Medicinal Marijuana in Minnesota: First State to Offer Only Smoke-Free Medicinal Cannabis

Posted on: June 12th, 2015 by | No Comments

As of June 1, 2015, Minnesota residents can begin the application process to become certified marijuana purchasers and, in less than a month (July 1, 2015), they can receive final certification to legally buy and take cannabis – but only in pill, oil, and liquid form. Minnesota is the first state in the nation to legalize only smoke-free marijuana, but has become one of 24 states that have legalized the substance.

In order to qualify, a person must:

  • Be a legal resident of Minnesota
  • Have a qualifying condition –
    • Cancer (associated with select symptoms)
    • Glaucoma
    • Tourette Syndrome
    • Lou Gehrig’s Diseases/Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
    • Crohn’s Disease
    • HIV/AIDS
    • Terminal illness (life expectancy of 12 months or less)
    • Epilepsy and other seizure inducing diseases
    • Multiple Sclerosis and other chronic pain/muscle spasm conditions

Legal logistics are still a bit grey. Unless granted a valid search warrant, state and federal officials will not know who is on the patient registry, and the only people who can approve patient certification are physicians or health care practitioners. The federal government still does not recognize any form of marijuana as legal, but there is no indication of federal officials interfering with state-regulate pot businesses at this time. That being said, eight distribution centers will open in Minnesota to dispense the pills, oils, and liquid, and they are the only locations where marijuana can legally be sold. Hospitals and pharmacies will no longer be able to distribute cannabis. Instead, the certified patients will have to go to one of the designated distributors.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) released this simple, yet informative infographic regarding the new policies regarding medicinal marijuana in Minnesota.

Minnesota Defamation Law Ruled Unconstitutional After Online Revenge Case

Posted on: May 28th, 2015 by | No Comments

Minnesota’s defamation law was struck down in May on the basis that it could be used to unfairly infringe upon free speech rights.

The decision was made after the state’s Court of Appeals overturned the conviction of a man who’d added a post on Craigslist – posing as his ex-girlfriend and her 17-year-old daughter on the site’s personals section as revenge after a bitter fight.

Timothy Robert Turner’s actions were discovered when the woman and girl began receiving explicit messages in response to the ad.

According to a story from the Star Tribune, Judge Denise Reilly called the Turner’s behavior “reprehensible and defamatory” in the ruling, despite setting aside the conviction. And although the man’s actions were clearly wrong and something he’d admitted to, his lawyer, John Archechigo, was successfully able to argue that his client’s actions didn’t matter because the law that the conviction was based upon was too broad.

“This type of challenge, it wasn’t necessarily advocating for the type of behavior that the defendant engaged in,” Arechigo noted, via a report from the Associated Press.

Not Designed for the Internet Age

In the meantime, the decision could leave state government scrambling to pass new legislation aimed at punishing impersonators who use the Internet – something that obviously wasn’t taken into account upon the defamation law’s passage back in 1963.

The law had allowed prosecutors to go after those who’d made true statements – something that today is considered a clear violation of the 1st amendment.

When initially looking to prosecute Turner, prosecutors were on the fence as to which charge should apply to the case – at one point, even considering pursuing him for disorderly conduct, something they ultimately decided didn’t fit the crime.

Turner, meanwhile, appears to be off the hook as charging him under a different law would be considered double jeopardy. Prosecutors, however, could appeal to the state court in a bid to bring back the conviction in its current form.

Smith’s Defense Attorney Files Appeal with Minnesota Supreme Court

Posted on: April 15th, 2015 by | No Comments

The defense attorney of Byron Smith, convicted of two counts of first-degree premeditated murder a year ago this month (April 2014), have filed an appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court seeking that his conviction either be dismissed, or reevaluated in a lower court.

Smith’s conviction came as a result of the shooting deaths of 17-year-old Nicholas Brady and 18-year-old Haile Kifer. Smith shot the teens, who had broken into his home, on Thanksgiving Day 2012. This break-in was the last of a string of burglaries that plagued the home, having prompted Smith to carry a gun and install a security system. This security system ultimately captured the event on audio and video, in addition to more than six hours of audio Smith recorded in the basement on a digital recorder.

The initial shots fired at Brady and Kifer, neither of which was fatal, would have likely been justified under Minnesota’s castle doctrine, which defends the use of force to protect oneself against an intruder in the home. The prosecution argued that the shots fired injured the intruders removing the immediate threat and therefore making the subsequent gunshots unnecessary, and illegal.

The appeal, filed by attorney Steven Meshbesher, is grounded on missteps in the previous trial. These errors include evidence shown to the Grand Jury, as well as evidence deemed inadmissible in the Morrison County District Court. We have yet to how the Supreme Court will decide in the matter.

Minnesota Supreme Court Rules No Warrant Needed to Search Curbside Garbage

Posted on: March 29th, 2015 by | No Comments

On Wednesday, March 11th, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that residents should have no expectation of privacy once they put their trash bins on the curb for pickup.

The case in question, that of David McMurray, hinged on the admissibility of a warrant to search his home, which was only procured when police found drug paraphernalia in his curbside garbage bin.

Police were alerted to the residence when McMurray’s daughter informed a mandated reporter that she had seen her mother with a pipe used for drugs. A search of the trash bin yielded white residue laden plastic bags, which later tested positive for methamphetamine, amongst other items. This was used as evidence that prompted the search warrant that led to McMurray’s arrest.

