Medical Cannabis approved as Opioid Substitute

Medical Cannabis ruled as ok substitute for opioids by Illinois legislature, Governor approval awaits.


Per the Chicago Tribune’s Robert McCoppin, the Illinois legislature has approved a measure that will allow patients who have opioid prescriptions to use medical cannabis as a substitute. Maybe just as importantly, they have also eliminated requirements that forced patients to submit to time costly fingerprinting and criminal background checks. Under the measure, doctor’s orders would be the basis of a patient’s ability to purchase medical marijuana from a licensed provider rather than approval from the department of health. As McCoppin implies, this will take a lot of the programs management out of bureaucratic hands, which is good news. I’ve stated this in other blogs when this issue has come up, but bureaucracies are inhumane institutions that really don’t care about people’s well being in the slightest. The department of health floundered as people in pain desperately tried to get medical marijuana licenses but found themselves unable to because of red tape. When I checked into how the program was doing a few months ago, things were pretty bleak. Despite a goal of 100,000 licenses being approved, and more than enough demand, the department was only able to approve 37,000 licenses. So, any measure that can take some of the decision making process out of their hands is a positive. Requiring criminal background checks is also something that seems pretty discriminatory and as mentioned before, incredibly time wasting. Nobody is buying a firearm here, they’re acquiring a legitimate medical item. There are so many stupid victimless things people have criminal records over, and not allowing them access to a medical item because of it is pretty atrocious. You could tell how badly this was all going for the department based on the amount of bipartisan support for the measure, a rare thing in these days. Don Harmon, a Democrat for Oak Park, was the main sponsor for the bill. He cited some hearings in Springfield from people who had tried to use marijuana to lower their opioid use, as providing a big impression on him. He made an accurate assertion that despite his lack of knowledge over marijuana’s medical utility, he knows there have been no overdose deaths that have stemmed from it. Unlike opioids, which have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. He is right, we don’t know totally what kind of medical utility cannabis has. McCoppin writes, “In general, the National Academies of Sciences has reported there is substantial evidence indicating marijuana is effective in treating chronic pain, nausea from chemotherapy, and muscle spasticity from multiple sclerosis. The Food and Drug Administration remains skeptical, and has approved synthetic versions of THC, the component that gets users high, but has not approved the plant as medicine.” So, it seems apparent that it does have some medical utility, but I don’t think it is perfect or without negatives. There is no need to glorify it, obsess over it, or legislate it out of existence. People should not be going to jail, paying fines, or being harassed by law enforcement because of it. People in pain who feel like it helps, should be listened to. They should have access to it regardless of a criminal background, or socioeconomic status. On another slightly related note, I think it’s pretty rich that the FDA acts as some ultimate credible institution on that matter. This is the institution that was basically ok letting people with Aids suffer and die while not doing really anything on the matter. They are still an extremely flawed institution, rife with racism and homophobia. They care more about protecting the profit margins of Pharmaceutical companies than they do protecting consumer interests. So, to be completely frank, I don’t really care whatever the hell the FDA has to say. This measure still needs to be approved by Rauner however, who has never seemed like much of an advocate for the Medical Cannabis program. He has resisted efforts to legalize, but as McCoppin writes, he may use this type of measure as a middle ground in the upcoming campaign. Rauner’s opponents Pritzker has stated before that he is pro legalization and pro extension of medical Cannabis access. I think Rauner would be incredibly foolish to reject this bipartisan approved measure.

Bruce Rauner’s Death Penalty/Gun Control Compromise

 

– A little over a week ago, Bruce Rauner used his amendatory veto powers on a gun control bill(focused on lengthening waiting periods for rifles and shotguns) to add not only further restrictions on gun access but also to add in a Capital punishment provision for mass killers and those who gun down police officers. The legislature can use a 3/5ths majority to amend the bill to its original version or just try to throw it out all together. I should preface this by stating that I am very firmly against the death penalty and that is the framework through which I will argue against this bill. There are many reasons to be against the death penalty. One is that I and many others believe the intrinsic value of life is sacred, not on a religious level, but because it is the only one we get. I find the idea of our government- supposedly the representative of the most liberal freedom loving country in the world- snuffing that out to not just be deeply disturbing on a personal ethical level but also completely contrary to what America professes to be and what it should try to be. Our government already kills an absurd amount of people even without the death penalty, sanctioning even more death will just add to its increasing moral decay. Another big reason is that the government condemns innocent people all the time. There’s likely a very sizable amount of prisoners right now on death row in death penalty states like California that are innocent but are going to die anyway. Check out the story of Kevin Cooper in the New York Times from Nicholas Kristof with help from Jessia Ma and Stuart A. Thompson. Despite a large amount of evidence to the contrary, multiple judges and current/former law enforcement denouncements, and the completely haphazard handling of the case by the San Bernardino police department, Cooper is still on death row and likely to die. Kristof notes that statistics from the death penalty information center indicate that at least 162 people originally sentenced to death have been exonerated since 1973. And according to a peer reviewed study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, around 4.1% of people condemned to death in the United States are innocent. Kristoff calculates that that would mean around 30 people currently on death row in California are innocent but still likely to die anyway. That number should send shivers down anyone’s spine. If one innocent person is killed by the government, let alone 30, then how the hell can we take this justice system seriously? Who are really the criminals here? Oh and let us not forget how the Chicago Police accountability task force described Chicago’s policing over the last decade or so: Woefully inadequate, persistent problem, Justified lack of trust. Racism and classism pervades the whole history of Chicago policing. So we’re really going to just implicitly trust that the Chicago police and the rest of the Illinois government will carry out this policy responsibly? Screw that.

