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.

The South West is a Confusing Place When it Comes to Weed

There are now multiple stretches in the US where merely taking a step in any given direction can mean the difference between possessing a felony quantity of marijuana and being fully within the confines of the law.  Knowing the laws of those states is more important than ever.

Marijuana Initiatives 2016

With Election Day finally in sight just under a month away, most voters have their eyes on the obvious issue-Hillary and Trump. But don’t forget that when you get to the booth, you are also voting for other issues affecting your state. One of the big ones in many states is marijuana reform. Nine states currently have marijuana initiatives on the ballot. That’s a lot of states, almost 20% of the country will be voting on the issue come November 8th, so here is a breakdown of what to expect.

The states with marijuana on the ballot are Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada and North Dakota. Five of those - Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada – are considering full recreational use of marijuana.

Arizona has Prop 205, which would legalize marijuana for recreational use, allow home cultivation and sharing, and authorize production and distribution by state-licensed businesses, some of which eventually could allow on-site consumption. Under current state law possession of any amount of marijuana is a felony, meaning people could go from felons to law-abiding citizens overnight if it passes. This will be a close call; support for the proposition is currently at 44% with opposition at 47% and 9% undecided.

Arkansas has Issues 6 and 7 which both focus on medical marijuana. Issue 7 seems to be the more expansive measure, allowing patients to grow their own marijuana, whereas Issue 6 does not. Issue 7 also covers more treatable diseases and conditions, allowing more patients to be treated with medical marijuana. One key difference also comes with thought given to the option to make marijuana illegal again further down the line. Issue 6 comes with a provision saying it may not be made illegal again without voter approval whereas Issue 7 requires only a 2/3 vote in each legislative chamber of the Arkansas Legislature. The last voted measure to legalize marijuana in 2012 fell short by only half a point. Passing this year’s bill seems much more likely – with support estimated as high as 63%.

California is voting on Prop 64 which legalizes marijuana for recreational use, allows home cultivation and sharing, authorizes production and distribution by state-licensed businesses, which can make deliveries to consumers and allow on-site consumption if licensed for that purpose. Support averages about 60% across the board, so it’s most likely that this bill will pass. With as long as California has been in our minds as a sort of “marijuana capital”, it seems like this is a long time coming but keep in mind that past attempts to legalize recreational marijuana in California have failed by very narrow margins (Prop 19 in 2010).

Florida will be voting on Amendment 2 which allows treatment for eight diseases and includes language allowing for treatment of other similar diseases to those eight. As a constitutional amendment, the initiative needs approval from 60 percent of voters to pass. Support for the measure in 10 different polls conducted this year averages 69 percent. Looks like Florida may very well be on its way to joining the states that support medical marijuana. It is important to note, however, that they have also failed in the past, like California, by narrow margins (also called Amendment 2 in 2014).

Maine and Massachusetts have Question 1 and Question 4, respectively, which both have very similar language. They would each legalize marijuana for recreational use, allow home cultivation and sharing, and authorize production and distribution by state-licensed businesses, which can allow on-site consumption with a special license. The Maine initiative has support at 53% with opposition at 40% and undecided voters at 7%. Massachusetts has support at 49%, opposition at 42% and undecided voters making up the remaining 9%. While Maine seems like it should pass and would be an easier call to make than Massachusetts whose supporters already don’t quite make it to the 50% mark, both could be considered on the fence. Considering their proximity to each other and relatively similar political climate of the New England states, it will be interesting to see what happens.

Montana is considering I-182 which allows production and distribution of marijuana by state-licensed providers for treatment of specified medical conditions and any others added by the legislature in the future. Now, medical marijuana has been an option in Montana since 2004 but because of a recent crackdown in 2011 it has been increasingly difficult for patients to have access to it. This current initiative would be a huge stepping stone in the right direction in terms of actuating their existing system.

Nevada has Question 2 which legalizes marijuana for recreational use, allows home cultivation and sharing, and authorizes production and distribution by state-licensed businesses. On-site consumption, however, will not be allowed without further legislative approval. Support for this initiative at the moment is barely at passing with 51% in favor, 40% opposed and a relatively large base of undecided voters at 9%. Nevada has a favorable history when dealing with marijuana, having started their first medical marijuana initiatives back in 1999, so even with a tight existing margin and a potentially huge swing with the undecided voters possible we think Nevada will be joining the recreational states by next year.

North Dakota is looking at Initiated Statutory Measure 5 which would allow the use of marijuana for treatment of specified "debilitating medical conditions" as well as others added by the legislature upon approval. It also authorizes production and distribution of medical marijuana by state-registered, nonprofit "compassion centers." North Dakota doesn’t have much at all in terms of a history with marijuana so the outcome of this vote is too hard to say with any certainty. The most recent polling data from 2014 which didn’t reference this measure, but questioned participants about general support for any future initiative, had marijuana supporters only making up 47% of the vote, opposition at 41% and undecided at 7%.

It seems like we’re about to see a new wave of “marijuana states” pop up here in the near future. 25 states and the District of Columbia currently have legal marijuana laws in some form. Adding 9 more to that would be quite significant, especially considering 5 of those 9 would legalize marijuana for recreational use. That would double the current number and round out the states at 20% which support the recreational use of marijuana. This election is just the beginning. The margins in these elections are lowering, i.e. more support for at least medical use and I have a feeling we’ll be seeing many more of the same initiatives added to ballots throughout the next few election seasons.