Marijuana Legalization Raises Health Issues



Over a dozen states in the United States have decriminalized marijuana possession in small amounts, Massachusetts recently approved medicinal use and Colorado and Washington recently legalized recreational use.

And while you may hear cheers from the counter culture (and old hippies) as well as a yawn from the federal government there are still some health issues to examine.marijuana-legalization-medicine

Proponents of recreational use have long argued that marijuana is safer than alcohol, with less chance of becoming dependent and virtually no incidents of overdose. In fact most of the scientific community agrees that fewer than 10 percent of pot smokers become dependent which is lower than the 15 percent for alcohol, 23 percent for heroin, and 32 percent tobacco.

But there is some evidence that relaxed marijuana laws put the public into some unknown frontiers with regards to their health when consuming it.

So just what does is all this reefer doing to us?

Most people who experimented with marijuana did so with whatever they could find, either on their college campus or “friend of a friend of a friend”. Now that it’s legal and cultivation is more involved than a hidden field in Arkansas, the THC levels (the psychoactive element) of this pot are very different. In fact the levels of THC in cannabis more than doubled from 1993 to 2008.

This increased concentration means a more intense effect on the brain. This may go beyond enjoying a Lord of The Rings marathon and a bag of Cheetos and into real medical issues. Addiction rates may actually increase because of the way the brain reacts to higher THC levels. The “high” may last longer than before and the effects are still unknown.

This is especially concerning for young users of marijuana. Teenagers may be more at risk for addiction as well as developmental problems from early marijuana use. Young users may actually consume more than those who start using at an older age.

Legalization may also be sending a message that marijuana is “safe” and without stigma.

“When people can go to a ‘clinic’ or ‘cafe’ and buy pot, that creates the perception that it’s safe,” said Dr. A. Eden Evins, director of the Center for Addiction Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston said in an article in The New York Times. “Before we unleash the powers of the marketplace to woo people to use this addictive substance, we need to better understand who is at risk.”

The legal age to use recreational marijuana is 21 in both Washington and Colorado but as with alcohol in years past it may not be hard to acquire at a younger age. Studies have shown that teenagers who actively use marijuana perform poorer in school and on standardized tests, including tests for abstract thinking, understanding rules and executive function. And because brain development continues into early adulthood the ramifications of both availability and increased potency raise a number of issues.

Other health issues are more frequent acute chest illnesses and increased risk of lung infections. Researchers have found that users’ risk for a heart attack is four times higher within the first hour after smoking marijuana, compared to their general risk of heart attack when not smoking. Marijuana smoke also contains three times the amount of tar found in tobacco smoke and 50 percent more carcinogens. There is even some evidence of a link between heavy marijuana use and development of schizophrenia.

Whether or not the legalization of marijuana increases among states the medical questions will continue to be asked. This will undoubtedly also raise legal issues, from drugged driving, reduced capacity crimes, quality control matters and others which will undoubtedly break new ground. Time will tell if this is just the beginning.

 

At Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine we can take on criminal drug cases and can help you if you find yourself on the wrong end of a bad decision. For a confidential consultation with a competent and experienced Kansas criminal defense attorney from Fletcher, Rohrbaugh & Chahine, LLP, simply call us at (913) 712-0242, or learn more about other resources a criminal defense attorney can provide on our website.

A New Kansas City Alliance To Fight Violence



Back in May of 2012 a group of police, prosecutors and Kansas City, MO city leaders were given a grant by the Greater Kansas City LISC to launch the KC No Violence Alliance or KC NoVA. It’s an effort to understand and reduce crime in urban core neighborhoods.

The KC No Violence Alliance hopes to reduce violent crime.

The KC No Violence Alliance hopes to reduce violent crime.

This month the alliance announced its launch just as the debate over gun violence is garnering national attention.

Kansas City Missouri Police Capt. Joe McHale knows violence is an issue here, especially involving guns.

“Most of the homicides that occur in Kansas City are the result of handguns, absolutely,” Capt. McHale said in an interview on local TV station Fox 4 KC,  “Handguns are easily available, they’re readily available.”

By developing models that examine the instance of violent crime, the relationships and connections between location and known violent offenders, the alliance hopes to discover methods to counter and reduce violence in KC’s most vulnerable areas.

“In our pilot model, we have been very successful in forecasting where violence will occur in this city,” McHale explained.

In depressed neighborhoods violent crime may occur over the most minor circumstances; an argument, a perceived instance of disrespect, or even being in the wrong neighborhood. KC NoVA hopes to reduce the instances of violence being the response.

