Hawaii's New Lax Paraphernalia Laws

Hawaii recently reduced the penalties for drug paraphernalia possession in some very big ways. The state used to have some of the most strict punishments for paraphernalia possession in the country. As the law is written, the act is still obviously illegal in its various forms; for reference:

“…it is unlawful for any person to use, or to possess with intent to use, drug paraphernalia to plant, propagate, cultivate, grow, harvest, manufacture, compound, convert, produce, process, prepare, test, analyze, pack, repack, store, contain, conceal, inject, ingest, inhale, or otherwise introduce into the human body a controlled substance in violation of this chapter” – Hawaii House Bill 1501

However, what used to be a Class C felony, a potential $10k fine and 5 years in jail is now just a $500 fine. That’s it. That amounts to a 95% reduction of the fine as well as a 100% reduction in potential jail time.

This is not only a win for the average citizen, but also for the state. For the people, the obvious benefit is not having the threat of a class C felony looming overhead for having a small pipe or rolling papers. And if you can imagine, the typical smoker using either of these devices most likely doesn’t have money for bail or the hefty fine that could follow. For the state, the main jail on Oahu has something like a 40% pre-trial detainee rate meaning space is being taken up by non-violent offenders just waiting for their court date when it could be freed up for violent offenders, or just freed up entirely so that money isn’t spent at all.

This is a huge step forward considering simple marijuana possession in the state is a misdemeanor but having a pipe was a felony. It’s nice to see when punishment more evenly matches the crime.

Why fines are always higher than you expect

Why fines are always higher than you expect

As more laws are passed it gets easier to add more and more fines onto the original offense without much notice.  Case in point – one week ago on March 24th, 2017 the Governor of Tennessee signed a law which effectively increased the maximum fine for possessing less than a half ounce of marijuana by 10%, doubling the minimum fine at the same time.

What States Can Someone Use Deadly Force through “Stand Your Ground” "Castle Doctrine," or “Make my Day” Laws?

What States Can Someone Use Deadly Force through “Stand Your Ground” "Castle Doctrine," or “Make my Day” Laws?

There are many reports nationwide on deadly force self defense shootings in the media, but do you personally know your state’s stance on self defense with a deadly weapon?

Dodging the 5th - How States Get Self Incrimination for DUIs

Dodging the 5th - How States Get Self Incrimination for DUIs

The notion that driving is a privilege subject to the whims of the State and not a protected right has taken a firm hold.  By threatening to revoke a 'privilege' instead of a 'right', such as your liberty by throwing you in jail or your property by assessing a fine, failure to comply is not technically a crime and thus, being compelled to provide blood, urine or breath samples does not violate your 'right' to not incriminate yourself.

Is it really legal to carry weapons in bars?

Is it really legal to carry weapons in bars?

One question I’ve been hearing more lately in the wake of recent shootings at bars, nightclubs and music festivals is whether its legal to carry a concealed weapon into those places for protection.  As usual with these questions, the answer is “it varies”.

While alcohol and firearms don’t mix, there are plenty of people who go to concerts, shows and other venues where alcohol is served without drinking.  Designated drivers immediately come to mind.  How each state addresses these situations is influenced by several types of laws.

Can minor offenses mean permanently losing gun rights? The answer may shock you

Someone loses gun rights for a first DUI in Massachusetts, but can possess pounds of marijuana without facing this risk.  Yet in Arizona one can basically never lose your gun rights for a simple DUI no matter how habitually convicted, while possession of any amount of marijuana there will trigger this loss.

The risk of flying with marijuana depends mostly on the state you depart

The risk of flying with marijuana depends mostly on the state you depart

Bringing marijuana through airport security and onto commercial aircraft seems to be extremely risky business. The penalty for bringing between four and 14 grams of marijuana into Georgia is a mandatory minimum term of 5 years in jail and a fine of $50,000. This can be a terrifying prospect to the average high flying marijuana tourist. But Georgia doesn’t search fliers after they land at their destination and are headed out of the airport so what is the penalty for someone caught with the substance before they fly there?

Going on a roadtrip? Be super cautious in these states!

Going on a roadtrip? Be super cautious in these states!

There's good reason to be cautious when driving through Virginia, New Jersey, and Georgia! These states have traffic laws that can really hit you where it hurts after the holiday season: your wallet.

6 becomes 7

As we approach the end of the year it’s worth looking back at what we’ve accomplished in that time.  A lot of change can take place in 12 months, all of which present learning opportunities.  This was no different for us.

At the start of 2016 our journey looked to be a long, hard slog through uncertain waters.  One of our founders had recently become a parent after a complex pregnancy and premature birth, with the other soon to follow.  Several key contributors had stepped back, each for different reasons, leaving us with critical gaps in our skill set as a team.  On top of that, none of our fundraising efforts produced any return.

We started 2016 with some issues that racked up large bills, which would have crippled our operations to pay.   Since we’d also learned the app needed to be significantly rebuilt, even though there were a few positive glimmers the number of possibly fatal issues facing us at times looked insurmountable.

But as the saying goes, “the harder you work the luckier you get”.  Our team continued to work long and hard on our efforts to create this tool to heighten legal situational awareness, often without pay and on top of other jobs which covered their bills, and eventually secured enough funding to get the first version of ATLAS live.

