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Weekly Legislative Roundup 3/22

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Welcome to the latest edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!

The U.S. House Financial Services Committee has scheduled to convene a markup on The Safe Banking Act, HR 1595 on Tuesday, March 26th.

Activists in Oregon have filed a 2020 ballot initiative with the Secretary of State that, if approved, would allow social cannabis consumption sites and protect consumers from employment discrimination. Similarly, activists in Arizona are attempting to qualify a 2020 legalization ballot initiative.

Governor Ron DeSantis (R) of Florida signed legislation into law to restore patients’ right to smoke medical cannabis.

Governor Ralph Northam (D) of Virginia signed legislation into law that will allow medical cannabis oil to be administered to patients on school property.

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) of New York announced that marijuana legalization language will no longer appear in his budget proposal.

At a more local level, city commissioners in Lawrence, Kansas voted 4 to 1 to reduce the city’s fine for cannabis possession to $1. And Steelton Borough, Pennsylvania passed an ordinance to decriminalize up to 30 grams of cannabis possession.

Following are the bills that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check NORML’s Action Center for legislation pending in your state.

Don’t forget to sign up for our email list, and we will keep you posted as these bills and more move through your home state legislature and U.S. Congress. Another great way to stay up to date is Marijuana Moment’s daily …

NORML Responds To Latest Cannabis and Psychosis Claims

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A widely reported study appearing today in the British journal The Lancet alleges that an estimated 30 to 50 percent of psychosis cases in Europe are due to cannabis exposure, and that exposure to elevated levels of THC increases this risk.

NORML has previously written on the data showing a multi-directional association between cannabis and psychiatric illnesses, and we have cautioned that those predisposed to psychosis or other disorders may be at higher risk for adverse events.

That said, it remains premature at best, and sensational at worst to claim that a causal relationship exists between marijuana use and psychiatric disorders on the basis of this new paper. That is because, by the observational nature of its design, this study at best can only demonstrate a correlation.

Nonetheless, despite this limitation, the authors boldly “assume causality.” Given the fact that such a cause-and-effect relationship remains unproven and there as of yet exists no consensus among experts that such causation exists, their assumption is, at best, highly questionable.

Moreover, it is well established that those with psychiatric illness typically use all intoxicants at greater rates than do the general public, so the fact that those admitted to institutions for first-episode psychosis are more likely to consume cannabis than are those in the general population is hardly surprising. But it is not evidence that marijuana in any way causes the condition. Rather, this association may exist because many psychiatric patients are …

New Jersey: Lawmakers Advance Important Marijuana Law Reform Bills

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In some big news out of New Jersey, several marijuana reform bills have been voted out of their committees and are awaiting floor votes.

Senate Bill 2703 and Assembly Bill 4497 have both passed out of their committees and are set to be voted on as early as Monday, March 25th. These bills would legalize the personal possession of one ounce or less of cannabis and would regulate and tax the adult-use and retail sale. Some highlights of this landmark legislation are-

  • Expedited expungement of past misdemeanor marijuana convictions
  • Taxing marijuana sales at three-percent, which will be collected by or paid to municipalities wherever retail stores exist
  • Incentives to promote socio-economic, racial, and gender equity in the state’s cannabis industry

Governor Phil Murphy, one of the driving forces of marijuana legalization in the state since taking office in January, has already signaled his intent to sign a legalization bill once it gets to his desk. However, the margins in the New Jersey State Legislature are still very close, with a slight majority of the legislators being in favor of legalizing marijuana for adult-use in the state. With several state lawmakers still on the fence about legalization, input from residents of New Jersey is of paramount importance. Legalizing marijuana would result in dozens of positive impacts for New Jerseyans and cannot happen without the support of reform-minded residents who are committed to personal freedom in New Jersey.

Are you a New

New Jersey: Lawmakers Advance Important Marijuana Law Reform Bills

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In some big news out of New Jersey, several marijuana reform bills have been voted out of their committees and are awaiting floor votes.

Senate Bill 2703 and Assembly Bill 4497 have both passed out of their committees and are set to be voted on as early as Monday, March 25th. These bills would legalize the personal possession of one ounce or less of cannabis and would regulate and tax the adult-use and retail sale. Some highlights of this landmark legislation are-

  • Expedited expungement of past misdemeanor marijuana convictions
  • Taxing marijuana sales at three-percent, which will be collected by or paid to municipalities wherever retail stores exist
  • Incentives to promote socio-economic, racial, and gender equity in the state’s cannabis industry

Governor Phil Murphy, one of the driving forces of marijuana legalization in the state since taking office in January, has already signaled his intent to sign a legalization bill once it gets to his desk. However, the margins in the New Jersey State Legislature are still very close, with a slight majority of the legislators being in favor of legalizing marijuana for adult-use in the state. With several state lawmakers still on the fence about legalization, input from residents of New Jersey is of paramount importance. Legalizing marijuana would result in dozens of positive impacts for New Jerseyans and cannot happen without the support of reform-minded residents who are committed to personal freedom in New Jersey.

