Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Word of the Day Wednesday: Cannabidiol

 
 

Charlotte Figi

Cannabidiol (CBD): Noun.


Pronounced, canna-bid-EYE-ol, it is one of 85 identified cannabinoids, or chemical compounds that affect neurotransmitters in the brain found in cannabis, and one of two most prevalent cannabinoids, the other being the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and one of the three most studied cannabinoids including THC and Cannabinol (CBN) also psychoactive, but less prevalent. While THC and CBN creates a "high," CBD calms the mind.


Why is it Important to Know?

This November, Amendment 2 will be on the ballot in Florida. It is an amendment to Article X of the Florida Constitution, adding Section 29, which will legalize medical marijuana (MMJ) in a highly regulated way. Read the full text of Amendment 2 here.

Yes or No on 2 is a position about whether or not you agree with CBD as a medicine. If you don't know what it is, or what is does, how can you be an informed voter?


Brief History of Marijuana.

The first documentation of cannabis came around 440 BCE from the Greek historian, Herodotus who mentioned Eruasian Scythians taking cannabis steam baths. Butrica, James L. (2002), "The Medical Use of Cannabis Among the Greeks and Romans", Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, 2.2, p. 51. For nearly a century, the US Federal government has considered medical marijuana very dangerous without little evidence. (Which is ironic considering they have a patent on the non-psychoactive ingredients, and they have their own, small medical marijuana (MMJ) dispensary program.) Under the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), Schedule I is the only category of controlled substances that may not be prescribed by a physician. Under 21 U.S.C. § 812b, drugs must meet three criteria in order to be placed in Schedule I: (1) the drug has a high potential for abuse; (2) the drug has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States; and (3) there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision. Obviously, that is not all true of marijuana. In 1970, Assistant Secretary of Health, Roger Egeberg suggested that Schedule I and Schedule II may be too high of a classification (pun intended). However, nothing has been done to decriminalize MMJ federally.

Fun Fact:

MMJ that is high in CBD is already legal in Florida. That's right. Our ultra-Conservative Governor Scott passed the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act earlier this year to legalize "Charlotte's Web," a specific strain of MMJ targeted at treating seizure-disorders in children. It is highly regulated and very hard to obtain the oil extract that help cure the constant seizures of Charlotte Figi, for whom Charlotte's Web is named.

Learn more about Charlotte's story in CNN's Weed and Weed 2 documentaries. 


CHILDREN?!

Yes, children. Why? Because little humans who have limited body-control as is are suffering from some very terrible diseases. Their parents are being given options that include side effects like "cancer." In the case of Charlotte Figi, it was an especially tough option to consider for her father who is a police officer. For these parents, the natural alternative that happens to work is their best option. The biggest concern at this point is that there has been little medical study of the legitimate effects of MMJ, specifically Charlotte's Web. That is because the Federal government regulates medical studies, and they also do not recognize MMJ as medicine, but a Schedule I drug. Colorado is about to launch a study, however. Elsewhere in the country, well-meaning parents are facing criminal charges for using MMJ on their children in state that have not legalized it. 

Does It Work?

Irving Rosenfeld, a patient of the Federal government's program wants you to know that he is proof MMJ works.



If you have questions about MMJ, contact Plata Schott Law at 904-516-5562.









































Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Death with Dignity

Brittany and her husband, Dan on their wedding day. Source: People.com


The End.

The first time I head the term, "Death with Dignity" or "Right to Die" was in law school. Like money, it is not polite to discuss assisted suicide or physician-assisted suicide (PAS) at the dinner table.

PAS is not euthanasia. Euthanasia also known as "mercy killing" occurs when a physician continues to administer drugs (like morphine) that ease the pain, but ultimately stop the heart. In the case of PAS, the patient administers the lethal drug. Under the prenumbras of the Ninth Amendment, there is a well-established Right to Privacy. It's a hot topic in American Constitutional Law. In 2006, the United States Supreme Court ruled, 6-3 that the Federal Government cannot limit State's from authorizing physicians to prescribe life-ending drugs. Four U.S. States have legalized PAS.

An Unlikely Advocate

This weeks issue of People Magazine features the story of Brittany Maynard. She is a 29-year-old newlywed, and she going to die November 1st. How do I know that? She said it. Brittany is expected to die in a very slow, painful way in the next few months. She has one of the most aggressive forms of brain tumor. When she heard how she was going to die while living in California, she looked into PAS. Now she is taking her death into her own hands, literally. But, you will hear that this is not suicide. She has no desire to die. But, she will die with or without pain. It's her choice.

PAS creates a lot of ethical issues for legislatures, doctors, and the public. PAS fundamentally goes against the Hippocratic Oath, which says, " "I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest any such counsel." However, the Declaration of Geneva and International Code of Medical Ethics both talk about "respect for human life."

