All Eyes on Colorado as Recreational Marijuana is Legalized

All eyes are on Colorado this year as it is the first state in the country to legalize recreational marijuana and the first location in the world to regulate weed from growth to sales.Recreational Marijuana in Colorado

In November 2012, 55 percent of Colorado citizens voted in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana, and on January 1, 2014, pot retail outlets opened their doors to thousands of Colorado natives and state visitors who lined up to be among the first to legally buy marijuana.

Other states are sure to follow. Washington also voted in favor of legalized recreational weed in 2012, but will wait to open retail stores until later this year.

The Details

Although it is now legal, regulatory marijuana laws do exist.

Those interested in buying marijuana must be at least 21 years old and may only purchase up to an ounce if they are from in state and a quarter ounce if they hail from out of state. Growing marijuana at home is legal as well, allowing no more than 6 plants per household that must be in a secure and locked area.

No public smoking is allowed due to Colorado’s Clean Indoor Air Act which prohibits smoking indoors, even in dispensaries, and will keep marijuana use out of public areas. Recreational marijuana use is legal only on private property with the permission of the property’s owner.

Similar to alcohol laws, driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal when more than 5 nanograms of THC, the drug’s active component, are present in the blood. THC levels are shown to wear off after three hours after use, but the effects of marijuana vary individually and should be used with caution, especially when both alcohol and marijuana are involved, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and CNN.

Underage marijuana use and possession is illegal in Denver and is punishable with fines and other consequences, but not jail time.

On a federal level, marijuana remains illegal, but instead of challenging Colorado state law, federal officials will, “focus on serious trafficking and keeping the drug away from children,” CNN said.

Why Legalize Marijuana

Recreational marijuana use will bring in millions of dollars in tax revenue to states that legalize retail pot, the New York Times said.

Retail marijuana in Colorado will have the usual state sales tax of 2.9% plus a 25-percent state tax, making it one of the most highly taxed consumer products in the state, resulting in an additional $67 million a year with $27.5 million of that amount designated to the construction of schools, CNN said.

This will be new revenue for Colorado. Medical marijuana has been around as early as Nov. 2000 when Amendment 20 effectively legalized limited amounts of medical marijuana for patients and primary caregivers, but medical marijuana patients are not charged with extra taxes.

Although both retail and medicinal marijuana establishments are legal in Colorado, the two entities remain separate with different laws and regulations. For example, a personal license and physician recommendation are required for medical marijuana patients.

Community Perspectives

The state Marijuana Enforcement Division mailed out 136 recreational marijuana licenses in December to shops in Denver, and at least 37 of those were able to get past the lengthy legal process to open on Jan. 1, according to the Denver Post and the Gazette.

Most locations were sold out within the first several hours of opening, and despite initial concern, the Denver Post reported police and government officials said crowds were very calm and unproblematic.

Jan. 1 was an exciting day for many. Iraq war veteran Sean Azzariti had campaigned for marijuana legalization and was the first to legally buy recreational pot.

Michael Eymer is benefiting from “cannabis capitalism” with his pot tours that take paying customers to dispensaries, shops and restaurants around Colorado for the full recreational weed experience, CBS said.

Other Colorado communities, however, are not as thrilled.

The cities of Colorado Springs and Greeley are exercising their power to prohibit marijuana commerce, and have chosen not to welcome retail weed to their communities.

Clients Agree: Scottsdale Law Firm Corso Law Group Fights Hard for its Clients

A strong passion for justice and dedication to defending the rights of their clients as well as an extensive knowledge of Arizona state and national laws have given Corso Law Group a competitive edge against other Valley attorneys, and satisfied clients are sharing their positive experiences.

“We believe clients deserve the best possible legal representation every time,” said founding partner Christopher P. Corso, Esq. “All of the positive reviews and positive feedback we receive tells us that we’re doing the right things to help them repair their lives.”

Several clients support Corso’s comments with their positive Corso Law Group reviews.

In a statement, one client, Breck I. said, “I cannot thank you enough for your help. Simply being able to contact you – a person I trust – makes me feel at ease. I would not hesitate to contact you. For certain, I will always feel comfortable referring to you and your firm.”

The criminal defense attorneys of Corso Law Group aggressively work to defend their clients, but also take the time to get to know each individual to meet their specific legal needs.

Another Corso Law Group review amplifies this statement.

“I was treated right and they were fair price-wise,” said Becky H. of Scottsdale. “My case was dismissed and all the details were taken care of. Thank you so much.”