Are you a New

New Jersey: Lawmakers Advance Important Marijuana Law Reform Bills

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In some big news out of New Jersey, several marijuana reform bills have been voted out of their committees and are awaiting floor votes.

Senate Bill 2703 and Assembly Bill 4497 have both passed out of their committees and are set to be voted on as early as Monday, March 25th. These bills would legalize the personal possession of one ounce or less of cannabis and would regulate and tax the adult-use and retail sale. Some highlights of this landmark legislation are-

  • Expedited expungement of past misdemeanor marijuana convictions
  • Taxing marijuana sales at three-percent, which will be collected by or paid to municipalities wherever retail stores exist
  • Incentives to promote socio-economic, racial, and gender equity in the state’s cannabis industry

Governor Phil Murphy, one of the driving forces of marijuana legalization in the state since taking office in January, has already signaled his intent to sign a legalization bill once it gets to his desk. However, the margins in the New Jersey State Legislature are still very close, with a slight majority of the legislators being in favor of legalizing marijuana for adult-use in the state. With several state lawmakers still on the fence about legalization, input from residents of New Jersey is of paramount importance. Legalizing marijuana would result in dozens of positive impacts for New Jerseyans and cannot happen without the support of reform-minded residents who are committed to personal freedom in New Jersey.

Are you a New

Marijuana Banking Bill Scheduled For Committee Markup

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In the first in what are anticipated to be multiple Congressional hearings to address the federal prohibition and criminalization of marijuana, the House Financial Services Committee has scheduled to convene a markup on The Safe Banking Act, HR 1595 on Tuesday, March 26th.

Thousands of state-licensed and regulated businesses lack access to the banking industry and are unable to accept credit cards, deposit revenues, or write checks to meet payroll or pay taxes because federal law discourages financial institutions from engaging in such partnerships. This ongoing federal prohibition forces this newly emerging billion-dollar industry operates largely on a cash-only basis — an environment that makes businesses more susceptible to theft and more difficult to audit. It also places the safety and welfare of these business’ customers at risk, as they must carry significant amounts of cash on their persons in order to make legal purchases at retail facilities.

NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said:

“This situation is untenable. No industry can operate safely, transparently, or effectively without access to banks or other financial institutions. In order to best support the states that have had the good judgment to license and regulate businesses to produce, manufacture, or distribute cannabis, it is critical that Congress address the lack of basic banking services and amend federal law accordingly.

“The banking issue is just one aspect of the failed policy of federal marijuana criminalization. In order to truly bring the marijuana industry out

Oregon NORML In Partnership With The Oregon Justice League File “Legalization Justice Act of 2020”

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Chief Petitioners Madeline Martinez, Leia Flynn, and Angela Bacca filed a ballot measure to be known as “The Legalization Justice Act of 2020” at the Oregon State Capitol on Monday, March 18. All three women are longtime West Coast cannabis advocates.

Madeline MartinezMadeline Martinez is the executive director of Oregon NORML and the only Latina member of the board of directors of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). She generated international headlines when she opened the World Famous Cannabis Cafe in 2009, the nation’s first public-facing cannabis consumption lounge.

“This is about equal rights because whenever you pick a certain group and treat them differently that is discrimination. Patients, renters, the poor, people of color and women are still marginalized for their cannabis use, despite legalization,” said Martinez.

Leia Flynn is a legal assistant at a firm that works with cannabis businesses and the owner of Flight Lounge, a members-only private cafe allowed under the City of Portland’s social consumption guidelines. A former medical cannabis caregiver and member of Oregon Green Free, she has put her voice out into the public in order to create safe spaces for cannabis consumers.

“We are in a situation where we have legalized it and anyone over the age of 21 can purchase it, but you cannot smoke it anywhere unless you own your home,” Flynn says. “That is discrimination.”

Angela Bacca is a Portland-based writer and editor who has …

New York: the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA)

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A.1617, the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), has been re-introduced this legislative session. The bill would legalize the adult possession, use, and regulated sale of marijuana.

Over the past twenty years, many New Yorkers have been negatively affected by the harms of prohibition in New York. With people of color accounting for nearly 85% of those arrested annually, the MRTA directs the benefits of taxing and regulating marijuana to these communities. Because structural racism is ingrained in marijuana prohibition, it’s important that the MRTA both ends marijuana prohibition and promotes racial justice.

