave many people stranded in outlying communities, where getting a cab or Uber is not a financially viable option for them.

There are an estimated 1 million marijuana users in Pennsylvania who spent an estimated $2.3 billion on illegal weed last year.

Translation: Pennsylvania missed out on approximately $585 million in tax revenue. That’s just one year.

That’s money that could easily solve many of Pennsylvania’s budget woes. It’s money that could go to educate kids, treatment for addiction, infrastructure repairs and, yes, keep the buses and trains running on time.

And that figure does not include the savings to law enforcement and the justice system from not prosecuting and incarcerating citizens for marijuana. It would allow them to focus on truly dangerous drugs like heroin and meth.

The state of Pennsylvania already sells alcohol. Why not marijuana? The most harmless and least toxic intoxicant there is.

 

 

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Vinni BelfioreFix PAT with Pot
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“Play That Funky Music, White Boy” — Censorship, Art, and the Law

Art becomes entangled with the law through censorship, resulting in unintended consequences and a perversion of justice.
This clip from the past is an example of censorship utterly destroying a work of art and even worse, altering the facts to obscure an inconvenient truth.
And still worse, the censorship of the past has spread to the justice system itself.
Today.
The back story of this song, as well as the infamous chorus line, are absolutely true. It really happened.
It is significant to note “Play That Funky Music” is the most licensed song in history. That’s how much it resonates with people, and it crosses all barriers– race, religion, politics– all become irrelevant when this song comes on.
 
This is, to me, proof that as human beings, we all have some core traits that ultimately unite us. Music and art are most often examples– expressions– of our shared humanity.
Music and art also define us as a society. History museums prove this out.
Photographs, statues, paintings, poetry, symphonies and folk songs and crude markings on cave walls– these are most often the representatives of societies throughout history.
 
Unfortunately, there are many people who can ignore this inconvenient truth, and worse, try to bury it under their own prejudice, ignoring their own humanity in the process.
 
So we can fairly say those who endorse censorship will ultimately lie and hide the truth in order to impose their morality on others.
 
The real import of this is the underlying attempt at altering history itself, in order to fit a narrative based on motivated self-interest, regardless of the stated intent.
 
This struck me as being interesting in the current climate of restricting and controlling, “The Fourth Estate” and freedom of speech itself.
 
We are currently preparing a Supreme Court case involving a Rap song which was deemed a terrorist threat to police officers, so I’m very aware of how censorship can take on a life of it’s own and work it’s way into the justice system itself.
Censorship is a cancer that spreads throughout the body politic and eventually, the legal system itself.
.Censorship is not justice.
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Patrick Nightingale“Play That Funky Music, White Boy” — Censorship, Art, and the Law
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The Real Marijuana Problem: The Law. Part 1, “Tom”

The US Stance on Medical Marijuana is Confusing at BestThe legal status of Marijuana does far more harm to citizens than using it ever could.

The following story is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

“Tom” goes boating with friends over the holiday weekend on the river in Middleofnowhere County.  He was excited because he had saved up his money and bought a new boat, which he was taking on it’s maiden voyage.

Pennsylvania Fish and Game officers show up and pull him over — we’re still not clear on what their initial reason was– but they end up searching “Tom” and find a whopping gram of weed and a small pipe.

Fish and Game officers policing marijuana instead of protecting Bambi and Thumper is a mystery to me, but instead of just issuing a citation on what should be a simple matter, they arrest “Tom” and the floodgates of potential life-long repercussions open wide.

Just getting arrested, let alone convicted of a crime, has immediate negative ramifications. Family, friends, and more problematic, employers, are all suddenly sources of stress.

Hiring legal representation, missing time for court dates, which are often rescheduled, further dragging out the process and the emotional stress for the accused and their loved ones.

Employers in particular are not likely to ignore an arrest, especially if there are security and safety issues at play.

A marijuana possession conviction automatically results in suspension of driving privileges and can carry substantial fines, as well as a period of probation. Worst of all, it stays on your record.  This can adversely affect employment options and even restrict one’s ability to travel abroad.

Suddenly “Tom” goes from enjoying a holiday on his new boat to facing a complete disruption of his life. All over a gram of weed.

All because of the law.

Does that sound like Justice to you?

In Part 2, we’ll talk about a young lady who could — with the help of the police– graduate from marijuana to heroin in a most unexpected way.

 

 

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Patrick NightingaleThe Real Marijuana Problem: The Law. Part 1, “Tom”
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Flag on the Play: Illegal Procedure

The legal system– justice– is built on the twin pillars of precedent and procedure.

This is why attorneys look to ‘preserve the record’ by filing various motions, even when they know they will likely be ruled against in the current trial. They are preserving points on the record that may in fact be incredibly important in any appeals that may be filed.

Procedure and Precedent.