According to Police Chief Darryl Forte, guns were used in 83-percent of all homicides last year. But the alliance hopes to go beyond gun violence and into opportunities for less violent offenders. From job training to anger management to increased education of the long-term effects of violence on a neighborhood, the goal is not just apprehension but social change.

It’s a big task but KC NoVA is hoping that by involving so many different organizations that a real impact is possible. Currently the group includes the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office; the Kansas City Police Department; the U.S. Attorney’s Office; and the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole.

Violent crime is never the answer but sometimes a simple mistake or lack of judgment can lead to life-long consequences. If you’re facing criminal charges from a violent offense you need good representation. Call the attorneys at Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine for help. We can advise you on your rights, your possible penalties, and work toward the best case scenario possible.

Who Gets The Friends After Divorce?



When couples divorce most of the things in their lives are divided. From furniture to pets to children the ideal scenario is some sort of happy division of assets and all parties skip along into the sunset.

Dividing friends after a divorce can be difficult.

Unfortunately this is rarely the case. And when it comes to friends there can be challenges because dividing up adult humans just isn’t easy.

Adult friends of divorcing couples will make their own decisions about who they will remain friends with so simply making a list of “his” and “hers” probably won’t work. Often the circumstances of the divorce play a role in what friends remain with each spouse. Starting a campaign to win over those friends probably won’t work, especially if you badmouth, or worse, lie about your ex’s barbarity to animals or clergy.

You’ll probably find the breakdown follows common lines:

Your Friends Before Are Your Friends After: You probably won’t lose your BFFs no matter how horrible you were to your spouse. If you were the victim of a horrible spouse they’ll definitely side with you. Dissuade them of any notion of harm or vandalism to ex-spouse.

Friends During The Marriage: Sometimes this plays out by sex. Girls stay with the girls and so on. Work friends generally stay work friends and you get to keep your chiropractor. Other times it just naturally works out that couples friends shake out and stick with whichever spouse they liked the most. One way for both spouses to keep couples friends is to sign a non-disclosure form-you still get to see each other but agree not to mention either ex-spouse. Ever.

Amazing Disappearing Friends: Some friends will drop you like it’s hot when you become single. Either they’re other couples that need other couples in order to function or they’re single friends and now you’re competition. Either way you’re probably better off as they never returned your colander anyway.

Crisis Friends: These friends will thrive on your misfortune and try and pump up the drama whenever they can. Run away. Unless you like drama and then have lunch with them whenever you can.

Going through a divorce can be one of the most painful experiences of your life. This is when your true friends will be there, by your side, no matter what. No matter if you were wrong, or right, they’ll help you get through it to the other side. They’re the ones who sit through all night marathons of “Sleepless in Seattle” or two solid days of college football and pizza. They’ll talk you out of a tattoo and a late night drive-by and help you keep your dignity. These are the friends you keep.

The rest will sort themselves out later.

Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine is on your side in a divorce. We understand the difficulty and the loss and we will work with you toward the best resolution possible.

 

Protecting Loved Ones From Elder Financial Abuse



According to a study by MetLife older Americans lose nearly $3 billion per year due to elder financial abuse. And while half of the crimes are perpetuated by strangers up to 34% is by family and friends.

Women were nearly twice as likely to suffer financial abuse as men. Most victims were between 80 and 89 years old, lived alone and needed help with both health care and home maintenance.

The criminals were mainly men between the ages of 30 and 59 and struck most often during the holiday season.

For some older people who have lived lives of independence and making their own decisions, it may have been to embarrassing to admit to being a victim of financial abuse.  So, it’s possible the abuse rate is even higher than the statistics show.

Elder financial abuse is on the rise.

Some victims simply lack the tools to find trustworthy financial advice or may not recognize the warning signs of potential abuse, especially when family and friends are involved. They may trust them enough not to question their actions or they may have even turned all their finances over to those they trust. Many aren’t even aware that they are being taken advantage of.

The non-profit Investor Protection Trust (IPT) says that to combat the growing financial abuse of the elderly will require new, joint efforts with authorities and organizations.

Caregivers and health care professionals are the ones who can best help address the problem, the IPT has said. The Elder Investment Fraud and Financial Exploitation (EIFFE) prevention program, which has trained more than 3,000 U.S. medical professionals, was created to help spot older Americans who are vulnerable because of impaired mental capacity.

Elder law experts have some recommendations for elders and their families to avoid becoming a victim.

