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Posts tagged "Pennsylvania"

Medical Marijuana Turns "Gateway Drug" Argument on its Head

The old notion that marijuana is a "gateway drug" has been turned on its head byPennsylvania's recent decision allow medical marijuana for opiate addicts seeking to break free of dangerous and addictive drugs like heroin. As a criminal defense attorney, I have had many clients switch to marijuana as they tried to escape enslavement to opiates. Like any logical and rational person, I believe that if one is using marijuana instead of heroin, it is an improvement! But some probation officers and judges were not in agreement, and they used to have the law on their side. For too long, recovering opiate addicts would be thrown jail for smoking marijuana in violation of a zero-tolerance approach to illegal drug use while on probation. Medicinal-Marijuana.jpg
Pennsylvania's new, enlightened approach is especially noteworthy to those of us well-versed in the history of American drug policy. When imperial, scientific evidence showed that marijuana was not the "assassin of youth" portrayed by "Reefer Madness" era prohibitionists like Penn State's own Harry J. Anslinger, Drug War hawks adopted the "gateway drug" argument to justify continued cannabis prohibition. The long-discredited gateway drug argument posits that those who smoke marijuana would eventually move on to hard drugs like heroin, because most heroin addicts smoked marijuana before they ever tried heroin.
The Gateway Drug fallacy is a classic example of correlation not equaling causation. Only a tiny percentage of marijuana users have ever gone on to use heroin. Likewise, most heroin addicts also smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol before ever trying heroin, but these drugs, which are certainly more harmful and more addictive than cannabis, were conveniently omitted from the "gateway drug" argument.
Now, Pennsylvania has legally recognized marijuana as a "gateway drug" away from and not into opiate addition. Although there is medical research in support of this policy change, it is still a bold move, when one considers that there are still a few dinosaurs around in positions of power like US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who cling to the notion that marijuana has no medicinal value and leads to hard drug abuse.
I suspect that some people who use marijuana as a bridge away from opiates may eventually stop using marijuana and achieve full sobriety. Others may continue to smoke marijuana the rest of their lives as a buffer against relapse into opiate addiction. Either scenario is preferable to continued opiate addiction.
Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense lawyer in State College, PA, home of Penn State University. He is a member of the NORML Legal Committee. 

Pennsylvania Man Charged with Miniature Horse Molestation

A 21 year-old, Pennsylvania man has been charged with a non-residential burglary and sexual intercourse with an animal following an August 16, 2016, incident in Lancaster County. Ephrata Police allege that Travis Wagner entered a barn with the intent of committing a crime therein. Usually, theft is the crime intended to be committed when a person unlawfully enters a building and is charged with burglary. But in this case, the only thing allegedly stolen was the poor miniature horse's dignity and innocence.miniature-horse-thumb-400x336-75396.jpg

Do Fake IDs Work at Penn State Bars?

The quick answer is using fake IDs in State College is not a good idea. Occasionally fake IDs will work at a Penn State bar, but if you use a fake ID in this town enough times, you will eventually get caught. A common refrain I hear from clients is "I used this ID all semester with no problem until I got this one bouncer."  Others are not so lucky and are busted the first time they try to use a fake ID.

Marijuana Decriminalization Could Come to Harrisburg

A marijuana decriminalization bill is expected to be introduced this week at the Harrisburg City Counsel legislative session. The bill would allow police to charge possession of a small amount of marijuana as a local ordinance summary offense with a $100 fine for a first offense and $200 fine for a second offense. Anyone unlucky enough to be caught a third time would be charged with the usual ungraded misdemeanor under the Pennsylvania Drug Device and Cosmetic Act. A "small amount" of marijuana in Pennsylvania is defined as less than 30 grams for personal use.

Pennsylvania Hate Crimes Law Explained


A lot of people have asked me about hate crimes laws ever since a Penn State student was recently charged with ethnic intimidation, terroristic threats, simple assault, stalking, disorderly conduct, public drunkenness and underage drinking following an incident in which the defendant allegedly verbally and physically assaulted a student of East Indian descent. Not surprsingly, the defendant was highly intoxciated. The felony ethnic intimidation charge was dismissed by a magisterial district judge, but was then refiled by the Centre County District Attorney's Office, with the hopes that a different judge will bind the charge over for trial.

ARD for Third DUI Sought by Pennsylvania Senator


Pennsylvania State Senator Pat Browne is seeking ARD for his third set of DUI charges. These charges arose from a motorcycle accident in the Lehigh Valley earlier this year in which Browne was injured, and allegedly had a BAC between .08 and .10. ARD stands for "Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition." Those who successfully complete the ARD program can have their charges dismissed and expunged, while also receiving a shorter driver's license suspension and avoiding mandatory jail time. ARD is usually available to first time offenders who are charged with relatively low-level offenses like DUI, possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia.

DUI Charges Against PA Sober, Designated Driver

designated_driver_-thumb-412x412-62968.jpgIn Pennsylvania, DUI charges can be filed against sober young people, as a teen recently found out the hard way in Northampton County. Over Labor Day weekend this year, a 19 year old male was stopped at a DUI checkpoint. His SUV was packed with nine other students, whom he was ferrying back to DeSales University after the group had attended a party at nearby Lehigh University. The over-packed car was a Motor Vehicle Code violation in and of itself, made immeasurably worse by the fact that the designated driver had consumed a modest amount of alcohol. According to police, the designated driver's BAC was a mere .02. Although this suggests he had only one drink or had quit drinking hours ago, it is still enough to trigger a DUI in Pennsylvania if the driver is less than 21 years of age.

Pennsylvania Judge Buys Medical Marijuana Justification Defense

A Pennsylvania judge recently found a York County man not guilty of possession of marijuana for personal use based upon the defendant's successful assertion of the justification defense. Judge Thomas H. Kelley VI found 64 year old Chuck Homan not guilty, after hearing credible testimony from a psychiatrist who opined that medical marijuana alleviates symptoms associated with Mr. Homan's bipolar disorder.

Is Jaywalking Legal in State College, Pennsylvania?

Jaywalking in downtown State College is an entrenched part of Penn State culture on par with the Grilled Sticky, Creamery ice cream and mocking the Willard Preacher, but is it legal? One could be forgiven for assuming that something everyone does must be legal, but jaywalking is not legal anywhere in Pennsylvania, including Happy Valley. This essentially means that even some of the most wholesome and harmless Penn State students flout the law every day.

Heroin Addicted Mother and Daughter Charged with EWOC and PWID

A Pennsylvania mother and daughter are facing a host of serious charges after being caught shooting up heroin in a Sheetz parking lot in Westmoreland County. Police allege that earlier this month, 23 year old Courtney Jording was injecting heroin into the arm of her 43 year old mother, Karen Gillespie, while Ms. Jording's neglected, six-month old baby sat in a wet diaper in the backseat of the car. By pure chance, an employee of the Westmoreland County Children's Bureau saw what was going on and called police.

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