The experienced attorneys at Corso Law Group are experts in criminal law, handling all criminal defense cases, including DUI defense, domestic violence defense, possession of drugs, felony drug charges, photo radar, criminal speeding, disorderly conduct and marijuana possession.

“Our goal is to make sure that clients are represented properly and that their families are kept up to date of the progress of the case,” said Christopher P. Corso. “Our commitment to them as individuals is reflected in the positive feedback they provide.”

Corso Law Group also handles all types of Arizona family law cases, including Arizona divorce issues such as child custody, child support, alimony disputes, spousal support issues and visitation rights. And the Arizona lawyers are experts at Arizona personal injury and accident cases. From worker’s compensation claims to Arizona auto accidents, the personal injury lawyers at Corso Law Group continue to garner positive reviews for their attention to detail and their care and commitment.

The experienced attorneys at Corso Law Group serve clients throughout Arizona, including the cities of Ahwatukee, Avondale, Buckeye, Chandler, El Mirage, Gilbert, Glendale, Goodyear, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Sun City, Surprise, Tempe, Tolleson and Youngtown. To schedule a free consultation, please visit www.corsolawgroup.com or call (480) 471-4616. Corso Law Group, PLLC is located at 14500 N. Northsight Blvd., Suite 116 in Scottsdale, Arizona, 85260.

Arizona DUI Lawyers Corso Law Group Remind Drivers to Celebrate Memorial Day Responsibly

Memorial Day marks the start of summer, and the Arizona DUI lawyers at Corso Law Group want to remind Arizona drivers to welcome the new season responsibly over the course of the long holiday weekend.

It’s not all wild parties and bar hopping that can lead to costly DUI defenses. Backyard barbecues and pool parties are also common Memorial Day festivities that can result in drunk driving for many, according to founding partner Christopher P. Corso.

“DUIs are very common during the summer months, and many times they happen very close to home, when you relax your standards and don’t think twice about driving to the store after having a couple of beers,” Corso said.

In fact, nearly 560 people in Arizona were arrested on suspicion of drunk driving over the three-day weekend last May, according to KPHO.

Corso and his fellow founding partner John M. Rhude know the dangers of DUIs from their own professional experience. Both attorneys previously prosecuted DUIs, DWIs and OUIs for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. Combined, Corso Law Group have handled more than 15,000 DUI cases as prosecutors and defense attorneys.

Since Memorial Day is typically associated with a long three-day weekend and the start of summer, many Arizonans travel to national parks, campsites and the lakes around Arizona to celebrate. With the crowded conditions already decreasing safety on the road, many drivers are commonly distracted and oftentimes are not fit to drive.

In 2013, a number of officers from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, Arizona Game and Fish and the U.S. Forest Service targeted areas such as Saguaro Lake, Canyon Lake, Apache Lake, Bartlett Lake, Lake Pleasant, Verde River, Lower Salt River, all of the county parks and the Tonto National Forest to patrol for DUIs over the Memorial Day weekend.

“Memorial Day is one of the deadliest holidays to drive each year,” Rhude said, citing a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report. “Adding alcohol to that mix is a recipe for disaster.”

Arizona law requires that any person found guilty of drinking and driving (even a first offense) serve jail time. And DUI convictions can also include extensive fines up to $2,500, suspension of driving privileges and the installation of an ignition interlock device – even for first offenders.

The Arizona DUI defense attorneys at Corso Law Group do everything in their power to protect defendant’s families and advocate for their rights. They have the experience and expertise to deal with DUI charges in Arizona and will fight to get the charges dismissed and preserve their family.

Every DUI defense case in Arizona is different, however, and the outcome is dependent upon the specific facts and circumstances surrounding the DUI charges, which makes having an experienced Arizona DUI defense attorney even more important.

Corso Law Group has quickly built a reputation for its vigorous defense of clients, using its lawyers’ previous experience with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and other prosecutorial agencies to assist its clients with their criminal defense cases.

In addition to Arizona DUI issues, Corso Law Group handles a myriad of criminal cases, including civil speeding, criminal speeding in Arizona, domestic violence defense, possession of drugs, felony drug charges, photo radar, disorderly conduct and marijuana possession.

The experienced Arizona traffic lawyers at Corso Law Group serve clients throughout Arizona, including the cities of Ahwatukee, Avondale, Buckeye, Chandler, El Mirage, Gilbert, Glendale, Goodyear, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Sun City, Surprise, Tempe, Tolleson and Youngtown.

To schedule a free consultation, please visit www.corsolawgroup.com or call (480) 471-4616. Corso Law Group, PLLC is located at 14500 N. Northsight Blvd., Suite 116 in Scottsdale, Arizona, 85260.