  • Put financial affairs in order.  Sooner is better than later.
  • See your physicians regularly. They can often post signs of abuse and health scams.
  • Beware of needy people.
  • Those with a history of substance abuse are more likely to be abusers.
  • Don’t make any financial decisions without consulting more than one trustworthy person.
  • Do not make any decisions over the phone with  people you don’t know.  If you are confused or feel pushed or rushed, then say no for now and ask for documentation that supports why they are calling. Make sure you do not give personal information to people that you do not know.  If someone wants to verify your information, then ask them to verify information they have rather than give them what they ask for.
  • Stay visible and connected. This is good for both well-being and because people who live in isolation are more likely to be victims.
  • Keep all valuables in a safe place. This protects against service people, friends or family members who may look for items to take with the understanding that the items will not be missed.
  • If possible, do allow anyone into your home without another person present. Choose caregivers carefully and from an agency if possible.

At Fletcher, Rohrbaugh & Chahine, we can assist you in greatly reducing or eliminating that chances that advantage can be taken of you or the elders that you care about by setting up a simple will, power of attorney, a living will, or a number of other documents that are designed to help protect.
The National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA) has more information about how to recognize and prevent elder financial abuse.

Overland Park Considers Amendments To Open Carry Law



If you live in Overland Park, KS and don’t run out to buy a holster to carry your pistol just yet.

Will you see this on the streets in Kansas?

Even though the state of Kansas passed an open carry law it’s not being greeted with enthusiasm everywhere. Public dissatisfaction is prompting the Overland Park City Council to consider changing some elements of the city ordinance including requiring the same permits required for concealed carry.

The other requirements are American citizenship, an age minimum of 21 years and completion of an eight-hour weapons safety training course. The restrictions are also much the same with regards to criminal history, drug arrests, mental health issues and more.

Councilman Jim Hix told the Kansas City Star that he’s proposing the tighter regulations as a public safety matter, “It is a common sense issue that we have an opportunity to level the requirements and do it in a fairly simple and straight-forward manner.”

Under the Overland Park ordinance, gun owners can openly carry firearms in public places as long as they keep the weapons holstered with the safety engaged and within their immediate control. The law applies to all public places, except buildings that have signs specifically prohibiting weapons.

City officials in Wichita have also been greeted with public grumbles over the ordinance just like Overland Park City and are floating an effort to lobby state lawmakers to give city officials more control over how people carry firearms.

Earl McIntosh, Second Amendment coordinator for the Kansas Libertarian Party, said the proposed changes to Overland Park’s ordinance would cause confusion because they would then vary from one city in Kansas to another.

Hix will bring his proposal to the city council safety committee on Nov. 14. If approved, the full city council will then vote on the proposal.

What do you think? Overland Park, in fact Kansas in general, is a very safe place to live and work. Do you think an open carry law will reduce crime and increase personal safety? Or is there the potential for misuse, crimes of impulse, or intimidation? If someone cuts in line at a gas station would there be a danger of violence carried too far in the heat of the moment?

Let us hear your opinions. At the law firm of Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine we believe in supporting legal rights. But we also understand that sometimes decisions are made that are later regretted, actions taken with serious consequences that can’t be taken back. If you find yourself in this kind of situation you need experienced, compassionate counsel that will help you resolve your circumstances in the best way possible. Our attorneys will consult with you free of charge and make recommendations based on what’s best for you.

Can Sharing The Housework Doom Your Marriage?



The next time your spouse does the dishes, vacuums the floors or puts away the laundry know that you are one step closer to divorce.

Ok, not really. But a recent study in Norway had some curious results that may or may not be true in the US.

Does sharing housework mean trouble?

In that country couples who share housework chores run a higher risk of divorce than couples where the woman does most of the tasks. In fact the divorce rate was 50% higher than those where the woman did the most chores.

The study called, Equality in the Home” found no concrete cause and effect reason but called the correlation a sign of “modern” attitudes. No longer are women expected to carry the majority of the housework burden. And in Norway, long a country of gender equality, men and women are dividing the tasks, including child rearing, according to time and talents more than by gender.

But what does this really mean? Is this justification for the spouse who does less than the other (no way I’m going to say the woman does more than the man, absolutely no way) spouse to continue to sit on the couch with the remote?

Sorry, but no. More than likely it’s simply that couples that share the chores are probably also equally educated and may bring home similar paychecks. The majority of women in these sorts of relationship are no longer dependent on their husbands for financial security and so less likely to stay in a relationship where they just aren’t happy.

In fact women in Norway still account for most of the housework in seven out of 10 couples. And they were just fine with that.

So take this however you’d like but a happy marriage goes way beyond doing the dishes and diapering the baby. It’s about trust and communication, humor and patience, and not some magic formula of laundry detergent.