One of the most frustrating things about the bill to me is that it actually has some admirable measures that Rauner added on, like banning bump stocks. But is this then just a method of holding gun control hostage in exchange for a death penalty provision? Do we really have to have one or the other? Thankfully there is protests towards the bill from some state democrats and other notable death penalty critics, written about here by John O’Connor of the AP. The article ends on an important point from journalist Rob Warden: “Rob Warden, who has spent years exposing wrongful convictions as a journalist and academic, told lawmakers that even a “limited” death penalty is ripe for lawmakers’ expansion. When Illinois restored capital punishment in 1977, there were six “aggravating factors,” or legal determinations that, if met, could warrant a death sentence, Warden said. When it was abolished, there were 20.” (O’Connor) Give the Illinois government an inch and they will take a mile. Another thing that needs to be added to this debate is that these killings are ritualized ceremonies. What does that say about our society? What do we want our reaction to crime to be? Violent ceremonial revenge against unarmed prisoners? Because that’s what we’re advocating and teaching kids. Revenge is not a societal good and it is not something that we should continue to pass down to future generations. The focus should be on seeking humane justice. To sum up: Life is sacred and the state should not kill people, we should not influence future generations to continue seeking revenge, too many innocent people have already been condemned to death, and the Illinois government has a history of incompetence and corruption. On top of all that, according to the vast majority of law enforcement officials surveyed by the ACLU, the death penalty does absolutely nothing to deter violent crime. So what are we getting out of this? I understand the pain of the victims family must be excruciating but that does not mean the state has any right to murder people. Would we consider vigilante justice from the victims family right? Of course not, so we shouldn’t consider it right when the state does it either. One more thing I frequently hear from people arguing for the death penalty is the question about what you would want if it was the murderer of someone close to you? I am lucky to say I haven’t suffered through a tragedy such as that, and I can’t predict how I’d react, but I’d like to believe I’d still be vehemently against that persons death and know 100% that it would be wrong.

-Here are the links to both the original bill, and its amended version: HB1468 SB2580

Opinions are Jake Morask’s and not representative of Laura Law office as a whole.

A Tale of Two Heroes

This year’s  Memorial Day post to honor our servicemen is from a very personal perspective-A Tale of Two Heroes. Two men who outwardly could not have been more different. One Living in Budapest attending gymnasium (the Hungarian equivalent of high school)  and looking forward to a future as an architect. One who served as a survivor of the death/work camp known as Malthausen,  taken prisoner by the invading German army into Hungary at the age of 19. The other lived in California, not yet sure of his life’s path other than to know one thing-he wanted badly to enlist  in the army and serve at the ripe age of 16 and was eventually deployed overseas in 1947 -his unit’s mission ; to help the Allied restoration of the vast amount of refugees and removal of  the  Concentration camps after the waning days of World War 2.  The first man was Jewish, the second, Catholic. Born half a world apart, these two men  could not know their lives would intersect 50 years later.

The first man, was  captured in the Nazi takeover of Hungary and ripped apart from his family. He  had no idea whether they lived or died during his years of captivity. He  was young,  healthy and smart- thus the Nazis considered him an asset which undoubtedly saved his life as he was sent to Malthausen on the “work” side of the camp and ultimately conscripted as the “personal servant “ (read-slave) to The Commandant. For years he subsisted on scraps of what the Nazis considered enough to keep the workers alive.  Years later he would describe in the rare times he spoke of such, of eating literally scraps. Week old pieces of horse-meat was considered a treat as were spoiled rotten shreds of mutton. Most days he  was  lucky to get old crusts of moldy bread if anything.