You'll hear from Brittany (and other's who make this choice) that this is about respect for human life, not death. Most people to turn to PAS are not suicidal (in fact, that is one of the criteria to be eligible to receive the medication), and they are very sick. Their life is being taken from them. They don't want to die in a hospice, they want to live at home. It's a tough call, but with all Right to Privacy issues, we tend to defer to giving individuals a choice.

Carpe Diem.

Brittany is spending her final days sharing her story to expand PAS. As she carries around her demise in her purse, she wants you to know that you do not have to suffer in the traditional way. Here are Plata Schott Law we see the benefits of Death with Dignity. If you or someone you love would like to discuss your legal options, give us a call at 904-516-5562. We will be thinking of Brittany on November 1st.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Perfect Example: How Gone Girl Gives Us Pause.

This weekend, movie-goers were dazzled by the fantastic thriller, Gone Girl. If you haven't read the book or seen the movie, it seems at first like a murder mystery where a beautiful, young woman disappears. And it is...but it's much more than that. It is about the crucifixion of a husband by the Media. 
Twentieth Century Fox and Regency Enterprises


The Double-Edged Sword.

In our Criminal Law practice, we are always very wary of the Media. It can exonerate or bury you. If your side of the story/conversation gets out first, it's a beneficial tool. But if the "wrong" side gets out before you and your client can get ahead of the conversation, it can be devastating. You end up doing a lot of damage control in our line of work to say the least. 

A Clever Tale.

Reading the book, the media angle was a big part of the book, but seeing it in the silver screen was quite different. (Go see the film, by the way.) It enraged me to watch this story unfold with the media story and the truth cleverly juxtaposed in the film. 

SPOILER ALERT AHEAD!

A woman goes missing. Everyone seems to love her expect her husband and his sister who know she is a miserable person. As you learn that she is missing, you read (fabricated) journal entries written by said woman that tend to make the husband look like a violent jerk. It turns out that the husband is kind of a jerk. And a cheater. But he is neither violent, nor a murderer. Except for this journal, a poorly staged crime scene, and the fact that the guy kind of sucks there is no evidence of a murder. Then the wife's  "best friend" starts dropping (fake) bombs. 

A character who seem all too familiar, paints the husband as not only a murder, and cheater, but also  as having an incestuous relationship with his sister and a sociopath. While we support the First Amendment, how would the world be different if the Media was required to cite all sources? 

Thanks to an attorney who knows how to steer the conversation, the husband avoided arrest..for a while.  Ultimately, he is arrested for murder despite the lack of evidence. 

SECOND SPOILER ALERT

You find out that the wife is an evil genius (as my husband noted), and she framed her cheating husband for her murder. But for losing all of her money, the guy may have been executed. What happens next would be impossible, but some women are actually that crazy. 

END OF SPOILERS

The Evolution of a Story.

It is important to consider evolution of a big news story. Something happens. News outlets catch wind of the incident from police scanners, and arrest and booking reports. Someone (suspect, victim, law enforcement, witness, friends, faux friends) talks first. Media develops an angle. People listen to the angle and start talking. Talking becomes "public outcry." Elected Officials, Sheriff, State Attorney, Judge react to said "public outcry" from voters and proceed accordingly. Media continues to report on the story as if the public outcry directed the angle. (It didn't.) The public learns the "facts" from the news, social media, and gossip. 

Lessons to be Learned.

We have the pleasure of working in a jurisdiction with a State Attorney who is tough, and not afraid of a challenge when it comes to sending the guilty-looking guy to prison. If this took place in Duval County, it's likely that Jacksonville Sheriff's Office would have said, "No Body? No Problem!" in the case of this missing wife. Especially when the media/pubic outcry began. 

Part of this story was that the husband's personality was, like most people, not perfect. He didn't react well to the stress and trauma of the situation, and that made him suspicious. The media ran with that suspicion. Because cameras and video cameras are everywhere, it was easier to get a freeze-frame or two to make this guy look like a cheating jerk. Sadly, it also illustrated how we (the people who the media speaks to) were swayed to believe that "cheating jerk" translates to "murderer." Ben Affleck's wife has been waging a war against the Media for years, and therefore this movie acutely made the point that it's a problem. 

We eat it up. We judge. We are quick to conclusions and we never stop and ask, what's the other side of this conversation? The sides get labeled... "conservative," "liberal," "ignorant," "insensitive,"  and maybe "racist." And if you pick a side with an ugly label, you get labeled. It's a terrible, vicious cycle. 

There is a moral to this story, in fact, there are a few.

1) If your significant other goes missing or is murdered, hire a lawyer. 