Though there was a dissenting justice, the decision determines that the Minnesota Constitution does not provide any additional privacy protection than the supreme law of the land, the U.S. Constitution. This decision is in agreement with the Court of Appeals decision to rule the search constitutional.

In the final decision, the court cited that because garbage is left out with the expectation that a third-party will collect it, said third-party could easily sort through it or allow someone else to do so. Therefore, garbage left out on the public street should not be considered private.

This ruling raises questions concerning crimes such as identity theft and other fraud that is made possible by accidentally discarded sensitive personal information. And the issue of having searches conducted without “reasonable articulable suspicion of wrongdoing,” a concern which was brought forth by dissenting Justice David Lillehaug.

Loophole in Minnesota Law Reduces Drugged Driving Convictions

Posted on: February 24th, 2015 by | No Comments

Law enforcement officers have been arresting impaired drivers in record numbers, with over 1,000 people convicted in Minnesota since 2013, according to Fox 9 News.

A loophole has been found in Minnesota law affecting the fate of those accused of drugged driving. These cases differ from those dealing with alcohol – which are decided based on whether or not the driver is above the legal blood alcohol content limit of .08 – in that there is no threshold to determine whether or not someone is under the influence of drugs.

To get a conviction, prosecutors must use sobriety test results and dash-cam videos to demonstrate that the accused party was in fact under the influence. Yet, the real difficulty lies in the way Minnesota law views drugged driving.

The state of Minnesota has a specific list of substances that, when found in a person’s system, can incur a DWI charge. If the drug found in the driver’s system is not on that list, they cannot be charged for driving while intoxicated, regardless of any other evidence to the contrary.

Drugs not listed include certain prescription drugs, as well as cough syrup. Though these drugs can have function impairing side effects, a person operating a motor vehicle cannot be charged with DWI if using or abusing them.

Other states, such as the state of California, have bypassed this loophole by citing that the use of any drug that causes impairment while operating a motor vehicle is grounds for a DWI.

As more attention is drawn to the issue will Minnesota lawmakers change the current laws regarding drugged driving? Only time will tell. Until then, drugged driving convictions will likely remain stagnant as the number of impaired drivers continues to rise.

U.S. Supreme Court Provides Clarity on Unlawful Cellphone Searches

Posted on: August 25th, 2014 by | No Comments

The nation’s highest court has provided clarity on when and how cellphones can be searched.

In a win for privacy rights activists, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that authorities are not allowed to search cellphones in connection to taking someone into custody. Instead, authorities must seek court-approved warrants before proceeding.

The question posed to the Supreme Court was to whether or not phone data fits in with other contraband that might be on a suspect, like in their pocket.

“Modern cell phones, as a category, implicate privacy concerns far beyond those implicated by the search of a cigarette pack, a wallet or a purse,” stated Chief Justice John Roberts upon making the ruling, according to USA Today.


‘Defense of Dwelling’ Heads to MN Supreme Court

Posted on: August 7th, 2014 by | No Comments

The Minnesota State Supreme Court is set to examine the issue known as “defense of dwelling.” The consideration is expected after a man in Waseca, Minnesota received three assault charges, according to an AP report appearing on

51-year-old Daniel Devens, who was charged, supposedly came into contact with an intoxicated man in the hallway of his apartment complex. According to Devens’ account, the intoxicated man was knocking loudly and that’s when Devens asked him to leave.

Devens then walked the intoxicated man down the hallway. After that? The intoxicated man claims Devens hit him, resulting in a brawl that eventually led to the two falling down the stairs. The intoxicated individual spent around a week recovering from injuries he sustained during the incident. (more…)

What Minnesota’s New Expungement Law Means for Criminal Records

Posted on: June 13th, 2014 by | No Comments

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton in May approved a law that changes the expungement process and how it relates to criminal records.

The bill itself is aimed at giving former offenders a second chance after prolonged periods of time in instances where they’ve reformed their lives. Should an offender complete a diversion program and stay clean for at least two years, they could qualify for their records to be expunged, according to a report from (more…)

Minnesota Changes Law on Civil Forfeiture

Posted on: May 30th, 2014 by | No Comments

Minnesota citizens can no longer be forced to permanently forfeit property without receiving a criminal conviction or admitting to guilt, according to a new law signed by Governor Dayton in May.

Known as “civil forfeiture,” the provision previously gave authorities the ability to force citizens to forfeit items in civil courts, even if they hadn’t been found guilty in criminal court.

The new bill known as SF 874 also places a new burden of proof on the government, according to a Forbes report. This means that citizens are no longer required to prove that their property wasn’t used in a crime in order for it to be returned. Now the government must provide such proof. (more…)

Mark Giancola Convinces Court to Dismiss Felony Drug Case

Posted on: November 8th, 2013 by | No Comments

On October 30, 2013, Judge Pendleton of Anoka County dismissed a two-count felony complaint against Mr. Giancola’s client for: 1) possession of a controlled substance, and 2) illegal possession of a firearm. Mr. Giancola secured this dismissal by convincing Judge Pendleton the warrant officers used to gather evidence against his client was illegally obtained. More specifically, in his legal memorandum to the judge, Mr. Giancola argued the information contained in the officers’ warrant application was stale (old), and the warrant failed to demonstrate a sufficient nexus between what the officers wanted and the crime Mr. Giancola’s client allegedly committed. Because Mr. Giancola convinced the judge officers obtained the evidence pursuant to a defective warrant, the judge suppressed all evidence and dismissed the case for lack of probable cause.


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