The second man was also young, smart and healthy which earned him an enlistment at age 16. When the second man was sent with his unit overseas in 1947 as part of the Allied army of occupation, he saw indescribable horrors and he too endured months of  living conditions that most of us could never imagine.

When the Allies prevailed, the prisoners in the camps were liberated and the first man,  like many others cried tears of joy when the Allies swung open the gates of hell and the first man, like many others literally walked out with  scraps of clothes on his back, and no shoes.  He walked the unending miles from Austria back to Budapest, not knowing what he would find. He walked miles, hungry, exhausted but free. He would describe 50 years later the story of finally reaching Budapest and turning down the tiny street where his family had lived in a second floor apartment that had a tiny balcony. His grandmother would sit out for hours on the balcony sunning herself,   hooking her cane over it’s rail. When he turned down onto their street the sun broke through the clouds, it’s rays beaming down for a moment directly onto his family’s balcony. And there he saw his grandmother’s cane hooked as always over the railing. He ran the rest of the way and discovered his entire family still alive and intact.

The second man would come to describe years later the looks on those in the refugee camps, many skeletal  concentration camp survivors when his unit came in to help the restoration efforts.  I imagine the displaced refugees who flung themselves into soldiers arms with their skeletal bodies  weeping tears of absolute joy. This man had no words to describe the ultimate swaths of  devastation he saw  wreaked  by the Nazis.

The first man ended up being sponsored for a Hillel scholarship by a  man whom he had never met but who  would become his lifelong best friend. The first man came over on  the  boat in 1947; destination Ellis Island. He was  sick to his stomach the entire trip, having lifelong seasickness. But it mattered not as he was free. He spoke no English. The scholarship was to a small school in Ohio where his sponsor was on the Hillel Foundation-Miami University of Ohio. But the travails before being allowed to even get there were numerous as entire shiploads of refugees were held at Ellis Island until cleared for “entry.” He was finally cleared and released onto the streets of New York City with 10.00 in his pocket and his sponsor’s name and address. Somehow he got to the University where he obtained his undergraduate  and architecture degree while teaching himself English and working. This man’s sponsor by the end of college was now living in Chicago and urged his  friend to come to Chicago. The first man took a job out of architecture school at the world famous Skidmore, Owings & Merrill where he was offered a job at the “bottom” as a junior apprentice draftsman.

The second man, after the war, also ended up in Chicago where he applied to the Chicago Police Department, also with a sponsor who  became a dear friend.  After passing the Chicago Police Department tests, and the academy, he too  started at the bottom; walking a foot post in the 41st District of Rogers Park.

The first man worked his way up through Skidmore eventually becoming managing  partner of this high profile international architecture firm. The first man would go on to be the chief design partner for the John Hancock building and many other world renowned structures.  Along the path his sponsor, now his best friend, made him go on a double date  to be set up with one of his best friend’s wife’s two best friends. Midway through the date, the two couples being set up switched as each had a connection with the other’s date. The first man got married a year later and after the birth of their first son and daughter,  moved to Highland Park where his best friend lived.

They had another son six years later and were married for 22 years when his wife died of cancer at age 42 leaving him a widow with three devastated children. Four years later on another fix up, he married his second wife who was actually friends of their family as were her two kids. They were married 40 years. The first man retired  in 1988 and eventually  built his dream house on the Florida gulf coast where he could be surrounded by all his kids and grandkids during vacations.

The second man met the love of his life in 1952 in front of a pool hall  in Chicago, a few short miles north  from where  the first man and his wife lived. The second man  married this  woman of his dreams in 1954, the year the first man’s first son was born. He and his wife  raised two boys in the Belmont-Oriole  neighborhood in Chicago. The second  man worked his way up the ranks of the Chicago Police Department becoming an Area Detective-sergeant handling many high profile killers, cases, and criminals along the way. He was the primary detective on one of the biggest cases of its time-the murder of two police officers in the 70’s near Cabrini Green. He retired in 1990, after 33 years of decorated  service to the city having received numerous commendations. He and his wife will celebrate 64 years of marriage.

Little did these two men know that fifty years after the war, the first man’s daughter would meet the second man’s son in 1985 and their paths finally crossed when the son brought the daughter home  to meet the family. Four years later, they married and the families were forever intertwined.

The first man is my father -Robert Diamant, whose story I have often told but in my opinion cannot be told too many times-a heroic man whose tale is that of a true  self made man climbing from the abyss  of horror to go on to emigrate to the United States and years later  build one of the world’s most famous buildings. But true to character , his proudest moment was passing the citizenship test and being able to sponsor and bring his parents to emigrate to the United States, and ultimately settle and take care of them  a few blocks from our family home.

