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Bitcoin is Money Says Florida Judge After Court Ruling

A Florida appeals court has overturned an acquittal that based its original decision on the grounds that Bitcoin was not actually classified as money at the time.

The original decision had thrown out charges against Michell Espinoza, who sold bitcoin worth around $1350 to an undercover police detective in 2014, on the grounds that Bitcoin was not legally money, but more like “poker chips that people are willing to buy from you,” according to a witness at the 2016 hearing.

A Third District Appeal Court hearing in Miami has now overturned that decision, which will result in Espinoza facing a trial by jury. According to the court “Espinoza’s bitcoins-for-cash business requires him to register as a payment instrument seller and money transmitter.”

The implications of this latest case are far-reaching, basically asserting that Bitcoin can be classified as legal tender, thereby opening the door to similar cases from the past.  In December, a bipartisan bill was put before Congress aiming to exempt cryptocurrencies from securities law.

Florida has been attempting to get to grips with crypto scams in the state in order to strengthen the cryptocurrency industry for bona fide users. Last year, the chief financial officer of the state of Florida, Jimmy Patronis announced the appointment of a cryptocurrency chief to provide oversight for the growing cryptocurrency industry. It was thought that the new role would not deter the innovation and expansion of cryptocurrency in Florida, but support it.

 

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Miami is Fast Becoming a US Crypto Trendsetter

Florida staked its claim as a significant name in crypto as two pizzas delivered by Papa John’s in Jacksonville once cost the crypto equivalent of $65 million in today’s money, and now with Miami staking its claim as Bitcoin capital of the US, the dream lives on.

Miami is on a charge and has seen a surge of blockchain and crypto conferences setting up their annual venues there over the years. It’s unsurprising, given that there’s also a history there too, as it was not only the home of the first North American Bitcoin Conference but also witnessed the birth of Vitalik Buterin’s Ethereum experiment.

This year’s North American Bitcoin Conference heralded in even more startups, some 30 in number, raising millions, and now gives way to the next conference in the queue, Blockchain Shift to be held in late October bringing IBM, Tesla, KPMG, Bloomberg into its orbit. It promises to be another extravaganza with late-night dancing and yacht parties scheduled, living up to the current festival mode employed by crypto conference organizers.

Miami started the crypto ATM revolution, with machine provider BitStop out of Palmetto Bay now providing services for client all over the state and in California with a network of 50 transaction points.

One of Florida’s movers and shakers, George Levy, award-winning Lecturer and Senior Instructor on the blockchain, had a hand in starting Miami’s Blockchain Institute of Technology (BIT), an online training academy which teaches people more about cryptocurrency and its technological foundations. Levy now has students in 166 countries around the globe and follows up his online training with personal appearances in many of those. Lately, he’s taken the leap to South America, where Bitcoin raised early interest. He now works alongside the engineering department at the University of Curaçao.

“We’re seeing innovation coming out of Latin America, as well strong developers based in Argentina,” he says, adding that, “The fact that I’m here in Miami gives me a very close spot to be able to engage that. It’s a great hub.”

South Americans have viewed cryptocurrency as an escape from financial oppression for years, as exemplified by Bitcoin’s huge following in Venezuela where the fiat economy is a total burnout. Because of its Latin American connection, Miami has a renewed spark of life as a potential crypto hub for South America as a result of political unrest there, geographic proximity and Spanish speaking population.

With such a vibrant cryptocurrency ecosystem comes regulatory concerns, one of the motivations by State government’s June decision to appoint a “Cryptocurrency Chief” to oversee the industry, according to Florida’s chief financial officer Jimmy Patronis, an “…active, comprehensive and balanced approach” providing an “appropriate level of scrutiny for emerging digital asset technologies.”

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Ohio Joins US State Level Blockchain Goldrush

The US state of Ohio is following other states in showing interest in blockchain technology and how it can be applied to the economy in that state.

At a press conference on August 23, Speaker of the Ohio House Ryan Smith assembled members of the House leadership and Ohio’s general assembly along with representations from the law, business, and academic sectors to discuss possible implementation.

The state is not new to the concept, having passed an amendment to the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act earlier this year adding, “a record or contract that is secured through blockchain technology is considered to be in an electronic form and to be an electronic record,” thus providing a safe harbour for the emerging technology.

Ohio is certainly not the first US state to take this route as Nebraska, Florida, Arizona, Nevada, and Vermont, along with Maine, Hawaii, Illinois, and North Dakota are some of the many US states notably either in the process of presenting bills, enacting legislation or actively utilizing blockchain in state legislation.

Speaker Smith suggested that DLT would have numerous applications in the state and cited common storage requirements such as securing birth certificates and marriage licenses as a simple case in point. His aim is to work with universities so that students are encouraged to become involved in the new technology early on, thus helping them secure work for the future and bring their expertise to the State.

