The protections enshrined in the ubiquitous words of the Miranda rights are meant to protect your right against self-incrimination. However, these rights are not self-executing, and require affirmative invocation in order to be effective. The need for invocation is particularly important regarding the right to remain silent.

20170619_153435-300x175Break your Silence to be Silent

In order to invoke your right to silence, you must affirmatively invoke that right[1]. Following the decision of Berghuis v. Thompkins[2] The Supreme Court in a 5-4 judgment has held that to invoke your right to remain silent, you must affirmatively invoke that right. If you fail to affirmatively invoke your right to silence but remain silent, that silence may be used against you to show that you had knowledge of your right to remain silent.

Today marks the 48th anniversary of the decision in Leary v. United States, and often forgotten Supreme Court case from 1969 that effectively legalized marijuana on the federal level with the declaration that the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act violated the fifth amendment of the United States Constitution.

Supreme Court
The Case[1]

The facts behind the case are interesting to say the least. On December 20th 1965 Doctor Timothy Leary; a famous professor, psychologist, and political activist, left on a road trip from New York to the state of Yucatan in Mexico with his two adult children, and two others.

Fotolia_62904321_Subscription_Monthly_M-300x300In April 2016, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced it was reconsidering marijuana’s current list as a Schedule 1 Drug in the Controlled Substance Act. This announcement was met with skepticism and cautious optimism. The decision of the DEA to reclassify marijuana in the Controlled Substance List would allow national marijuana reform to circumvent the large hurdle of congressional action.

The State of Federal Marijuana Law

Currently, marijuana is illegal at the federal level under the Controlled Substance Act which defines marijuana as a Schedule 1 Drug. These schedules are characterized as:

iStock_000006229203XSmall-214x300As the digital age advances, technology becomes ever more entwined into our daily lives. Stunning revelations about mass government surveillance[1] have led many to wonder what privacy protections still remain for citizens. With the death of Justice Antonin Scalia[2]; the most ardent defender of the Fourth Amendment on the Supreme Court, some feel that the Amendment’s protections will continue to erode in the digital age.

What is the Fourth Amendment?

The Fourth Amendment of the Unites States Constitution is one of the bedrocks of our criminal justice system. While relatively short, the Amendment encapsulates a foundational idea of our government. It guarantees citizens’ protection against unreasonable search and seizure, and establishes the importance of a warrant.  The Fourth Amendment reads as such:

dreamstime_xs_22155154The harmful practices of America’s “war on drugs” have taken a toll on the lives of countless Americans, yet only recently has a new repercussion of the drug war come to light.

The yearly cost per incarcerated prisoner in many states far exceeds the yearly expense (per pupil) of educating students in public schools. With most states overburdened by swelling prison populations and unable to devote necessary resources to education, the country will have difficulty clawing its way out of the hole created by ‘drug war’ policies.

The growing number of incarcerated persons in American prisons is due to the ‘tough on drugs’ policies of the late 20th Century.  As Kathleen Miles of The Huffington Post points out, the number of inmates in prison for non-violent, drug-related offenses represents more than half of the American prison population. This number of incarcerated drug offenders has increased rapidly over the past half century – up from 16% in 1970.

Louisiana passed two medical marijuana laws in 2016 signed by Governor Bell Edwards (D-Louisiana). These two laws were SB 271[1] and SB 180[2] both authored by Sen. Fred Mills (R- District 22). These two bills established Louisiana as the 25th state to establish a comprehensive medical marijuana program. Louisiana’s history with medical marijuana, however, provides insights into the struggle to reform a medical program once a state has passed it.

First in the Nation

While it is mostly a footnote in history now, Louisiana was actually the first state in the nation to pass a medical marijuana program back in 1978. Passed only eight years after President Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act, Louisiana’s original medical marijuana program, authored by Sen. Tony Guarisco (D-Morgan City) and signed by Governor Edwin Edwards (D-Louisiana) allowed patients suffering from glaucoma and cancer to use medical marijuana.

iStock_000009135835_ExtraSmallOn May 16th, 2016, the Texas GOP signaled a profound change of stance with regard to marijuana laws in Texas. Thanks to the dedicated work of many activists within the Republican Party, the State GOP adopted two resolutions with profound implications for the future of marijuana law in the Lone Star State.