The second man is my father in law, Richard Morask,  whose story is equally heroic-it is the story of the  Everyman, our true heroes, who served his country in war ravaged Europe  and then his city for years,  risking his life on a daily basis; his family at home never knowing if he would make it home -always dreading the “phone call”. Dick is a man who also instinctively and empathetically is always there for  not just his immediate family but any of the numerous aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces or friends needing help.

Both of these heroes lived their lives without seeking public acclaim, fame, credit or fortune. Each was and is a self made man who cared more about family than fame, who instinctively were leaders of men and always there for friends and family in any emergency. It is incredible to me that each were part of this war in such different ways and each served and made such vast contributions, sacrifices and service to our country.

The parallels in their lives is eerie-my father and father in law share the same birthday-April 2nd. My father came to America in 1947 after briefly attending the Hungarian Polytechnic Institute before winning the Hillel scholarship.  My father in law got stationed in Germany in 1947; ships passing in the night.  My mother and step mother shared the same birthday-July 3rd. My in laws had two sons three years apart in age. I have two sons three years apart in age. My father and mother had my oldest brother and I three years apart. My father retired in 1988  two years earlier than my father in law, in 1990. Each of these unsung  heroes were survivors of the hardest “knocks” a life can have but without fail got back up, and showed up to fight another day.

These two men, the unsung heroes, became fast friends. They immensely enjoyed each other. Even living miles apart after my father retired in Florida and Dick retired in Niles, at every family gathering the two would be found deep in conversation sharing a cocktail discussing either the events of the day, or their shared passion for golf. My father is gone now. He passed away in January, 2015. My father in law with whom I am fortunate to have a great relationship, has been like  a second father to me. When pregnant with my second  son, my father and step mother had flown in from Florida for the birth but were downtown when I suddenly had to get to Northwestern Hospital from Park Ridge. My husband was in mid closing argument at 26th and California. My father in law was at my house within three minutes of calling, rushed me down, and delivered me intact to the Labor and Delivery floor where my father and husband were waiting to thank him  profusely.

My father was my rock and anchor for  60 years, extricating me from sticky situations-flying at a moments notice across the country for emergencies and joining to  commemorate  our  family milestones and celebrations. We would talk every week late into the  night about life, family, politics, and the legal thrillers and TV shows we both loved. He loved to hear about my legal cases and offered sage advice and strategy.  He always  put family first.

So too  my father in law. Cut  from the same mettle, he is a steadfast source of strength.  He has shared countless hours of help, advice and just being there. Too many times to mention,  he has whipped into his car to get one of the kids to the doctor in those growing up emergencies young boys have when both parents are miles away downtown. He  too always puts   family first.

So this Memorial Day, I dedicate to these two men,  who while born continents apart into vastly different worlds  would come to  intersect 50 years later. Men  who quietly and enduringly  touched  and  changed countless lives  far and near-a Tale of Two Heroes.

Illinois Senate Approves Access to Medical Marijuana for Kids at School

By: Jake Morask

caduceus-2789653_960_720State legislators have taken a step toward giving access to medical marijuana for kids at school. Per Robert McCoppin of the Chicago Tribune, the Illinois Senate has overwhelmingly voted to approve Ashley’s Law, which will allow students who use medical marijuana for treatment to be able to consume it on school premises. The law is named after a young girl named Ashley Surin who uses medical marijuana to treat the epilepsy that she developed from undergoing chemo treatment for her Leukemia. “Ashley wears a patch and uses lotion containing cannabidiol, or CBD oil, with a small amount of THC, the psychoactive element in cannabis . . . . It does not get her high, but has eliminated her seizures, her parents said.” (McCoppin). The law passed in the Senate 50-2 and was sponsored by Elgin Democrat Christina Castro. Now the law will be sent to Rauner where he will decide whether or not to sign it into effect, which seems like what pretty much everybody wants (minus the two “no” voters). Apparently parents, guardians, or caregivers can administer the treatment so school employees don’t have to do so and face possible discomfort. I would have liked for the article to mention whether or not the kids themselves can administer their treatment without a guardian (which would make sense to me) but it’s kind of hard to tell.

Either way this is a good law and a bit of uplifting news in a currently depressing political climate. Putting the needs of children in pain ahead of whatever bullshit usually pops up in these debates is admirable and a good template for other political issues. Laws that try to prevent access to medical marijuana for people in pain are cruel and imply that the patient or parents of the patient are somehow irresponsible or worse, that their pain isn’t truly legitimate. It’s good the law passed so easily, indicating that this is something both sides can mostly agree on.