Significant steps are taken in the amended MRTA to ensure racial justice and a small business-friendly industry, including:

  • Creating a micro-licensing structure, similar to New York’s rapidly growing craft wine and beer industry, which allows small-scale production and sale plus delivery to reduce barriers to entry for people with less access to capital and traditional avenues of financing.
  • Establishing the Community Grants Reinvestment Fund, which will invest in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the drug war through job training, economic empowerment, and youth development programming.
  • Ensuring diversity in New York’s marijuana industry by removing barriers to access like capital requirements and building inclusivity by allowing licensing to people with prior drug convictions. Only people with business-related convictions (such as fraud or tax evasion) will be explicitly barred from receiving licenses.

Our communities can’t wait. The decades of marijuana prohibition had created a stain on

New Mexico: Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Decriminalization, Other Reform Bills

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Marijuana FieldState lawmakers have approved a series of bills reducing penalties for marijuana possession offenses and strengthening and expanding legal protections for medical cannabis patients. The measures now await action from Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is supportive of the changes.

DECRIMINALIZATION

Senate Bill 323 amends minor marijuana possession penalties. The measure reduces first-time penalties for the possession of up to one-half ounce of cannabis from a criminal misdemeanor — punishable by up to 15 days in jail — to a ‘penalty assessment,’ punishable by a $50 fine. Subsequent offenses, or in instances where the defendant possesses greater amounts of marijuana, remain punishable by the possibility of jail time.

Once signed into law, the reduced penalties take effect on July 1, 2019.

MEDICAL CANNABIS

Senate Bill 406 expands medical cannabis access and provides important new patient protections. It expands the pool of patients eligible for cannabis therapy to include those diagnosed with post-traumatic stress, severe chronic pain, Crohn’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, sleep apnea, and neuropathy, among other newly specified conditions. It also enacts explicit legal protections prohibiting employers, social service workers, and hospitals from arbitrarily discriminating against patients solely for their medical cannabis status and/or for their failure to pass a drug test. The measure prohibits regulators from placing limits on the percentage of THC or other cannabinoids in therapeutic products and it establishes reciprocity with other states’ medical cannabis programs.

Separate legislation, Senate Bill 204 establishes regulations and …

Whoopi Goldberg Talks Cannabis: ‘I Think It’s Worth Trying’

“I’ve spent the better part of my life standing up for issues that were important to me,” said actress, comedian, singer, writer, and entrepreneur Whoopi Goldberg in an OpEd about cannabis she wrote in 2018. Her latest cause, she explained, was helping women gain easy access to the therapeutic qualities of the marijuana plant. This is a wellbeing issue, Goldberg argued, marking the difference between sheer recreation and actual medicinal need; between smoking weed in…

Source: https://www.cannabisculture.com/content/2019/03/16/whoopi-goldberg-talks-cannabis-i-think-its-worth-trying/…

Weekly Legislative Roundup 3/15/18

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Welcome to the latest edition of NORML’s Weekly Legislative Roundup!

U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has reintroduced H.R. 1647, the Veterans Equal Access Act, which expands medical cannabis access to eligible military veterans. Additionally, Representatives Charlie Crist (D-FL) and Don Young (R-AK) introduced The Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act to explicitly bar federal agencies from discriminating against workers solely because of their status as a cannabis consumer, or due to testing positive for marijuana use on a workplace drug test.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture held a hemp listening session this week as regulators work to establish rules and regulations for production.

At the state level, activists in Idaho have begun efforts to qualify a medical cannabis and hemp ballot initiative for the 2020 ballot.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (R) signed legislation into law that would strengthen and clarify medical cannabis patient protections.

After months of negotiation, Governor Murphy of New Jersey and state legislators have reached a deal on what will be included in upcoming legislation to legalize the adult-use and retail sale of marijuana in the state of New Jersey. Some highlights include expedited expungement for past misdemeanor marijuana convictions, a three-percent tax to be collected by or paid to municipalities wherever retail stores exist, and provisions to incentivize socio-economic, racial, and gender equity in the state’s cannabis industry.

Alaska became the first state to permit on-site adult use cannabis consumption, as Lt. Governor Kevin Meyer …

Minnesota: Attorney For State’s Largest County To No Longer Criminally Prosecute Marijuana Possession Offenses

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Minor marijuana possession offenders will no longer be criminally prosecuted in Hennepin County, Minnesota, according to a new policy announced Thursday by County Attorney Mike Freeman. An estimated 1.2 million people live in the County, which includes the city of Minneapolis.