The procedure part can often be frustrating for everyone involved, but the truth is, what you say in court proceedings is only as relevant as how–and when– you say it.

Court scheduling can often be a source of frustration for client and attorney alike. The courts in various counties throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania do not all operate on the same schedule, and the procedures can vary from county to county.

Courts schedule hearings without reference to each other, or attorney schedules, and they certainly don’t recognize the convenience of the accused. This is why there are often delays, motions for a continuance, etc.

This can be very frustrating for someone with a court date hanging over their heads. We hear it again and again: “I just want to get it over with.”

The wheels of justice often turn slow, but that is far better than hastily running over the innocent in the name of efficiency.

Of course there are always extenuating circumstances that the court will recognize– a death in the family, severe illness, scheduling conflicts for the defense or prosecution– and the courts are usually pretty accommodating with a reasonable excuse.

Recently, I was scheduled to appear in court at 9:00 am and later that day in a different court at 1:30 pm. Normally, that would not be an issue, but on this day, morning court was running way behind schedule, and it became obvious I would not be able to make my 1:30 appearance. This is where good relations with various courts can be a big help. The Judge in my early case had his clerk contact the Judge in the afternoon case to resolve the issue successfully (much appreciated, btw).

However, this left my client in the second hearing in the unhappy position of having to appear on a later date.

At times like that, I feel awful knowing my client is frustrated, but it was truly a situation completely out of my control.  The courts reign supreme when it comes to scheduling. In this instance, the early case was time sensitive. Our backs were against the wall, therefor the afternoon case would have been delayed regardless.

Procedure.

“The Cop Didn’t Show”.

Television shows have absolutely no bearing on the reality of the legal process. On TV, if the arresting officer doesn’t show up for court, the accused goes free. Not so in real life. (The same is true of, “They didn’t read me my rights”.)

Judges are extremely reluctant to rule against police officers in general, and an officer who calls in sick on court day is hardly thwarting justice. The presumption of the court is the officer is too ill to come to work. Period. They are extremely unlikely to throw out the charges, at least on the first occurrence. A subsequent failure to appear is a different matter. The Judge has a responsibility to maintain a fair process for the accused, and a second incident undermines the authority of the court to do that.

This is one of those times when a good attorney makes ‘procedure’ work in their client’s favor, citing for example an individual’s right to a speedy trial and moving to dismiss the charges.

Asset seizure and forfeiture is probably the single most frustrating part of a criminal investigation for everyone involved.

Authorities have the right to seize assets even without a guilty verdict. In cases involving illegal gambling, drug dealing, etc., the authorities will freeze bank accounts and seize property that they deem was either used in the commission of a crime, or was purchased or obtained as a result of criminal activity. Cars, boats, computers and of course cash can be seized with little or no recourse for the accused.

Even in the event of a Not Guilty verdict, the procedures for getting property back are extremely limited in scope and are often not worth the effort and cost. For example, a seized car was stored by the authorities for a year, and they charge storage fees that are often so high, it’s cheaper to just buy a new car.

This is an area that needs some reform. The authorities should bear the cost of storing a vehicle when the verdict is Not Guilty. An innocent person should not be penalized any more than the trauma of facing criminal charges and the costs of defending themselves.

These are just some instances of the preceedural part of the court system and are examples of why an experienced attorney who maintains good relations with the court system can be invaluable to someone facing criminal charges.

PKN Law pride ourselves on our knowledge of the court system from both sides of the aisle, as well as our good working relationships with court staff from counties across the Commonwealth.

 

 

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Patrick NightingaleFlag on the Play: Illegal Procedure
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Marijuana: Flying in the Face of “Equal Protection Under the Law”.

marijuana law reformWARNING: The following story might make you angry.

An epileptic woman from Michigan visits a relative in Pennsylvania.  She had moved to Michigan from Pennsylvania because medicinal cannabis was the only medicine that was working to alleviate her seizures.  Her husband is her caregiver, and he uprooted his whole life to move his wife to a state where she could legally take medicine for a documented medical condition.  That’s how much he believes in the efficacy of medicinal marijuana, based entirely on his own experience caring for an epileptic.

She has a medical card from her state of residency.  She has a medical condition that qualifies for treatment under Pennsylvania’s Act 16.  For her, in her mind, this is simply medicine.  It’s no different– in her mind– than carrying a vial of prescription medication in her purse.

Unfortunately, her original arrest happened before Act 16 became a reality, in a county where they are not prone to cutting breaks for marijuana possession.

In Pittsburgh, a small amount possession charge is a ticket. No cuffs, no jail, no court appearance. A ticket. Pay the fine and it’s done.

In many of the rural counties surrounding Pittsburgh, a marijuana charge can be catastrophic.  It can affect a person’s ability to get certain jobs. It can impact things like insurance rates and school loans. It often results in the loss of driving privileges. For a young person, it can ruin their life before it gets started.