Within the last two months in Illinois there have been great strides in Marijuana policy. Patients who would otherwise get an Opiate prescription are now able to possibly substitute that for Medical Marijuana access, and in April the Illinois House voted to allow people charged with small weed possession or paraphernalia to petition for expungement. These are but small steps toward a time when hopefully there’s not a single person sitting in jail for a Marijuana offense, or a single person suffering from pain who might see relief using medical marijuana but can’t get it. Also, looking at the program’s website, I hope these prices for applications come down or are done away with in general. I don’t see why someone should have to pay $100 for a one year  registration period. Is it a crazy amount of money? No, but for people who struggle everyday to put food on the table for them and their families, this amount could legitimately turn them away. If one single person finds that they can’t get access to this program because of their economic condition, then I think the program is a failure.

Illinois Department of Health Continues to Fail

This past week the Sun Times Editorial Board published an opinion piece about the problems Illinois has had with delays in issuing medical marijuana licenses. It’s really good and I recommend reading it. I’d like to discuss it and the issue it’s covering in this blog. Here are some of the facts: Applicants are supposed to be issued their license within 30 days or less, but the Illinois department of health has done a horrible job of hitting that goal. Even more disgraceful as the Sun Times notes, is that patients with terminal diseases who are supposed to be able to get their cards within two weeks are seeing delays too. This is another story about bureaucratic mismanagement and the complete lack of humanity in those bureaucracy’s causing pain to people. It’s a story as old as America itself, and even older. Put simply, the Illinois department of health isn’t just failing because of structural flaws, even though there are plenty of those. As the Sun Times implies, they are failing because they don’t really care about the pain they are causing. Thousands of people are suffering with a ready made solution that can at the very least relieve them of pain, but can’t access it because of red tape. It is infuriating. As the article shows, taxes raised on Marijuana businesses are now up to over 11 million. What is being done with this money? Well, nothing. It sits unspent even as the department of health continues to flounder in processing applications because of how pathetically understaffed it is. These issues have plagued the Illinois medical marijuana program since its conception and there are no signs that anyone really cares about fixing it in the department. According to the Times, “Illinois’ pilot medical marijuana program, which is set to expire in 2020, has been dogged by delays. It didn’t go into operation until about two years after it was approved. Supporters of the program had hoped to have 100,000 people signed up by now, but there are only about 34,000, according to IDPH numbers released Wednesday. The shortfall is putting a financial squeeze on businesses set up to cultivate or dispense medical marijuana.” The department has somehow managed to not even reach half its goal. One of the department’s spokesperson went so far as to blame the applicants, claiming that there were frequent errors. The Times piece argued that wasn’t persuasive. I agree, and I think it reaches the point of victim blaming. Again the most disgusting thing about this whole issue to me is the complete lack of urgency because they just don’t care. They don’t mind people being in pain (because of their delays) in all likelihood because the Department probably doesn’t treat that pain and the ability to reduce it from Medical Marijuana as legitimate.This is speculation but it is based on my observations about Bureaucracy’s complete lack of empathy, Illinois’ having to be dragged kicking and screaming even into the most conservative form of legalization, and the utter incompetence and lack of urgency the department has shown in fixing this issue. Why do we leave issues of incredible human importance to organizations that don’t even have any humanity?

Election Round Up

ballot-box

Here’s some of the notable election results from Tuesdays primaries.

 

Governor:

Democratic winner: JB Pritzker

Republican winner: Bruce Rauner

Pritzker is an establishment democrat and won this primary pretty easily strengthened by his billions of dollars that he has at his disposal to fund his campaign. Daniel Biss a more progressive candidate finished second in the race edging out the moderate Chris Kennedy who failed to do much notable in his campaign despite coming from one of the most famous families in America. I think Biss was a better candidate, especially if Democrats want to be a party for the people. There’s really not much in my mind that differentiates Pritzker and Bruce Rauner, and I don’t think that is good for the future of the democratic party. Pritzker should have a good shot at beating Rauner who has managed to piss everyone off it seems, despite winning Tuesdays primary. He edged out a far right candidate Jeanne Ives, who frankly is just awful. But Bruce has come under fire from the far right for at least being somewhat sensible and expanding abortion coverage for women on Medic aid. It was a very close race, clear signs of discontent surrounding Rauner. Just another thing about Ives, she is one of those people who will blabber all day about how the government doesn’t leave people alone enough while also advocating policies to control women’s bodies and discriminate against the LGTB+ community because she is a bigot. Seriously, go watch one of her commercials. They are horrifically insulting and I’m glad she lost.