A New Jersey Teen’s Court Demands Shock Her Parents and the Nation

Eighteen-year-old Rachel Canning caught the eye of the nation when she tried to sue her parents for thousands of dollars.

Canning was a high school senior, honor student, cheerleader and lacrosse player at Morris Catholic High School in New Jersey with a lot on her plate, but that’s not what had CNN to E! News talking.

The controversial lawsuit began when Canning filed paperwork stating that on her 18th birthday in November, her parents kicked her out and eliminated any and all parental support, both financially and emotionally. Canning said as she cannot provide for herself, she sought the judge’s approval to be un-emancipated, meaning her parents would be required by law to support her financially even if she was outside their control.

The 18-year-old also reported that she left home because of ongoing abuse from her parents. After reporting it to the school, New Jersey’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) was called to open an investigation on the household.

The high school senior was suing her parents for outstanding private high school tuition, immediate housing and transportation expenses, future college fund that she said was relocated after she was kicked out, and the attorney fees for the ongoing lawsuit.Her parents had a different story.Rachel Canning

Sean Canning, Rachel’s father and retired Lincoln Park Police Chief, said that Rachel moved out of the house voluntarily in October because she did not want to follow the household rules including a curfew and breaking up with her boyfriend who her parents found to be a bad influence.

Her parents stated that Rachel and her boyfriend were suspended for truancy in October, according to a report by CNN, and that she had a history of concerning behavior, from drinking, losing her captaincy on the school cheerleading squad, and being kicked out of the school’s campus ministry.

Sean and Elizabeth Canning denied all claims of abuse and expressed how much they missed their daughter. The report from New Jersey’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) declared that after hours of interviewing and observing Rachel, her parents, and her sisters, there was no evidence of abuse.

Rachel requested an emergency order that entitled her to $650 from her parents each week in child support, living expenses, the existing charges for her private school tuition and then future college tuition as well.

During the first round hearing in the lawsuit, which took place on March 4, Rachel was denied immediate financial assistance from her parents by family court judge Peter Bogaard.

“Do we want to establish a precedent where parents live in basic fear of establishing rules of the house?” he said in regards to denying Rachel’s request, according to the New York Daily News.

Although she lost the first round in court, Rachel earned much more soon after. She was granted a $56,000 scholarship to Western New England University in Springfield, Massachusetts where she will study biomedical engineering.

On March 11 Rachel moved back in with her parents and dropped the lawsuit against them the very next day, USA Today reports.

The results of this case prove parents do, after all, have the right to use their discretion to guide their children, identify misbehavior and apply consequences.

Former Arizona CPS Staffers Claim Ex-Director Knew of Uninvestigated Reports

Former Child Protective Services staffers claim they weren’t the only ones who knew of un-investigated reports but claim they were fired while the agency’s ex-director, Clarence Carter, stays put.

At least five former Child Protective Services staffers said in a report that Carter knew cases were not actively being investigated and that he had knowledge of the agency’s attempt to cover up the problem years before the investigation of the agency broke out.

However, Clarence Carter told the Department of Public Safety, after the discovery that over 6,000 reports of child abuse and neglect had gone un-investigated, that he had no knowledge of cases not being assigned or handled until November 2013.Clarence Carter

The former CPS employees, on the other hand, are saying that discussions between Carter and at least five others about the neglected reports took place starting in 2011, according to the Arizona Republic.

Governor Jan Brewer is currently reworking CPS (learn more about Gov. Brewer’s changes to CPS here) by giving it a new name, the Division of Child Safety and Family Services, and changing the infrastructure of the agency altogether. She appointed Charles Flanagan to replace Carter as director of the agency, but Carter remains involved in the division.

Both Flanagan and Carter have since fired five former staffers and the deputy director of programs at Department of Economic Security, Sharon Sergent, who was involved in the development of an informal policy that designated unassigned child abuse and child neglect reports as “Not Investigated”.

Thousands of cases were unworthy of investigation “NI” under this policy so that when unassigned reports were looked up, they at least had the appearance of a legitimate classification, the Arizona Republic reports.

While Sergent and others such as, Tracey Everitt who was one of the five fired employees involved in the NI process, claim that Carter was informed of the policy all along, yet Carter has not been linked to the issue and is no where near being terminated like Sergent or Everitt.

While some support Carter, like Rep. Steve Smith R-Maricopa and Flanagan, Carter’s role as the former leader of CPS is enough fuel for many others to believe that he should be fired from the agency altogether, disregarding whether or not he knew of the NI policy.