Smith is not the first though, to suggest his or her state as a possible blockchain hub. New York earlier this year set its sights on the same target when the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) announced several initiatives that pursue ambitions of becoming a blockchain technology hub. The state has rather set out its stall for the title given that the NYCED holds the annual New York Blockchain Week there with crypto events all over the city attracting big names in the industry as guest speakers.

However, Smith is optimistic, suggesting, “Because this is so new and this is just beginning to take shape, we can position Ohio out front.”

Time will tell, but the state rush to become a leader in blockchain adoption is very much on.

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Connecticut Joins Growing Number of US Blockchain States as Interest Spreads

Governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut has signed off on a law that will employ a blockchain working group, in order to further study the technology and how it can be utilized in state legislation.

The new law, SB 443 is a result of a bill which passed through both legislative houses last week tasked with overseeing the expansion of the blockchain industry in the state, according to Cointelegraph.

It’s reported that the governor’s intentions are to make Connecticut  “a leader in blockchain technology.”  The new group’s remit will be to:

“(1) Identify the economic growth and development opportunities presented by blockchain technology; (2) assess the existing blockchain industry in the state; (3) review workforce needs and academic programs required to build blockchain expertise across all relevant industries; and (4) make legislative recommendations that will help promote innovation and economic growth by reducing barriers to and expediting the expansion of the state’s blockchain industry.”

The group must submit its final recommendations to the standing committees of the General Assembly by January 1, 2019, taking into consideration matters relating to commerce, banking, and finance, as well as revenue and bonding.

US states are increasingly beginning to come on board in order to utilize blockchain tech. The state of Arizona has officially signed into law a bill that allows for corporations to hold and share data on a blockchain. First introduced in February by state representative Jeff Weninger, the bill is intended “to open the door for emerging technologies in Arizona”.

In May, the New York state legislature also presented a bill to create a blockchain task force. If created, the New York task force would prepare a report for the governor, the temporary president of the state senate, and the speaker of the assembly by December 2019. Also, Colorado has passed its own bill which will use blockchain for government record keeping and cybersecurity.

As states line up the new technology, Tennessee signed a bill recently that legally recognizes blockchain technology and smart contracts for electronic transactions. The bill also makes a provision that, “protects ownership rights of certain information secured by blockchain technology.”

Nebraska, Florida, Arizona, Nevada, and Vermont, along with Maine, Hawaii, Illinois, and North Dakota are some of the many US states notably either in the process of presenting bills, enacting legislation or actively utilizing blockchain in state legislation.

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Venezuela Turns to Bitcoin Mining as Hyperinflation Reaches 18,000%

Venezuelans are increasingly turning to Bitcoin mining in order to combat hyperinflation in the South American country, Bloomberg reports.

Caracas has recently become a crypto mining hub, says Daniel Cancel, a reporter and resident, in a report from the capital. Cancel talks of a friend living in the city buying a machine to mine crypto and telling his son to run it round the clock. The result; USD 6 a day. The reporter tells of another friend who had to move his machine due to noise complaints. The most successful, Cancel reports, is a friend that has invested with his family purchasing three machines and is now clearing USD 1,000 a month, which in Caracas is a “small fortune”, he says.

So why are residents of Caracas going to these lengths to provide themselves with any kind of an income?

Under its controversial president, Nicolas Maduro, the country continues to struggle with a hyperinflation rate estimated at 2,400% at the end of 2017, which has skyrocketed to 18,000% in 2018. The crumbling economy is now causing a humanitarian crisis with 600,000 Venezuelans fleeing to neighboring Columbia alone.

Venezuela’s crisis has steadily worsened as a result of lower oil prices, corruption, and a totally mismanaged socialist system, experiencing all but a total collapse of the economy, public services, security, and healthcare, writes the Independent.

Armed gangs and Colombian guerrilla roam the beleaguered nation’s borders. Pro-government militias are terrorizing urban areas, while police stand accused of extrajudicial killings in a country which has now the dubious notoriety of being home to 10 of the world’s most dangerous cities, according to Igarape Institute, a Brazilian think tank which studies violence.

Bitcoin is now recognized as the only way of getting around the country’s currency controls, and bitcoin mining offers Venezuelans a chance to pay for good imported from overseas. Although the process is not sanctioned for individuals other than going through ‘official’ methods, residents are able to sidestep the government controls to buy foodstuffs from Florida and Miami by trading Bitcoin for bolivars, the local hyperinflated currency.

Cancel suggests that even the USD 6 a day his friend was mining is half decent money in the depression hit country, commenting:

“One key to my mining pals’ success: electr