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The federal spending bill recently passed by Congress may have a dramatic impact on the government's enforcement of federal laws criminalizing marijuana even in states that have legalized medical use of the drug.

The bill is currently awaiting President Obama's signature, reports the Los Angeles Times. But if he signs it as expected, the bill will bring an end to the federal government's prohibition on medical marijuana in states where it's been legalized.

But while the bill signals a new level of tolerance for medical marijuana at the federal level, an amendment still pushes back on Washington, D.C.'s recent passage of a law legalizing recreational use of marijuana.

Among the many important offices and issues voted on in yesterday's midterm elections were marijuana legalization measures in Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia.

And after all was said and done, voters in both states and in Washington, D.C., voted to allow marijuana to be legalized, reports Reuters. Oregon and Alaska now join Washington state and Colorado as the third and fourth states to legalize recreational pot use.

What will these new voter-approved laws allow once they take effect?

Philadelphia is adding increased penalties for hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity after a gay couple was attacked in September.

According to The Associated Press, prosecutors claim they couldn't charge the three assailants with a hate crime because "sexual orientation isn't covered in the state's hate crime law." So Philly's city council moved quickly and passed a new bill authorizing added penalties for hate crimes left out of Pennsylvania's law.

What does this new hate crime law entail?

The Department of Justice will no longer ask defendants who accept a plea deal to waive their rights to appeal their case based on bad advice given by their defense attorneys.

This is a bit of a departure from plea bargain tactics employed by federal prosecutors, which sometimes involve requiring an appeal waiver for any sort of plea deal. According to The Associated Press, this might not be that big a change, as only 35 of the 94 U.S. Attorneys' offices request that defendants pleading guilty give up their right to sue over ineffective counsel.

What does this change in DOJ policy mean for criminal defendants in federal court?

Philadelphia may have just become the largest U.S. city to decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot with a bill signed on Wednesday.

Mayor Michael Nutter signed the city's marijuana decriminalization bill into law, making the possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana punishable by a $25 fine, reports The Huffington Post. Dealing or buying marijuana is still a crime, regardless of weight, but those who just enjoy getting blazed in public now have less to worry about.

Let's get down to seeds and stems with this Philly decriminalization law.

California has eliminated the sentencing differences between crack and cocaine offenses, as Gov. Jerry Brown signed the California Fair Sentencing Act into law on Sunday.

The Act, also known as SB 1010, mirrors the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which narrowed the gap in federal law between the punishments for crack and cocaine offenders. But California's law goes further, treating cocaine and "cocaine base" (read: crack) the same in terms of punishing drug convicts.

What does this change mean for drug offenders in California?

Pardon Day: What Is a Pardon?

On this day 40 years ago, President Gerald Ford pardoned former President Richard Nixon for any crimes he may have committed while in office.

If you're not familiar with Watergate, Nixon had been investigated and was facing impeachment proceedings for allegedly spying on various political opponents -- then trying to cover it up -- during his re-election campaign. Ford gave Nixon a "full, free, and absolute" pardon one month after replacing him in the White House, saving the ex-president from a potential criminal trial and conviction.

What exactly is a pardon, and who is entitled to one?

Firearm enthusiasts who may also be parents or grandparents should be aware that the laws regulating the ownership, possession, and use of guns by kids are often different from the laws for adults.

These rules are also facing increased scrutiny following a fatal accident at an Arizona gun range in which a nine-year-old girl shot an instructor in the head when she lost control of a fully automatic Uzi submachine gun, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

What are the rules for when kids can legally own or shoot a gun?

You may not know it, but the item you just bought via eBay or Craigslist may have been stolen. But don't worry. While there are laws against receiving stolen goods, they typically state that the purchaser or receiver must know (or should know) that the items are stolen.

So what can happen if you unknowingly buy stolen goods (especially for purchases that, in hindsight, just seemed too good to be true)? Can you get arrested? The answer depends on your specific situation. Here are a few possibilities:

Not being able to vote as a convicted felon may seem harsh, but the practice of disenfranchisement varies widely, depending on where you live.

Each state has the power to regulate the ability of convicted felons to vote, and they don't all agree on whether (or even how long) a felon should lose the right to vote.

So when and where do convicted felons have voting rights?