 

Attorney General :

Democratic winner: Kwame Raoul

Republican winner: Erika Harold

The democratic race was more interesting in this one because it was closer and because former governor Pat Quinn decided to step back into the realm of Chicago politics, but ultimately failed to carry the day. Raoul, a lawyer, is a good progressive candidate who filled the state senate in 2004 when Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate. Since then he has been an advocate for a number of admirable causes such as criminal justice reform, domestic violence prevention, education reform and expansion of services. In his campaign he has advocated for making abortion safe and accessible along with the equal wages act. Raoul has gotten a lot of funding from gaming, gambling and tobacco interests and has been a frequent supporter of the gaming and gambling industries when voting so I do think that is a negative to watch out for. I like Raoul a good amount more than Pritzker, but both democratic candidates for these two races are being funded by huge conglomerates. On the Republican side, the lawyer/former US pageant contestant Erika Harold won the primary pretty easily with 59% of the vote. She was notable in the past for using the Pageant stage to advocate for abstinence until marriage, which unsurprisingly made her popular with Republican politicians and the Bush regime. One positive is that despite being against same sex adoption previously, her position is now for it. It’s not really something we should have to celebrate since being against systemic bigotry ideally should be the bare minimum of basic human decency, but in our current environment at least it’s something. Better than Ives.

U.S. House 3rd District:

Democratic winner: Daniel Lipinski

Republican winner: Arthur Jones(Nazi)

I don’t even know where to begin with this so lets begin with the fact that Arthur Jones the uncontested republican winner in this race, is a Holocaust denying Neo-Nazi. It’s a pretty telling representation of the current state of the GOP that they somehow failed to stop this literal piece of human trash from winning an uncontested race under their parties banner. How could they not manage to draft another candidate? Literally anyone else who isn’t a Nazi would do. I know this race was always very likely to go Democratic, but there is zero excuse for this. Even if Republicans are furiously denouncing him from their party, there is still a Nazi running under the Republican banner. Let us not forget that Roy Moore a pedophile and outright bigot also carried the GOP flag(to a very real well of rightwing support) and got close to 50% of the vote in the Alabama senate race that he lost earlier this year. The GOP has shown a penchant for supporting farther and farther right candidates and even though they denounce this one, they still deserve the blame for attracting these kinds of people with their angry and hateful rhetoric. On the democratic side Daniel Lipinski, a pro life democrat who is as conservative as a democrat can be won a tight race against a better candidate(in my opinion) in Marie Newman. Lipinski has usually had these races handed to him but he got an extremely competitive race on this one. Newman is a much more progressive candidate and I think a much better fit for what the Democratic party of the future should aim for. Lipinski is an old white man with large political connections who wants to deny Women’s access to abortion. I think the democratic party should not be touting anti choice candidates.

 

Cook County holds first jail wide in person voting Process

This past Saturday per ABC7Chicago, volunteers helped organize the first jail wide in person voting process in Cook County jail’s history. Apparently 94% of the inmate population is eligible to vote, so this will be a valuable tool to help those eligible voters actually get access to voting. As ABC notes, this is part of a wider movement to help give people trapped in the criminal justice system more opportunity to vote and have their voices heard. Jessie Jackson participated in the early voting to try and lead by example and encourage others to do the same. I really like this plan to help give inmates a better chance to have a voice in american politics, and hopefully down the line a bigger say in their own lives. Inmates throughout every prison in America have been one of the highest suffering victims of civil rights abuses, from the officers who arrested them, those who interrogated them, the DA’s who decided they would be going to jail, and the security guards who run their lives. Of course not every inmate is a victim of this, but our criminal justice system is objectively a horror show that incentivizes the worst type of aggressive policing and sentencing. Even though there have been pushes against throwing people in cages for consuming marijuana, many people who are just normal non dangerous human beings wanting to live their lives are still thrown into cages for victimless crimes. To not allow someone a vote, or to restrict their vote because of a conviction is a horrible violation of ones civil rights and just a downright insult to real democracy. These are human beings, and they deserve a say in their lives like all of us do. There’s also a racial component to this that has to mentioned, lest I be irresponsible. African Americans have been arrested and convicted for “crimes” like Marijuana offenses at a rate much higher than white people have, even though I can pretty much guarantee that white people are consuming Marijuana at, near, or above the same rate as any demographic. So barring or restricting inmates from voting is then another way racial discrimination has entrenched itself within America’s institutions. Look at states like Alabama, where as of 2016 the Sentencing project(a non profit D.C based reform organization) calculated that 7.6%(!) of the states population was disenfranchised. That meant that 15%(!!) of the states African American population was disenfranchised. I’ll use the word objectively again in saying that those numbers are truly hideous to behold.

