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Marijuana became legal in Illinois on January 1, yet licensed cannabis dispensaries are generally forced to operate like their street-corner, black-market counterparts in at least one respect: They are cash-only businesses because they have no access to banking services.

Chicago Business Lawyer

Illinois Cannabis Laws create new issues

That’s because federal law still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, and classifies marijuana businesses as illegal. And since banking is regulated by federal law, banks technically could be subject to charges like aiding and abetting, or money laundering, should they make loans, provide credit or otherwise service these businesses.

If you’ve watched any of the Democratic presidential debates, you might have heard candidate and entrepreneur Andrew Yang – you know, the guy with the $1,000 per month guaranteed income plan – talk about something called the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.”   This is a recognition that technology is imploding and changing everything about our lives.

4th-Industrial-Revolution-300x225In describing the ways social media and technology have redefined communication, in 2009 journalist Graeme Wood said that  “Change has never happened this fast before, and it will never be this slow again.”  

Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, coined the phrase “fourth industrial revolution” in his 2016 best seller.  This is techie-speak for disruptive technologies and trends like robotics, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and the Internet of Things – i.e. everyday devices like doorbells and thermostats that you can control remotely – that are changing how we live and work.  This Fourth Industrial Revolution is bringing together digital, physical and biological systems.  It will open up our minds to all kinds of new things:  Mobile supercomputing; Artificially-intelligent robots; Self-driving cars; Neuro-technological brain enhancements; Genetic editing.  We can see the evidence of these revolutionary changes all around us – and it’s happening faster and faster.

The new Illinois laws legalizing cannabis has a benefit to old stoners – expungement of criminal records.

Among the several provisions of the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act which takes effect on January 1 are provisions that include some dramatic criminal justice reforms.  The most important of these provisions are the expungement provisions for certain past cannabis-related criminal convictions.

Chicago Business Lawyer

Illinois laws now permit expungement of prior cannabis related crimes.

Purchasing and flying a drone might seem like either a fun diversion or a new way of doing business.  Professionals who do photography and videography, agriculture, weather forecasting, and increasingly construction are putting drones to commercial use, while they’re being piloted for package delivery through companies like Amazon and UPS.

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Legal issues regarding flying of drones.

Whatever use you have in mind for a drone, make sure you fully investigate federal, state and local laws on the subject, starting with those handed down a few years ago by the Federal Aviation Administration. For starters, drones being used for commercial purposes that weigh less than 55 pounds must have an Airworthiness Certificate, and the operator must have a Remote Pilot Airman Certificate.

After a teenage boy was fingerprinted without written consent when he purchased a season pass to Great America, his mother sued Six Flags for violation of the Illinois Biometrics Act.  In January the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously found that plaintiffs can bring a private cause of action for violations of the state’s biometric privacy law’s notice and consent requirements, even if they can’t show any harm.

The court found (Rosenbach v. Six Flags Entertainment Corporation) that individuals have control of, and a right to privacy over, their biometric identifiers, such as voice samples, retina scans and facial geometry, in addition to fingerprints. Because neither the son nor the mother consented in writing nor signed a written release for the taking of the fingerprint, and because Six Flags did not provide documentation about how long they might retain the data before destroying it, the court found the theme park violated these rights.

This decision underscores the fact that biometric privacy is quickly becoming an area of the law with greater application for businesses—and that they need to start paying attention, particularly as technology ramps up to a whole new level with the advent of microchips.  About the size of a grain of rice, these chips have been voluntarily implanted in the hands of employees at several companies and work like a card reader, providing the ability to open doors, get into company accounts and order from company vendors.

Estate plans should account for the disbursal of all assets, lest they become marooned in probate purgatory.  People are forgetting that they have digital assets that need to be accounted for.

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Protecting Your Digital Assets

Digital assets like cryptocurrency, social media accounts, e-commerce and online accounts need to be cared for just as much as conventional ones, so that family members are able to account for and access them as property, wealth and assets are transferred from one generation to the next.

self-driving-uber-300x165The recent deaths of a motorist and a pedestrian in separate incidents in California and Arizona, respectively, both of which are under National Transportation Safety Board investigation, raise the question of whether autonomous driving technology has become safe enough for day-to-day roadway use.

A man from Peninsula, California, died when his Tesla Model X, which data from the vehicle log showed was in autopilot mode at the time, crashed into a concrete barrier on Highway 101 in nearby Mountain View.

Other Tesla drivers reported similar experiences near this same reeway barrier and others, corroborating accounts of the overall unreliability of the autopilot system near such dividers. At least one Tesla owner who drove near the barrier in question posted several videos showing autopilot steering to the left—straight toward the divider.

bitcoin-1056983-300x169Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have been spreading like cyber-kudzu during the past couple of years in certain corners of the online investing world. More cautious investors still might be hanging back to make sure they’re not a crypto-bubble. And now all investors have a reason to hesitate: a series of legal and regulatory investigations that call into question their stability as investments.

Among the recent developments that could give would-be investors pause:

  • The U.S Securities and Exchange Commission in May announced that it had secured injunctive relief to halt alleged “ongoing fraud” by an unregistered, non-exempt Initial Coin Offering (ICO) that had raised as much as $21 million in cryptoassets. Titanium Blockchain Infrastructure Services, Inc., EHI Internetwork and Systems Management, Inc., and Michael Stollery, a self-described “block chain evangelist,” were collectively accused of fraud in connection with purchase, offer or sale of securities under both the Securities Exchange Act and the Securities Act. The SEC alleged that the defendants created a digital asset known as BAR and TBAR tokens, orchestrated a social media campaign based on false corporate relationships—including, most egregiously, a supposed link with the Federal Reserve Bank—and false testimonials to show their supposed expertise. The complaint further alleged that the group of defendants had generated demand by offering various incentives and creating a sense of urgency, then inflated the price of the tokens on the secondary market in a “pump and dump,” or “create and inflate” scheme. Such schemes are seen as a widespread problem on crypto-exchanges.

Pot in the Workplace?

Illinois legalized the use of marijuana for more than three-dozen medical conditions starting in 2016, and by the end of 2017, nearly 35,000 people had applied for the program. Earlier this month, the legislature voted to allow the use of marijuana in lieu of prescription painkillers, to help avoid opioid addiction, which Governor Bruce Rauner is considering whether to sign.

And if Democratic candidate J.B. Pritzker defeats Rauner in this November’s elections, he has taken the position that he wants to legalize marijuana use in the state for recreational purposes, for the tax revenue it will bring into the state and the law enforcement and prison resources it will save. So where does this leave employers who still want to regulate its use in the workplace?

George-Bellas-Business-Attorney-300x195The growth of online paid subscription services that start with either a free trial that converts to automatic payments, or an upfront payment that automatically renews, have led to lawsuits challenging the clarity of such services’ terms of agreement.

A recent settlement that could total close to $2.3 million between several California jurisdictions and eHarmony, Inc., underscores the fact that small businesses offering automatic renewal subscription plans must present clear terms to customers prior to signup, and then obtain clear consent and an opt-in from customers to incur these fees.

The district attorneys of four California counties and the City of Santa Monica collectively filed the suit against eHarmony for allegedly violating state consumer protection laws—the California Business and Professions Code, and the Restore Online Shoppers Confidence Act. The Superior Court for the State of California for the County of Santa Cruz entered final judgment on Jan. 8.