Hemp

The first resolution is the most straightforward, and the least controversial step in marijuana law reform. The plank was adopted with 71% of those in favor. The resolution reads as such:

rehabilitation rehab for drugs alcohol addiction or sport and accident injury physical or mental therapy
Is Childhood trauma the root of addiction? According to Dr. Gabor Maté, yes. The Canadian physician believes that the origin of addiction can be traced back to a painful experience in childhood. He argues that addicts suffer from hurt and stress that can come from violence, abuse, addiction in the family, neglect, and other discomforting experiences. Dr. Maté’s stance on drug addiction posits that the drugs themselves are not causing the addiction, but that psychological or physiological stresses are. His 2010 book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction, highlights his theory that if we only address addiction as a disease, we do not treat addiction at its core. Dr. Mate is one of the proponents of ayahuasca-assisted treatment to help his patients address the root source of addiction.

Ayahuasca – The Hallucinogenic Tea

What is Ayahuasca-assisted treatment? It is a form of psychedelic-assistance which helps patients relive and address trauma they experienced as children. Ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic tea made from Amazonian tree bark and has been used by shamans for centuries. Ayahuasca is legal in South America, but only legal in the United States for certain religious groups. The Supreme Court ruled that the União do Vegetal, a religious group with Brazilian origins, can use the brew for its religious services. A limited but thought-provoking number of studies suggest that ayahuasca provides a remedy for addicts.  The Ayahuasca-Assisted Treatment for Addiction was the first observational study in North America. Conducted in British Columbia, Canada, the published results showed that patients, who were treated with ayahuasca for substance abuse, reported a decline in the use of alcohol, tobacco, and cocaine. The patients also gained psychological benefits, feeling more hopeful and empowered. The study’s results suggest that more research should be done on ayahuasca-assisted treatment. Although studies suggest that ayahuasca can be used for drug addiction, PTSD, and depression, its active ingredient, DMT, remains a Schedule I controlled substance in the U.S., and in 2011, the Canadian government ordered Dr. Maté to stop treating his patients with ayahuasca tea.

End Prohibition - Legalize Marijuana
With 2017 fast approaching and prospective state representatives competing for votes, a Texas sized problem remains unaddressed in the Texas medical marijuana program. In 2015, The Texas legislature passed Senate Bill 339 authored by Sen. Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler) and Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth).[1]

SB 339, otherwise known as the Texas Compassionate Use Act, was a start on the road to marijuana reform for Texas. The bill was the first formal recognition from Texas that marijuana has medical use. The bill was inspired by Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s “weed” documentary series highlighting the efficacy of high CBD marijuana strains for treating epilepsy in children. With the combined efforts of medical activists and strong pressure from the Epilepsy Foundation, the bill passed in the waning days of the 2015 session and was signed by Governor Abbott.

Overview of The Compassionate Use Act

A Clean Slate Concept
Unbeknownst to many citizens, the Texas Legislature passed a law which allows more individuals to seal their record. Known as the Second Chance bill, SB 1902 took effect in September 2015 with tremendous opportunity for those charged with certain crimes and placed on deferred adjudication probation or regular probation.  If you have been charged with a non-violent misdemeanor such as theft, criminal trespass, possession of marijuana, or other drug-related offense, you may have the chance to clean your record from the public.

Your Right to Seal Records

Certain first-time offenders may have the right for an automatic sealing of their record from the public. To be eligible for this streamline process, you must have not been charged with a misdemeanor in Chapters 20, 21, 22, 25, 42, 43, 46, 71 Texas Penal Code or any charge associated with family violence. Also, you must have successfully completed deferred adjudication probation, qualified by the judge for automatic sealing, and not received any new charges.