Gun issue sparks protest outside Dupage County Fairgrounds

– Diana Moca of the Naperville Sun covered an interesting showdown between pro and anti gun protesters this past sunday outside Dupage County Fairgrounds, sparked by a “sportsmans” show that was scheduled to feature guns. This blog thought it would be worth it to check on this outburst of tensity and anger since this is an important issue for anyone anywhere. I could probably be accused of being reductionist or oversimplifying when saying the protest was between pro and anti gun people. There’s many people who are designated on the anti gun side, that i’m sure would say they are pro gun safety and anti certain types of guns rather than being broadly against the individual ownership of firearms. And i’m sure there are a number of people designated on the pro gun side who see themselves as pro gun safety too but believe that the measures advocated against them go too far. It’s also notable that the sportsman show was originally featuring AR-15’s, which were the guns used by shooters in the Parkland, Vegas, and Newton mass shootings as Moca notes and discusses with anti gun protest organizer Jax West. “Enough is enough. Too many people have been killed by the AR-15.” The Association that runs the show- Pioneer Valley Sportsman Association- responded by eliminating displays and raffles of the AR-15 and an item called a Bump Stock that is an attachment to the AR-15.

Moca does a good job of covering what the consequences of the guns attachment are. It apparently converts a semi automatic rifle which Moca notes fires one shot per trigger, into a automatic rifle which can continuously fire while it is pressed. Clearly many see these attachments as needless and dangerous. Why does any civilian need a killing machine that could fire death at an appalling rate? I know describing the weapon as a “killing machine” sounds completely loaded, biased, and a bad way of being fair but that is objectively what the gun is for and has been used as. I can’t see any argument that there’s any other reasons to buy this attachment or this gun other than to increase the efficiency of killing other living things. And I don’t see how that desire is so important as to desperately want to prevent bans on this specific weapon. If the desire isn’t to increase killing efficiency than what is used for? Firing practice maybe? Gun competitions? Sure that’s fair, but my point and the point of many others smarter than me would be that those things aren’t even close to the stratosphere of being an important enough reason to not implement a ban on semi automatic and automatic weapons. The Pioneer Valley Association and it’s 40 year veteran president Mario Tolemei thought that would be enough to quell anger but evidently the issues go beyond just this gun and it’s preceding attachments. As Moca writes, “Despite being “pleased with that” decision, West proceeded with her planned protest because, “I want sensible gun laws passed — universal background checks, no one under 21 can buy, vote out politicians that take money from the NRA .” There was a counter protest which Moca does a good job of covering, that went back and forth with the anti gun protesters on this tense Sunday morning. The arguments usually drifted towards the usual unintended consequences argument from pro gun people and the it’s way too easy to get a gun argument from anti gun people. There was also some insults flung around apparently, supportive or insulting honks, and just many symptoms of a very polarizing issue.

One of the quotes featured in the story, from a pro gun protester pointed at this division. “There’s a problem, but there’s more to it than guns,” said Rutkowski, who joined the group with his 11-year-old son, Matthew. “We’re all just as sick with the killings. It needs to stop. What also needs to stop is the blame. Taking everything away won’t solve the problem. People need to come together.” It’s easy to see the appeal to a stance like that and in many ways I think he is right. But there is also blame for the shootings that have happened and will continue to happen that needs to be distributed. Not for revenge but to try to prevent such things from happening again, and so justice can be achieved. There is of course more to these tragedies than the tools that facilitate them, but acting like the tools aren’t important is missing a huge part of the picture. Tolemei was apparently happy the protesters didn’t interrupt the show floor itself and noted the Pioneer Association hasn’t made any decision for their policies on displaying and raffling AR-15’s in future situations.

Can the State Seize your Property if you didn’t Commit the Crime?

bikeA word of advice to anyone planning on going out for a few drinks: don’t let someone else drive your car drunk.  A Robinson, Illinois woman learned this lesson the hard way when her drunken husband decided to drive her Harley Davidson motorcycle home on a suspended license and the court decided to confiscate it.   The major question of the case is whether or not the government is able to seize someone’s property if they weren’t the person who committed the crime.

The story goes like this: a woman and her husband decided to go out for a few drinks.  The woman, who was not drinking, was the designated driver for the night (always a smart move to have one of those) and was driving her husband around as they bar-hopped.  At the last bar, the husband, who had more than a few drinks and had multiple prior DUI convictions, got on the bike as the driver and told his wife to get on.  Knowing her husband was drunk and would be driving on a revoked license, the woman first refused until her husband told her he wasn’t getting off and she would have to walk the 12 blocks to their home.  The man was pulled over by police and charged with aggravated DUI and the State filed forfeiture documents on the bike and it was confiscated.

