Hartford federal drug charges defense attorneyFor years now, many lawmakers have agreed that the United States criminal justice system has needed major reforms. Many bills intended to address this issue have been introduced in the past few years, but most have fallen on deaf ears in Congress and have not made their way to the President’s desk. This all changed in December 2018 when President Trump signed the FIRST STEP Act into law. The FIRST STEP Act is one of the first major changes to sentencing for federal drug crimes and is intended to help reduce the prison population. It will also help those who are newly convicted with drug crimes.

Reforms Made By the FIRST STEP Act

The FIRST STEP Act pushes the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to assess the risks and needs for every offender when they are sentenced. Then, the BOP will attempt to reduce the rate of reoffending through individualized and evidence-based plans, which will be offered to all inmates. Programs that could be a part of these plans may include substance abuse treatment, mental health care, anger-management courses, job training, educational support, and even faith-based initiatives.

Another reform made by the Act is intended to help inmates transition back into their communities. The Act allows inmates to serve a portion of the end of their imprisonment in a halfway house or in-home confinement. This allows inmates to successfully transition back into normal life and lowers their chances of reoffending. The BOP will perform the risks and needs assessment more frequently during this time to make sure the services the inmate needs are there.

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marijuana-medical-test-rulingImagine a scenario in which you are applying for a job. You pass the interview stage with flying colors, and the hiring manager is ready to bring you on immediately. The only thing you have left to do is pass a pre-employment drug screening. You are not worried because everything you currently take has been prescribed by a doctor who is licensed to practice in your state. When the screening results come back, however, they show that you have a particular drug in your system—one that you even told your prospective employer about beforehand. As a result of the test, your job offer is rescinded. Sounds pretty unfair, does it not? This is exactly what happened to a Connecticut woman in a situation that shows just how far we have left to go as our country tries to figure out exactly how to handle medical marijuana.

A Quick Background

In 2016, a woman was recruited and applied to work at a nursing home and rehabilitation center in Niantic, Connecticut. The woman’s interviews went well, and she was offered the position of Activities Manager pursuant to a pre-employment drug test. Prior to the screening, she informed the hiring manager that she was a registered patient under Connecticut’s Palliative Use of Marijuana Act (PUMA)—the state’s legal medical marijuana program. She had been in an accident in 2012 and was currently using a prescribed pill form of marijuana at night to help with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.

As she expected, the drug screening did indicate the presence of THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana. What she did not expect, however, was the rescinding of her job offer. The nursing home decided they could not hire the woman because they used the federal list of legal drugs, and marijuana is not a legal prescription under federal law. The woman subsequently filed a lawsuit for employment discrimination under PUMA, which specifically prohibits employers from making employment decisions based on an applicant’s status as a registered medical marijuana user.

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drugs, Hartford criminal defense attorneyThe United States is in the midst of a horrific crisis related to drug abuse. The problem is so widespread that it is largely known as an epidemic. On an average day, about 115 people in the U.S. die as the result of an opioid overdose. Opioids include prescription pain relievers like Vicodin and OxyContin, as well as heroin and fentanyl. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the financial cost of prescription opioid misuse—not included illegal drugs like heroin—is about $78.5 billion annually.

There are two primary philosophies when it comes to dealing with America’s drug problem. The first is more draconian, and it involves harsh criminal prosecution for those who use, sell, and manufacture illegal drugs, as well as those who use otherwise-legal prescription drugs in illegal ways. The second, one could argue, is more compassionate, and it involves treating substance abuse like a disease. Laws across the country seem to bounce back and forth between the two sides when it comes to individual drug users, but when an overdose death occurs, the prosecution philosophy often takes over.

Could You Be Considered a Drug Dealer?

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opioid, Connecticut drug crimes defense attorneyAccording to the National Institute on Drug abuse, 115 individuals die in the United States every day as the result of an opioid overdose. The issue has become serious enough in recent years to earn its description as a national epidemic crisis. Not all opioids are illegal, and in fact, many cases of abuse begin with a legal prescription for pain relievers like OxyContin. Patients can quickly become addicted and when the legal supply dries up, they often turn to illegal substitutes like heroin.

Lawmakers around the country have been looking for constructive ways to deal with the opioid crisis. One idea involves the creation of “opioid courts” which are intended to help those who have been arrested for non-violent drug crimes related to opioids. Several such courts have been established around the country, and some Connecticut legislators want to look into creating one in this state.

A Proposed Study

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death, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyFor decades, drug dealers have faced serious criminal consequences if they were caught selling illegal substances like cocaine, heroin, prescription pills, marijuana or other drugs. Now, because of a disturbing increase in drug overdoses, those who sell drugs may be facing even more severe penalties.

Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for those under the age of 50. In 2016, overdoses were linked to the death of approximately 64,000 people in the U.S. Some states have already been able to legally charge dealers of drugs like cocaine or heroin with first-degree murder if the drugs they sold led to a person’s death through overdose. However, the proliferation of a new drug called fentanyl has caused legislators to sanction even stricter laws.

Fentanyl is a drug up to 50 times more powerful than heroin. It is often combined with heroin—sometimes without the dealer or buyer’s knowledge. Fentanyl is intended to be used for anesthesia or for managing chronic pain. When prescribed and monitored by a medical professional, it can be a beneficial drug, but when recreational users underestimate the amount of fentanyl they are consuming, it can be deadly. Fentanyl caused 20,100 deaths in 2016 in the United States alone. This represents a staggering 540% increase in overdose deaths caused by the drug in the last three years.

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