“To me, it’s a problem if he knew, and it’s a problem if he didn’t know,” Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix, told The Arizona Republic.

“As leader of the organization, he should have known about that, and if he didn’t, why didn’t he? Was he not checking with the supervisors?”

Despite contrasting opinions from state officials, speculation and reports from multiple former CPS employees, Carter remains in position, and the Governor’s Office has made no motions indicating that will change.

Missouri Man Ignored for 13 Years of Life by Judicial System Regains His Freedom

A Missouri man who was sent to jail after going unnoticed for 13 years by the judicial system before officials realized he’d never served his sentence, has been released.

Judge Terry Lynn Brown decided that Cornealious Anderson successfully turned his life around during the 13 years he should have been in jail. He will not serve any additional jail time.

Judge Brown praised Anderson for his behavior, saying, “You’ve been a good father. You’ve been a good husband. You’ve been a good taxpaying citizen of the state of Missouri. That leads me to believe that you are a good and changed man,” NBC News reports.Cornealious Anderson

The legal system is not flawless; there are times when sentences fall through the cracks and mistakes are made by law enforcement, but who is responsible for these errors? That’s exactly what Missouri man Cornealious “Mike” Anderson, 37, found out on May 6 when he was freed from jail and relieved of his former sentence.

Anderson was convicted of armed robbery of a Burger King manager in 2000, and spent 13 years awaiting his prison sentence. After being convicted, he was told to wait for instructions on when and where to report to surrender himself, but those instructions never came.

His case was nearly forgotten until July 2013 when a SWAT team arrived at his home one morning and took him to the Southeast Correctional Center in Charleston, Mo. the Associated Press reported.

During that 13-year period, he paid taxes, opened and registered three small businesses and even paid traffic tickets and never once received any notice from the Missouri penal system regarding his conviction.

As the years passed, Anderson remained in the dark about his case. His attorney, Patrick Megaro, told the AP that Anderson believed law enforcement must have changed their minds or stopped caring about his case because over ten years had passed and neither he nor Megaro had any new information on what he was supposed to do.

So Anderson went on with his life. He stayed in the St. Louis area and got married, fathered four children, coached his son’s football team, joined and volunteered at a local church all without concealing his identity or hiding from police according to the New York Daily News.

Megaro said that Anderson went unnoticed for so long due to clerical errors. Once the Missouri Department of Corrections realized this, they took Anderson to jail despite the fact that the 13 years Anderson was supposed to spend in prison had already passed.

Anderson, his family and Megaro hoped he wouldn’t have to stay in jail since his 13-year sentence was technically up in 2013, but the Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said in a court response April 15 that the state was justified in making Anderson serve the sentence, according to the AP.

At first, it was unclear what would happen next with Anderson’s case. Koster said Megaro could re-file the case and target the director of the Department of Corrections, which could result in credit for time served as Anderson was supposed to be in jail and there had been other actions Koster and Gov. Jay Nixon could have taken toward Anderson’s case.

However, Megaro didn’t think the credit would apply since Anderson was never behind bars. Instead, he relied on case law, the AP said.

Megaro said he could use a case from 1912, the only other time a case like this occurred in Missouri, where the charged man was set free.

Anderson didn’t go unnoticed for long, this time for the better. The New York Daily News reported that an online petition on change.org was created in support of his freedom. As of April 21, the petition had more than 30,000 signatures.

Oklahoma’s Botched Double Execution Controversy

An experimental cocktail of drugs used in the lethal injection of Oklahoma’s first double execution in 80 years improperly killed one man sparking controversy nationwide.

Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner were both scheduled to be executed Tuesday, April 28, in an Oklahoma correctional center.

Lockett was first and was executed with a concoction of three drugs: midazolam to cause unconsciousness, vecuronium bromide to stop respiration and potassium chloride to stop the heart, the LA Times reports.

This mixture was injected into Lockett’s body and he appeared to be unconscious, but after several minutes passed, it was clear the injections weren’t having the anticipated effects. He began twitching and eventually seizing.

Lockett eventually died of a massive heart attack due to the explosion of a vein, USA Today said.

The botched execution is only part of the controversy at hand. The constitutional whirlwind taking place in Oklahoma is causing an even bigger uproar as the state Supreme Court reversed itself as a reaction to pressure from Oklahoma officials to proceed with the executions.Robert Patton

The Oklahoma state Supreme Court responded to a civil suit filed by Lockett and Warner requesting information on the lethal drugs to be used during the execution. Justices delayed the double execution in a 5-4 decision, putting into question the state’s injection secrecy law which allows state officials to keep basic information about the injections under wraps.