The biggest mistake that the husband made was that he didn't hire an attorney sooner, but "innocent people don't need lawyers." Wrong! Detectives are not psychics. They pick a theory that is likely handed to them by the media, and they work up a case to go along with their theory. At one point in the movie, the male detective tells the female lead detective, "my wife says he did it," and makes it clear that it's enough for him to agree. These stories are sensational, and detectives, prosecutors, jury members, judges all watch the news or go home to someone who watches the news. 

2)...and follow their advice!

Believe it or not, we actually know what we are talking about. We think it through, and we are not the one who could go to jail, so we think clearly.  Navigating media for a client is a valuable skill. It is important to hire an attorney who has good relationships with media, who understands social media and who know where to find the brutally honest chat rooms and forums. You need someone who knows what to say, and when to say it. Timing is everything. At the end of the day, the media effects you in one important way: it taints the jury pool. Someone has to sit on your jury. There is no way to wholly vet those potential jurors, search their web-browsing history, and get their full story, so you have to make sure your story hits the masses and taints the jury for you levels the playing field. So listen to us and get off line!

3) No one is perfect, not even victims. 

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in court when a man who shot another man in the head was sentenced. The victim's mother stood up and testified that her son was "the nicest person, and he did no wrong..." et cetera. The Judge literally stopped her, and clarified that her "perfect" son was actually also carrying a gun, cocaine, $1,100 in cash and had a lengthy record. He respectfully requested that the mother just not exaggerate her son's qualities, Needless to say, she was angry. (She proceeded to storm out of the courtroom.) 

No one wants to speak ill of the dead or missing, but it is misleading. No one deserves to be murdered, but no one is perfect no matter what the posthumous story is. Many times an already-tainted jury doesn't get to hear the negative things about the victim due to rules of evidence so they are just thinking about all the wonderful things they heard on the news. It's not fair. 

4) There is nothing helpful and innocent person suspected of a crime can say. 

Shut up. Every story needs a villain. Take a guess who that will be. Unless your attorney has directed you to speak, zip it. 

5) Happy Wife; Happy Life.

Need we say more? 

If your become a suspect in a crime, contact us at 904-516-5562. 

Plata Schott Attorneys and Counselors at Law is based in Northeast Florida. Their attorneys are licensed to practice in Florida and Federal Court. Learn more at www.plataschott.com.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Large Retailers and the Civil Demand Letter

Recently, we have been receiving a lot of questions about large retail stores like WalMart and Target sending "Civil Demand Letters." Under Florida Law, if a person can prove by clear and convincing evidence (a low burden) that they are victim of theft, robbery or similar crimes or abuse or neglect of the elderly or disabled including fraud, they are entitled to three times the actual damages and a minimum of $200, attorneys' fees and court costs. The "Victim" must write a letter giving the defendant an opportunity to pay the demand. If the defendant does not pay the demand within 30 day, they are subject to a civil suit. If the defendant does comply within 30 days, they shall be released from liability in writing.
What's the Problem?
First, the Statute says that parents are liable for the civil damages for unemancipated minors who cause the damage. Sorry, parents. Retailers are sending these letters to those minors who they assume have parents to will shell out possibly unfounded demands. For example, if your child takes a $20 set of headphones, and gets caught walking out of the store, and the headphones aren't damaged or altered in anyway, and are replaced for sale where are the actual damages? That product when back on the shelf and was resold. But these retailers send a letter threatening the civil suit, damages and costs, and mom and dad shell out a the minimum $200 because they don't know that despite the authority to file the suit, they may not get past a motion to dismiss due to lack of merit. These companies are being made whole ten-times over, and more because they made another $20 from the person who bought the headphones and they may have also received Restitution in the criminal case.  It's not right.
The Other Problem:

General Counsel offices get paid a lot of money to know the law. They know darn well that the damages must be actual, but very rarely do these parents question the letter or consult an attorney.  Just the other week, we called the undersigned counsel to ask what the actual damages were, and they responded that the $250 demand was for the hour billed to write the letter. (Then we wondered what kind of lawyer takes an hour to write a letter.) While the Legislature's intention was well-placed, the result looks like a "get rich quick" scheme for huge retailers and their General Counsel who is clearly over-billing. 

What to Do If You Get a Civil Demand Letter:

Parents need to consult an attorney when they receive these letters. They need to know that they do not owe punitive (punishment) damages, only actual. Attorneys need to speak up, and consider what remedies are available when a letter is sent and no actual damages happened. It seems like certain retailers are taking advantage of the law, and they need to be held accountable for that. If you or your child receives a Civil Demand Letter, take advantage of a consultation. It's also important to retain these letters, to avoid paying recitation in a criminal case as Florida Law also does not allow a victim to be made whole and recover more on the Criminal Law side.

Contact us at 904-516-5562 if you would like more information about Civil Demand Letters. 

Plata Schott Attorneys and Counselors at Law is based in Northeast Florida. Their attorneys are licensed to practice in Florida and Federal Court. Learn more at www.plataschott.com.