In this instance, it’s penalizing someone for legally treating her legitimate medical condition, all because she’s in a different state in the same “One nation, under God”.

As was mentioned earlier, this was the original charge, but it gets worse.

Because the county elected to pursue this through the court system, as opposed to just reducing it to a disorderly conduct with a fine, they released her, but an appearance in court before a judge was required.  This meant the woman had to travel from Michigan back to Pennsylvania, all over a simple possession charge.

Unfortunately this woman never received her court papers. She thought they had taken mercy and dropped the charges, and so she never appeared in court. It was an honest mistake resulting from either a clerical error or simply, a lost piece of mail.

Missing a court date is never good, and even in what began as a minor offense becomes magnified and can make an otherwise routine situation much worse. It opens a person up to additional charges, and will result in the issuance of a “Bench Warrant”.

A Bench Warrant does not offer any specifics as to what the person was charged with, so a police officer who discovers a warrant will treat any such situation as potentially life threatening.  In this instance, the discovery of the warrant occurred in Ohio, where the woman had been pulled over in a traffic stop and she was once again found to possess marijuana. Ohio recently decriminalized marijuana, but because of the warrant, instead of getting a ticket and being sent on her way, she was arrested, taken to jail and held for over a week until she could be extradited back to Pennsylvania.

All because she had a small possession charge, even though she had a state issued medical card for treating epilepsy, which is recognized in Act 16 as a legitimate qualifying condition.

Fortunately the authorities have since realized this is a classic mountain out of a mole hill scenario and have released the woman to the care of her husband. But the story isn’t over. She still has to come back to Pennsylvania for another court date, retain an attorney, and spend even more money than she’s already spent.

What should have been a simple fine turned into a nightmare for this woman and her family that cost a lot of money for them and for the tax payers of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

All because of a minor marijuana possession charge.

Does this sound like justice to you?

 

 

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Patrick NightingaleMarijuana: Flying in the Face of “Equal Protection Under the Law”.
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Jeff Sessions Thumbs His Nose at Judge, Jury and Justice

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a giant leap backwards in time by issuing a memo instructing Federal prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” in drug related crimes, reversing the policies of his predecessor, Eric Holder.

Holder took a more progressive and humane approach, especially concerning non-violent and low-level offenders. It was also a more pragmatic and fiscally responsible approach aimed at correcting over 40 years of damage done by the harsh policies of the past and the failed War on Drugs.

If Mr. Sessions wants to address the spike in opiate use, he needs to look at the alarming statistics showing the rise in heroin addiction is increasingly the result of using legally obtained prescription drugs like Oxycontin, and other synthetic pharmaceutical products designed to mimic the effects of morphine, heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine.

Maybe it’s time the Justice Department investigates Big Pharma.

Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed. — Article III, Section II, United States Constitution

Most people get their knowledge of the judicial system from TV shows like “Law and Order”, which bear little resemblance to real life. The ‘justice’ part is much easier to see when it’s laid out for you in a snazzy hour long drama. It’s a much more involved process for a jury in real life to reach a verdict. And it’s expensive. A jury trial can set the taxpayers back quite a bit, and the time involved can really back up an already overloaded justice system.

The ability of prosecutors to hold incredibly harsh sentences over the heads of the accused goes a long way to alleviating the expense of jury trials. It is a threat, not unlike holding a gun to someone’s head: Plead or else.

The above cited Section of the Constitution is a sham. An estimated ninety-seven percent of people in Federal prisons never had a trial by a jury of their peers.

This has increasingly reduced the role of a Criminal Defense Attorney from defender seeking justice and arguing his client’s case before a jury, to negotiator in a hostage crisis, trying to get the best deal possible for their client. We are literally forced to make our case to the Prosecution without ever going before a Judge and Jury. The deck is already stacked in favor of the Prosecution, and what Sessions is doing will simply make it worse and more likely to trigger mandatory minimum sentences–  rules that limit a Judge’s discretion.

And therein lies another slap in the face for justice: Intentionally limiting the role of Judges in the judicial process.

Having had the privilege of appearing before many Judges over the years, I can tell you they are completely competent to render a just decision without handcuffing them to arbitrary rules, doled out and overseen by a small group of people in Washington, DC., who are completely removed from, and literally oblivious to, the facts and circumstances of any individual case.

Mandatory Minimums essentially say the Federal Government has no faith in the ability of Judges to render just decisions. But that’s what Mr. Sessions wants.

Everyone in the Justice System should be concerned that Mr. Sessions is taking us backwards by instituting policies and guidelines that have proven to be a failure, going back to Prohibition.

Add the reality of a corporate controlled, for-profit prison system, and we have a recipe for disaster.

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Patrick NightingaleJeff Sessions Thumbs His Nose at Judge, Jury and Justice
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