By their ruling in this case, both the lower court and Supreme Court answered the above questions as yes.  The woman and her attorney stated that the bike shouldn’t have been confiscated because she was not the one driving and the property didn’t belong to her husband.  The court ruled that by getting on the motorcycle, the woman was consenting to and enabling a crime and therefore the Harley was fair game for confiscation in a civil forfeiture of the property.  The trial court used the basis that the owner willfully allowed the husband to drive the property on a suspended license and therefore consented to the crime.  All of this justified seizing the motorcycle.

The Supreme Court also upheld the lower court’s ruling to confiscate the woman’s motorcycle when it was challenged due to the 8th amendment’s excessive fines clause.  The wife cited that her bike would be worth $35,000 and taking it from her would be an excessive fine.  The excessive fines clause basically states that the crime has to fit the punishment and an excessive fine can’t be given to someone for a minor crime.  In this case the court found that the fine was indeed not too excessive at all and didn’t violate the grossly disproportionate standard laid out in US vs Bajakajian.  The court looked at how integral the property was in the commission of the crime and found it was the very reason the crime was committed and therefore, justified the lower court’s decision.

Two judges dissented on this case.  Their reasons were due to the fact that the woman didn’t have much choice but to allow her husband to drive the bike and that it wasn’t reasonable to assume she should drag him off; basically stating that this was not enough consent to involve her in the crime.  This brings up a point as to how far the state is able to go as far as seizing property that is involved in a crime and how much responsibility the property owner has to prevent it from happening.  The major issue is that the wife in this case, obviously didn’t necessarily commit a crime.  Her husband was the one who committed the crime of driving under the influence but, he used her property to do so.  And in the end this means that the property was indeed fair game.

This is an important case and could set a precedent in future cases.  We’ll stay up to date on this case and others.  As always if you have any questions regarding DUI or any other information give us a call and one of our skilled attorneys will be happy to assist you.

San Francisco to Throw Out Marijuana Convictions

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA at sunset.

As we previously reported, recreational marijuana became legal in the state of California on January 1st.  And now in an unprecedented move, the city of San Francisco will throw out all marijuana related misdemeanors dating back to 1975.

There are 8 states where recreational marijuana is legal and there are few cities that have adopted such actions as San Francisco.  After California legalized marijuana, San Francisco became the first city to automatically apply the new laws to cases dating back to the 1970s.  As of January 1st when the drug was legalized recreationally, people with misdemeanor violations could petition the court to have their records sealed which, would cost them a fee to do.  The district attorney in San Francisco noticed that very few people were taking advantage of this and decided to make a huge change. Misdemeanor marijuana cases will now be automatically thrown out and sealed with no cost or action required from those who currently have misdemeanor marijuana violations.  It’s estimated that more than 3,000 cases will be thrown out and sealed, all of the cases dating from back when marijuana was illegal.  The prosecutor says they will also examine another 5,000 felony cases as well and reduce those to misdemeanors if the person does not have another violent conviction on their record (such as murder).

Previously in California, possessing one ounce of marijuana would result in a misdemeanor.  Now, possessing up to an ounce of marijuana is completely legal and people do it every day. But, those people with records are still being punished and the new protocol could change the lives of many people with these convictions.  Marijuana offenses are non-violent drug offenses and can hold someone back from being hired; employers can refuse to hire someone who has checked the box regarding a misdemeanor and/or felony conviction. A person can also be denied housing benefits and college loans if they have this sort of conviction so, erasing them could be a second chance for many.  The cost of having your record sealed is can also be off-putting as well, which is a main reason for prosecutors automatically throwing out the cases.

Many states have adopted new laws on marijuana, but San Francisco is the only city to automatically expunge records and offer relief of this type.   A few months ago, the Nevada Governor vetoed a bill that would vacate the sentences of people convicted of marijuana misdemeanors.  Some other cities have adopted policies that allow for the person to petition the court to seal their records but none have an automatic process like San Francisco now does.   The actions of San Francisco could cause a ripple effect throughout California and we could potentially see this becoming the normal process for states where the drug is now legalized.

This is a huge step in the right direction in terms of relief for persons convicted of marijuana offenses in states where the drug is now legal.  People were still being penalized for marijuana records even though the drug was legalized.  We’ll stay up to date on any marijuana law changes so make sure to check back here for updates.