But if the time comes when a marriage can no longer be sustained Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine can help. We encourage dialogue, fairness, maturity and compassion. We know that a divorce be one of the most difficult and painful events in a person’s life, especially if there are children involved. That means we will be with you all the way to resolve it the best way possible.

Is There An “Easy” Fix For Bad Credit?



The recession which began in 2008 ruined the good credit history of many people. Unemployment, high credit card balances, and even medical expenses can build up until years of hard work and diligence are threatened. Your credit report can influence many things, including getting a job. So if your credit is not in great shape, you might seek help rebuilding your credit only to fall victim to the credit report/repair scams that are popping up.

There are some good credit repair companies out there and we can help refer you to a trusted credit repair company.  However, paying someone who says they can erase bad credit in an instant is almost certainly unrealistic. Scammers will make claims like being able to fix bad credit reports in an instant, remove old or inaccurate information, and make your financial problems disappear. Consumers should be wary of anyone who makes claims of an easy fix.  Identity thieves often use this scam as a way to access personal information and then you’ll really have problems.

Here are a few tips:

  • Check your credit report regularly. Every year consumers can get free reports from all three major credit bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com.
  • Look for outdated or inaccurate information.
  • Check for other problems, such as accounts that you never opened.  This may be a sign of identity theft.
  • Consumers may contact the credit bureau’s themselves to correct mistakes or remove old information.
  • Check with your state’s Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau before paying anyone to work on your credit report.
  • In many cases, getting new credit cards or refinancing to cover your debts will only make the problem worse. You may just be digging yourself in deeper.

Ultimately if you just can’t find your own way out of your current debt situation, you still have options. Carefully weighing these options is the first positive step toward getting back on your feet. Credit counseling, payment arrangements with lender, and credit card companies, and even filing for bankruptcy are all much better options than falling victim to the ‘easy fix’ promised by identity thieves.

Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine can help you navigate a complex financial situation. From debt relief options, exploring bankruptcy, and foreclosure defense, we can work with you to help you understand your options and help you choose how to proceed based on what is in your best interest. We would be happy to consult with you for free so if you need help please call us at (913) 712-0242

The Dangers Of Distracted Driving



Everyone thinks of themselves as “good drivers”. And for the most part we are. We obey traffic laws, drunk driving statistics are down, and cars are safer. But there is an increasing number of people who think safe driving can also be done while talking on cell phones, texting while driving, and even performing simple tasks such as eating or even putting on makeup.

Texting while driving may be as dangerous as driving drunk.

There are 39 states that ban texting while driving and ten states has laws against drivers using cell phones. The National Traffic Safety Bureau has begun keeping statistics on distracted driving accidents and fatalities. And while it’s more difficult to determine if a driver was actually distracted when an accident occurs they estimate that about 3,000 people died in distracted driving accidents in 2010. Another 419,000 were injured in the same year.

A study performed at Virginia Tech determined that the crash risk increases 23 times when a driver is distracted. The study included distractions such as texting, talking on a cell phone, reaching for objects and eating.

Other research compares distracted driving with drunk driving with regards to reaction time, the ability to avoid obstacles such as other cars, and divided attention and have found very close similarities. A distracted driver may pose as great a threat to themselves and others as a driver who has been drinking.

Young drivers are more likely to text and talk while driving. An AAA study found that 46% of teens admit to texting and 51% to talking on their cell phones. This number is probably drastically low as most teens won’t own up to the habit.

Car and Driver performed an informal test comparing the two, with two different drivers on a closed airport runway. They measured reaction times when their subjects were sober, distracted (in this case reading and sending text messages) and finally with a blood alcohol level of .08, the legal blood alcohol limit.

Amazingly, the results of the intoxicated driving test were actually better than the results of driving while texting. A breakdown of the results for braking showed this:

  • Unimpaired: .54 seconds to brake
  • Legally drunk: add 4 feet
  • Reading e-mail: add 36 feet
  • Sending a text: add 70 feet
And while this test is very informal these results are alarming.
Driving laws are slowly catching up to the dangers of distracted driving and while fines are still relatively low for violating them, hopefully it won’t be long before the penalties catch up with the dangers. In the meantime we would all do well to keep our eyes and our attention on the road. Think of your car as a little oasis from all the demands we feel everywhere else.

 

The Predator Next Door: Protecting Children From Sexual Abuse



Former Penn State assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky, was recently sentenced to 30-60 years for sexually abusing several young boys over a period of many years. Several of his victims have come forward to testify in court but many others may still be in the shadows.

