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First East Coast Marijuana Shops Open in Massachusetts

Massachusetts finally opened the first two recreational marijuana stores on the East Coast, two years after voters monumentally approved the sale of recreational marijuana. Though the state meticulously studied all the other states that have gone before it in this industry, they wanted to make sure they did it right, learning best practices and setbacks, and allowed themselves a long runway. And here they go!

The holiday season always approaches fast. First Thanksgiving. Then Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa. And then right on into New Year's Eve and Day. A time for celebration, sure. But a time for crime as well.

There a natural spike in crime around the holidays, from the intentional -- targeting vacant homes and overstuffed businesses -- to the unintentional -- one too many beers or egg nogs before driving. Shoplifting may be up (surprise, surprise) as well as domestic incidents brought on by family or financial stress. So before the holidays descend upon us, here's how to keep yourself out of trouble, and what to do if you can't.

Is It Legal to Barter With Marijuana?

Recently in the news, an Oregon man tried to barter his weed for someone's SUV. In that state, it's illegal to sell weed without a commercial license. The man didn't have a commercial license to sell weed, and what he had on him was roughly five pounds over the legal limit for personal use. He was arrested for unlawful delivery of marijuana for consideration. But it brings up a good question. Is it ever legal to barter with marijuana?

Halloween Night Has Most Vandalism of the Year

To get ready for Halloween this year, perhaps put more emphasis on protecting yourself than getting the best mix of candy for trick or treaters. Property crimes increase by around 24 percent on Halloween, according to one study. Of this, 19% is vandalism and malicious mischief, 21% is off-premises theft, and 60% is theft from the home. What can you do to protect yourself from vandalism? Plenty, according to the insurance industry.

For those trick-or-treaters in bigger neighborhoods or looking to cover more ground this Halloween, hopping on a bicycle rather than going door-to-door on foot might be a good plan. But is that plan a possibility if your costume includes a mask? Sure there are some general sartorial rules about what not to wear while cycling, but are there local laws against biking behind a mask?

Here's a look into that questions, as well as some other legal pointers regarding Halloween costumes this year.

As often happens as storms approach and residents and business owners evacuate, the signs get posted: "Looters Will Be Shot." Most people just chuckle, a few people get worried about armed vigilantes, and a few others think, "they'll get what they deserve." And while the First Amendment may protect your right to free speech (be careful -- threatening to kill someone can get you into trouble), do you actually have the legal right to shoot someone for looting?

Here's a look:

Sheriff's deputies and police officers have long been a presence in schools, in case things get out of hand. Recently, school administrators and resource officers have taken things a bit further, conducting so-called "scared straight" programs under which misbehaving students are exposed to jails or prisons as an effort to convince them to change their ways.

Beyond being ineffective and often backfiring, such tactics can be illegal or unconstitutional. Such was the case when a San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy arrested seven middle school girls for being uncooperative during a bullying investigation to "prove a point" and "make (them) mature a lot faster."

It's Now Legal to Open-Carry a Sword in Texas

The Uber's here? Hold on, let me grab my machete.

As of September 1, 2017, it is legal to carry a knife with a blade longer than 5.5 inches in many places in Texas. Though there are exceptions carved out, Texans are now allowed to openly carry Jim Bowie knives, Rambo knives, daggers, swords, and yes, even machetes. It's curious for those folks with an open carry license for guns: how will they decide which to bring? After all, a person only has so many pockets and a man-purse isn't exactly Texas-chic. And it's never wise to bring a knife to a gun fight. It's always OK to lug around a shotgun in Texas. So what's the need for this knife law, or lack thereof?

What's the Penalty for a Parent Giving Drugs to Kids?

It may seem harmless at first. Your kid wants a sip of your margarita. Then a few years later, wants a beer at a barbecue. Later, he wants a 40-ouncer for his own personal consumption at a high school party. What about opening up your stash of marijuana to him, even in a state where adult consumption is legal? It's tempting to give in. Maybe you want to be "the cool parent." Maybe you are worried he'd obtain it illegally anyway? Is this legal? And if not, what sort of penalty might a parent face?

Even if you're not a criminal defense attorney, watching a couple episodes of "Law and Order" will probably introduce you to the concept of police and prosecutors going after "small fish" in order to get the "big fish," criminally speaking. This process involves lower level suspects or defendants exchanging testimony against higher level targets for lighter sentences or immunity.

The practice of flipping has become especially prominent in the investigation headed Robert Mueller looking into possible collusion between Russia and the Donald Trump presidential campaign. In fact, in the wake of news that Trump longtime lawyer and "fixer" Michael Cohen would be cooperating with federal prosecutors, the president decried the practice of witness flipping, claimed it encourages criminal defendants to unfairly "make up stories," and asserted that "it almost ought to be illegal."

Flipping may have its issues, but should it be outlawed?