Soon after that decision was made, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin stated that she would not follow the Supreme Court’s orders and threatened to proceed with the state appellate court’s decision to carry on with the execution, according to the LA Times.

Republican state lawmaker, Rep. Mike Christian also refused to accept the state Supreme Court’s orders and introduced impeachment proceedings against each of the justices, The Week said.

Both officials believe that the Oklahoma Supreme Court overstepped its boundaries by delaying the case because of a state law that separates the duties of the two high courts.

The appellate court manages civil matters and the Supreme Court manages criminal matters, so Gov. Fallin and Rep. Christian do not believe the justices had a right to delay the execution, The Week said.

The Supreme Court reversed itself a day later stating that Lockett and Warner were given adequate information. The delay was removed, keeping the executions on-track with the April 28 date, the LA Times reports.

Since Lockett’s failed execution, Warner’s execution has been postponed for two weeks by Gov. Fallin who asked for a review of the state’s execution procedures to determine what exactly went wrong.

Questions about the constitutionality of the death penalty are rapidly surfacing.

Warner’s attorney, Madeline Cohen, spoke out against the continuance of the death penalty in Oklahoma until the procedures there, and in other states practicing the death penalty, become transparent.

“Tonight, in a climate of secrecy and political posturing, Oklahoma intends to kill two death row prisoners using an experimental new drug protocol, including a paralytic, making it impossible to know whether the executions will comport with the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual suffering,” she said before the execution, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Oklahoma isn’t the only state with lethal injection secrecy laws. Missouri and Louisiana do as well, resulting very little information on the execution procedure. Other states, like Georgia, are debating the constitutionality of introducing these secrecy laws.

The impact of this case is far reaching, as the nation is questioning the constitutionality of the death penalty altogether, the capability of prison authorities to administer lethal injections and whether or not these injections violate the 8th Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment.

For now, Gov. Fallin has not said if Warner’s two week period could be extended, so he and Cohen will wait for results of Lockett’s execution review and proceed from there.

Marissa Devault Sentenced to Life in Prison

Marissa Devault was sentenced to life in prison on April 30 for the murder of her husband in 2009.

On April 9, 2014, Marissa Devault of Gilbert was convicted for bludgeoning her husband to death with a hammer in 2009. The trial took many turns amid conflicting statements from the defendant and witnesses as the jury worked to determine whether Devault should be sentenced to death or spend her life in prison.Marissa Devault Convicted

Marissa Devault’s husband, Dale Harrell, was found in the master bedroom of their home, his face and head severely beaten with a claw hammer on January 14, 2009.

At first, Devault claimed that her husband had strangled her unconscious, and when she woke up, she saw an invader beating him with a hammer. Later, she admitted to attacking him with a hammer in self-defense after he had sexually assaulted her, AZFamily reports.

Marissa Devault, 36, claimed that she “snapped,” according to AZ Central.

Harrell died in hospice care from head injury complications three weeks after the beating. Devault was on trial for first-degree murder at the time, with allegations of a decade of physical abuse and rape by her husband as her explanation.

Devault was indicted on March 4, 2009, according to Maricopa County Court records. It was determined she was mentally competent to stand trial on Sept. 14, 2010.

Prosecutors later claimed in court that Devault killed Harrell in an attempt to collect his life insurance as a way to pay back a loan from her suspected boyfriend, Allen Flores.

The course of the trial has been turbulent since the beginning, with a false confession from roommate, Stanley Cook, who suffers from brain damage-induced memory loss, to an ex-boyfriend who claims Devault told him to “take care” of the abusive husband who she initially told him had died of stomach cancer.

A string of ex-lovers have made statements to police, one of whom said he gave Devault $360,000 over the course of two years. The lover, Flores, stated the two met on a website designed to connect endowed men, or “sugar daddies,” to “women in financial need,” according to azcentral.com.

The conflicting statements by all parties complicated Devault’s accusations of abuse of her and her daughters.

On March 5, 2014, a controversy arose regarding the court usage of the interview of one of Devault’s daughters, who recently turned 18. Judge Roland Steinle barred the use of the interview in the trial unless the daughter testifies.

Jurors decided on Monday, April 14, that Devault had indeed killed her husband in an especially cruel manner, making her eligible for the death penalty. This opened the door for the jury to determine if Devault should be imprisoned for life or sentenced to death, according to AZFamily.

On Wednesday, April 30, the jury sentenced Devault to life in prison, and a judge will determine on June 1 if she will be eligible for parole, KPHO reports. Devault would have been the third Arizona woman to serve on death row.