Medlin Law Firm - October 2019


A Grave Legal Matter

We’ve all played a harmless trick or two, but sometimes, Halloween shenanigans get out of hand. They can lead to hurt feelings, outraged neighbors, and, in the case of Purtell v. Mason, a lawsuit. In the days leading up to Halloween, all was not quiet in the village of Bloomingdale. Previously parked in a storage unit, Jeff and Vicki Purtell’s 38-foot RV was now parked in front of their house. In protest, neighbors petitioned to town officials, wanting an ordinance put in place to prohibit RV parking on residential property. While the ordinance was under consideration, Jeff Purtell took matters into his own hands. He erected six wooden tombstones in his front yard. They seemed to be innocuous Halloween decorations, but these tombstones displayed a special message for the neighbors. Each headstone was inscribed with a sarcastic message and house number, implying the occupants’ death dates. These messages soon caught the neighbors’ attention. The laws surrounding cannabis in the U.S. have been in flux for some time, and believe it or not, Texas is no exception. Thanks to the farm bill, which legalized the cultivation and use of hemp-based products nationally, a new state law has been passed to take this new federal reality into account. For those interested in using CBD oil for pain relief, or for people accused of possessing marijuana, this is positive news. Redefining Marijuana In the past, anything containing even a trace of THC (the chemical compound that gets users “high”) was considered marijuana in the state of Texas. Since it’s nearly impossible to completely eliminate THC from cannabis, this meant that everything made from the plant, including hemp products like CBD oil, were illegal. Now, the legislature has deemed that any substance with less than 0.3% THC is no longer considered marijuana, meaning possession of these products is no longer a crime. Repercussions This 0.3% rule has sent shock waves through the criminal justice system. Most crime labs in Texas lack the ability

“Bette wasn’t ready, but here she lies, ever since that night she died. Twelve feet deep in this trench, still wasn’t deep enough for that stench! 1690.”

Insulted and a little afraid, Purtell’s neighbors called the police to have the headstones removed. After a couple of visits, Officer Bruce Mason arrived and threatened to arrest Purtell if he didn’t take the tombstones down. Purtell obliged, but the matter wasn’t put to rest. The Verdict Purtell sued Officer Mason on the grounds of violating his rights to free speech, and the case made it all the way to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Sykes ruled that the tombstones did not constitute fighting words and were protected under the First Amendment. However, she also ruled that Officer Mason was entitled to qualified immunity, as any reasonable officer would act the same under the circumstances. The bigger question might be how this case made it all the way to the U.S. Court of Appeals. As Judge Sykes wrote in her opinion, “Lawsuits like this one cast the legal profession in a bad light and contribute to the impression that Americans are an overlawyered and excessively litigious people.”


Texas Changes Its Stance on Marijuana

to measure amounts of THC, which has thrown many past and pending possession cases into question. In fact, many prosecutors responded to the law change by simply dropping marijuana possession charges where the level of THC in a product may have been questioned. Our criminal defense team has had far greater success defending what were once open-and-shut cases thanks to this new definition. Hope for Pain Sufferers This legalization of certain hemp-based products is also great news for those who have suffered an injury or are living with chronic pain. Research has shown that CBD can effectively reduce inflammatory and neuropathic pain, making it a favorable alternative to painkillers. However, those interested in trying CBD should do their homework. The industry still lacks regulation, and some products may hold more THC than they claim. Research a product ahead of time before you buy it; otherwise, you may risk being charged with a serious crime. | Pg. 2

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