Getting to that point was a significant milestone which presented new challenges.  New feedback from the community at large revealed changes we needed to make, some more involved than others, which were turning off sizable groups of potential users.  We listened and acted to address them all.

Over this time our marketing and outreach efforts grew substantially as well.  As we further developed the app we continued to tailor our social and legacy media activity to respond to feedback and address trending issues.  We saw several posts go viral, reaching tens of thousands of people, and had some very positive discussions with reporters at multiple outlets.

We watched a lot of laws change as well.  Halfway through the year over a thousand laws we track had already needed to be updated.  As we compile the updates for the end/start of the year that number looks to be equally large starting in January. 

A collection of new seat belt laws, changing penalties for underage alcohol possession, updated requirements for carrying firearms, additional taxes, wholesale changes in the legal status of marijuana and more are occurring in almost every state.  While some changes are minor, some are major which people in those states need to know about.

It was a challenging year for everyone, but here we are.  2017 is shaping up to be an interesting year full of change, and we’ll be here keeping you informed!

The Only Constant is Change

The ATLAS team operates virtually and only a few of us are close enough to each other to meet in person very often.  This worked OK in the beginning but as we grow being close enough to collaborate more effectively is increasingly important. 

This means moving!  Over the last week, we spent a lot of time relocating personnel so we can sit down in groups more often without needing to rely on good internet connections.  The better we can work together the better connected we can keep everyone!  This will be an ongoing process and we’re happy for our progress.

New marijuana legalization which became effective last week formed the focus of our outreach efforts.  There are more related changes coming with the New Year which we are currently watching.

With a lot of new laws going into effect on January 1 keeping them all straight can be difficult.  We’ll be going over them a lot in the coming weeks and unpacking what they mean for each of us individually.  There are several regions where a difference of a few feet can mean the difference between committing felonies and being legally in the clear.  Make sure you know about any changes that will affect you!

We’ve brainstormed some new marketing campaigns you’ll probably start seeing around the New Year as well. 

The iOS version of the app is still expected to be released around February; if you’d like to be a beta tester head to atlasmobile.tech/ios and let us know.  We’ll reach out to you when the time comes.  Thanks to those of you who have already volunteered to help!  Your feedback makes a huge difference and we couldn’t do it without all of you.

Reaching Out Beats Out Selling Out

Last week was all about outreach.  Countless emails and social media messages went out to people who realize how important it is to have ready access to the power that knowledge provides.  We spent hours on the phone with reporters and investors who see the potential in what we’re creating.  And the response we’ve gotten has been fantastic.

New Tobacco Tax in California

On November 8th, voters in California voted to increase sales tax on cigarettes by $2.00. This measure, Proposition 56, passed overwhelmingly with a 64.3% yes vote to a 35.7% no vote, nearly two to one. Prop 56 did not change the allocation of the existing $.87 tax which goes towards the General Fund, tobacco prevention, breast cancer screenings and research, healthcare services for low-income individuals, environmental protection and early childhood development programs. It did, however, create additional tax revenue which is intended to go towards extra programs such as physician training, prevention and treatment of dental diseases, Medi-Cal, tobacco-use prevention, research into cancer, heart and lung diseases, and other tobacco-related diseases, as well as school programs focusing on tobacco-use prevention and reduction.

Previously, taxes on a pack of cigarettes were around $.87, now they are up to $2.87. So what does this mean for the consumer? Obviously a higher price (and significantly so) on a pack of cigarettes should deter people from smoking as much. Quite understandably that is the goal in mind. Backers of the measure, including the American Lung Association and American Cancer Society, hope this will hit consumers hard enough in the wallet that they quit if not at least cut back. Another similar core objective is to price cigarettes completely out of young peoples’ budgets, hoping to prevent them from smoking at all in the first place.

Being a resident of the cigarette-friendly state of Virginia but having spent a good bit of time in New York City over the past few years, I’ve seen the cost of cigarettes climb quite steadily in the big apple compared to my home state. New York state cigarette tax is currently at $4.35 per pack (the highest in the country) with NYC adding on an additional $1.50, bringing the total taxes on a pack of cigarettes up to $5.85 in the city. In Virginia, costs have stayed about the same since I’ve been a smoker – about $6.50/pack for my brand. When I find myself in the city, however, I see that same pack cost $13-$14 (depending on the bodega). Fortunately, I usually remember to bring my pack, but whenever I don’t I know I’m hard-pressed to push myself to spend that extra cash. Certainly if I lived in NYC I’d have to consider cutting back, rather than spending the $90-$100/week to fuel a pack-a-day habit. Residents apparently feel the same way, because in the past 12 years adult smoking rates in the city have gone from 22% down to 13%.

Those numbers typically translate across the country as well. Studies from the US Surgeon General show that for every 10% increase on the price of cigarettes, smoking goes down 4%. Californians already have the second lowest smoking rate in the country, coming in around 12% after Utah’s 9.3%. California also used to have one of the lowest cigarette taxes in the country when it was $.87/pack; now at $2.87 they are in the top ten (ninth in fact).

It’s hard to say whether that 4% per 10% formula will translate into the existing low-smoke culture, but I think it is easy to say that they are largely unified in making this radical change and curbing what most everyone agrees is a bad habit.