Matt Rourke/AP Photo

It’s difficult to determine how often child sexual abuse occurs because it’s more secret than physical abuse. Children are taught to respect adults and bow to their wishes, and many children are brushed off when they try to convey a disturbing experience. There is also the shame they feel for letting themselves be coerced as well as the physical act itself.

Sexual abuse happens in every social and economic class and the abusers are more often men. They may be a family member or friend. The abuser will normally cultivate a relationship with the child, earning their trust, and even love, which makes the abuse even more devastating as the child is betrayed both physically and emotionally.

Young victims of abuse are also susceptible to the same risk factors as victims of physical abuse including alcohol and drug abuse, family conflicts, and poverty and may even perpetuate similar abuse on other children.

How do I know if a child is being sexually abused?

According to the National Institute of Health, the symptoms of child sexual abuse are similar to those of depression or severe anxiety and include:

  • Bowel disorders, such as soiling oneself.
  • Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa
  • Genital or rectal symptoms
  • Repeated headaches
  • Sleep problems
  • Stomach aches

Children who are abused may:

  • Display disruptive behaviors such as using alcohol and street drugs or engaging in high-risk sexual behaviors
  • Do poorly in school
  • Have excessive fears
  • Withdraw from normal activities.

What should I do if I suspect child sexual abuse?

If child abuse is suspected the child must be seen by a health care professional such as a pediatrician, family medicine doctor or emergency room doctor as soon as possible as the physical signs are temporary. Law enforcement should also be called at the same time.

A mental health professional should also be consulted regardless of whether or not physical evidence is detected. It’s possible that the abuse was in the past but the child is only now brave or determined enough to bring it to light.

Support groups are also strongly recommended for abused children, their parents, and caretakers.

These organizations can provide additional information.

Child Help USA

Prevent Child Abuse America

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network

Our children deserve our protection and we have a  responsibility to confront any and all suspected abuse. Child abuse victims are often preyed upon by someone they trust, and sometimes that abuser is a family member. If this is the case they must be shielded from further incident. Protective orders may need to be issued including Child In Need Of Care. If you suspect a family member is threatening your child call the family law attorneys at Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine. We will meet with you to determine if a protective order is needed and help you fight for your child.

Professional Athletes Often Defeated By Bankruptcy



They seem to have it all. Multi-million dollar salaries, media exposure, the adulation of fans, and all the high-end homes and toys in the world. Professional athletes are admired and rewarded for their talents and this translates into abnormally large salaries and endorsements and you can find their faces on cereal boxes, TV commercials and even motion pictures.

What’s usually not seen is the end of the rainbow for these individuals. According to Sports Illustrated, an astounding 78% of NFL players face bankruptcy or financial difficulties within two years of retirement.

Ten MLB players were victims of an $8 billion fraud perpetrated by a Texas financier.

NBA player Antoine Walker earned a mind-blowing 100 million dollars during his career only to be arrested for writing bad checks in 2009.

Olympic gold Mmedalist Rulon Gardner is facing bankruptcy after bad investments and alleged fraud.

Olympic gold medalist and heart-warmer Rulon Gardner is facing bankruptcy after bad business deals and a stint on a reality show. He never earned the enormous paychecks the more visible professional sports stars receive but nevertheless found himself in similar circumstances.

Money management can be difficult for the ordinary person with an ordinary job and ordinary financial commitments. Professional athletes and sports heroes are rarely equipped with the time, wisdom, or support staff that can adequately handle the vast sums of money that come their way.

They spend, and sometimes waste, their money on luxuries, bad business deals, multiple homes, and cars. They also find themselves surrounded by all the people that a huge salary will attract. Drugs, alcohol, and gambling addictions can siphon off hundreds of thousands of dollars very quickly. And most professional athletes are never given instructions on how to keep their spending in check during what is almost always a very short career.

Financial advisors can sometimes be predators and the responsible ones are often terminated for not indulging rampant spending.

So at the end of their careers the once revered and indulged champion finds himself back among mere mortals without the financial means to continue an over-the-top lifestyle. It’s a rude and sometimes tragic awakening and the consequences often go beyond just bankruptcy. Families find themselves with no support, marriages often crumble, and the former athlete may find that employment prospects are grim.

So it’s understandable when an ordinary person ends up in a difficult situation. If you find yourself in financial straits and you are considering bankruptcy, call us at Fletcher, Rohrbaugh and Chahine. We can help you understand your rights and your options to evaluate if bankruptcy is appropriate for you. We understand the delicate nature of personal finances and can guide you into the best resolution possible.