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know county defense lawyerOn April 20th of this year, two teenage brothers were found dead in their Roane County, TN home. According to law enforcement, the teens, aged 19- and 17-years old, had a variety of drugs on them and it was determined both died from a lethal dose of fentanyl in pill form. Last week, police arrested a Rockwood, Tennessee couple, charging them with two counts of second-degree murder in the brothers’ death. The couple has also been charged with reckless endangerment, possession of marijuana with intent to sell, possession of drug paraphernalia, money laundering, and possession of a weapon during the commission of a felony.

Death By Distribution

Tennessee, just like at least 20 other states in the country, has enacted a death by distribution/drug-induced homicide law. Under Tennessee’s death by distribution law, an individual can be charged with second-degree murder if they sell or give someone fentanyl or carfentanil either alone or in combination with any controlled substance (per the Tennessee Drug Control Act of 1989) and that person dies because of those drugs.

When a person is charged with death by distribution, the prosecutor does not have to prove the individual acted with malice; they only need to prove that they supplied someone with the drugs that killed them.

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Knox County criminal defense attorney drug possession

If you are a parent, you know that it is far from uncommon for teens to push the limits. Their desire for independence can lead them to defy your rules, any regulations set by their high school, and even legal limits that apply to all Americans. Testing the limits is not always a bad thing, but when drugs and alcohol are involved, things can quickly take a turn for the worse. For those who are at the legal drinking age, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is 0.08 percent. For those under 21, Tennessee law enforcement has no tolerance for a BAC over zero. Unfortunately, many teens will get behind the wheel after drinking or doing drugs, assuming that they are OK to drive, but then they end up facing driving under the influence (DUI) charges. Such penalties often lead to losing your driver’s license, but what about other drug or alcohol violations that were not committed while driving?

Drug Free Youth Act Offenses

For those between the ages of 13 and 17, the Tennessee Drug Free Youth Act allows a court to limit your driving privileges if the minor faces any form of drug charges—even those not committed while driving. This includes any criminal offenses, violations, status offenses, or infractions that involve the possession, sale, use, or consumption of any controlled substance. The severity of the penalties correlates with the number of offenses that the minor has on his or her record.

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Knox County criminal defense attorney drug charges

Drug use often begins as a party tool at a young age and quickly transitions into full force addiction as time goes by. As of late, Tennessee’s district attorneys general have recognized the danger of fentanyl along with its recent resurgence in popularity, and are taking action to educate teens about this illegal substance. Because some controlled substances are more potent and dangerous than others, Tennessee divides these drugs into categories known as schedules, each of which increases in the severity of charge and consequence. Since many teens are unaware of the physical and legal consequences of fentanyl, a high number of Tennessee minors are getting involved with this substance and facing criminal drug charges as a result.

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is steadily climbing its way to becoming the most dangerous drug in America. The United States has seen a significant rise in opioid usage, known as the opioid epidemic, and Tennessee is no exception. According to a report in The Tennessean, over 9,100 people in Tennessee have died of drug overdoses between 2013 and 2018, and over 70 percent of these deaths were partially caused by opioids, including fentanyl. 

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Anderson County drug crimes attorney marijuana

Many states have made the transition to legalize marijuana in one form or another. States such as Colorado have taken a more liberal approach, legalizing all forms of the drug, while others only allow their residents to consume the drugs for medical purposes. Tennessee is one of the most conservative states when it comes to cannabis, with all forms remaining illegal. The state divides drugs into categories known as schedules, and marijuana is a Schedule I drug. Substances that fall under this schedule are always illegal, even medically. In order to legalize marijuana in any form, it would need to be moved to a lower category, thus decriminalizing it. Although this may seem out of reach, Tennessee lawmakers may be taking steps in this direction, which would change how drug crimes are charged in the state.

A Groundbreaking Bill

Many states have recognized the benefits of legalizing marijuana for those who need it medically. By allowing citizens to obtain a medical marijuana card after receiving a doctor’s prescription, they can purchase cannabis to be used for health purposes. In early March, Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill in the state Senate to legalize medical marijuana with existent restrictions. If enacted into law, the bill would allow Tennesseans to legally purchase cannabis lotions, oils, and pills for medical use with a doctor’s approval. However, vapes, edibles, and joints would not be considered a legal form for medical purposes.

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Union County drug charges defense attorney

State policies regarding marijuana have been under deliberation throughout the United States for the past decade. With many states legalizing cannabis for medical and recreational use, Tennessee is one of the few states that has made little progress on the matter, aside from its farming population. In 2018, the hemp growing industry was legalized federally, meaning licensed farmers can grow this crop. Opening up this industry to Tennessee farmers has made the state one of the leading producers in the country. According to a USA Today report, Tennessee has seen a 1,581 percent increase of hemp farmers throughout the state, with 3,800 registered growers as of November 1, 2019. These farmers are licensed to grow up to 51,000 acres of hemp throughout Tennessee, which equates to approximately 10 percent of all of the licensed acreage in the United States. New federal regulations have been released for those participating in the 2020 planting season, and with Tennessee’s high percentage of participation, it is important that state farmers and consumers understand the rules being established to avoid facing drug charges.

Details of the Regulations

On Oct. 31, 2019, the USDA released draft regulations that apply to hemp farmers nationwide. These changes focus specifically on the testing protocols used for the crop. Farmers may be able to grow the same plant that produces marijuana; however, regulations remain in place to limit the level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) present in the plant. THC is the psychoactive component found in hemp that causes the “high” that legislators continue to ban in Tennessee. According to these recent regulations, farmers will be deemed negligent if the THC content present in their crops reaches 0.5 percent, since the legal limit is 0.3 percent. If these crops continue to reach higher levels of concentration for multiple years, the grower risks having his or her license suspended. These “draft rules” will act as a guide for the 2020 growing season, and the final rules will be established in November 2021.

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