Commenting on the new policy, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “The County Attorney is to be commended for taking this proactive stance. Branding individuals — many of whom are at an age when they are just beginning their professional careers — as lifelong criminals, and in some cases felons, for minor marijuana possession offenses results in a litany of lost opportunities including the potential loss of employment, housing, professional licensing, and student aid, and serves no legitimate societal purpose. This change is a recognition that marijuana criminalization is a disproportionate public policy response to behavior that is, at worst, a public health concern. But it should not be a criminal justice matter.”

Under the policy, prosecutors will not criminally charge anyone for marijuana offenses involving the possession of up to 100 grams of cannabis. Rather, defendants will be ordered to complete a diversion program or partake in community service. Under state law, marijuana possession offenses involving over 42.5 grams are classified as felony offenses – punishable by up to a five-year prison term and a $10,000 fine.

Under special circumstances, such as if the defendant possessed a firearm or is a habitual offender, prosecutors may still file …

Oklahoma: Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Regulatory Measure

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Marijuana HempRepublican Gov. Ken Stitt signed legislation yesterday, HB 2612, clarifying regulations and patient protections specific to the medical use of cannabis. A majority of voters last June approved a statewide initiative authorizing the plant’s use, cultivation, and dispensing.

The new legislation codifies a new regulatory bureau, the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, within the State Department of Health, establishes a registry for qualified patients and their caregivers, and establishes a revolving fund to address oversight matters.

It strengthens patient protections by explicitly stipulating that registered cannabis consumers may not be denied public assistance, access to firearms, or employment solely based on their patient status. It further states, “No employer may refuse to hire, discipline, discharge or otherwise penalize an applicant or employee solely on the basis of a positive test for marijuana components or metabolites.”

The bill seeks facilitate standards for banks who wish to partner with medical cannabis businesses, and prohibits local governments enacting “guidelines which restrict or interfere with the rights of a licensed patient or caregiver to possess, purchase, cultivate or transport medical marijuana.”

Members of the House voted 93 to 5 in favor of the legislation. Senate members voted in favor of the bill by a margin of 43 to 5.

An estimated 55,000 Oklahomans are registered with the state to access medical cannabis.



Source: https://blog.norml.org/2019/03/15/oklahoma-governor-signs-medical-marijuana-regulatory-measure/…

The Veterans Equal Access Act Reintroduced

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In the House, Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), a founder and co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, has reintroduced H.R. 1647, the Veterans Equal Access Act, which expands medical cannabis access to eligible military veterans.

Presently, V.A. doctors are forbidden from providing the paperwork necessary to complete a recommendation, thus forcing military veterans to seek the advice of a private, out-of-network physician. Passage of this bill would lift this prohibition.

At the time of introduction, Rep. Blumenauer said, “For too long, our veterans have been denied access to highly effective medical marijuana treatment for conditions like chronic pain and PTSD. Medical marijuana has shown proven benefits for treating these conditions denying our veterans access to them is shameful. This simple bill would align veterans VA treatment with their very popular state laws, usually approved by the voters. This legislation would guarantee our veterans fair and equal treatment, along with the ability to consult with their own physician on all treatment options. It’s past time we provide them with the care they need and deserve.”

Click here to send a message to your lawmakers in support of the Veterans Equal Access Act

In the 114th Congress, majorities in both the US House and Senate voted to include similar language as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. However, Republicans sitting on the House Appropriations Committee elected to remove the language from the bill during …

NORML Submits Public Comments To FDA Regarding The International Scheduling Of Marijuana

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The US Food and Drug Administration sought public comments specific to whether changes ought to be recommended regarding imposing international manufacturing and distributing restrictions, under international treaties, on certain drug substances.

Per the FDA: FDA, on behalf of the Secretary of HHS, invites interested persons to submit comments on the notifications from the United Nations concerning these drug substances. FDA, in cooperation with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, will consider the comments on behalf of HHS in evaluating the WHO scheduling recommendations. 

Below is submission filed by Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of NORML.



Source: https://blog.norml.org/2019/03/14/norml-submits-public-comments-to-fda-regarding-the-international-scheduling-of-marijuana/…

Chicago NORML Goes To DC

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This year, on April 8th, the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA) will be returning to our nation’s capital in Washington D.C. and playing a leading role in drafting policy agendas to ensure participation of people of color in the cannabis industry.

Chicago NORML is very excited to participate in the summit this year. As we continue our work with legislators, businesses, and our communities on cannabis reform and legalization here in Illinois, our attendance and participation in this summit is crucial.

We could use a little help getting there! Please make a donation which will help defray costs of sending us to this important high-level policy discussion and workshop. Please make an investment in our work by donating what you can.

We expect to engage with industry leaders on important topics that will soon have a direct impact on our communities such as banking, taxation, criminal justice reform, and equity in ownership. Additionally, we expect to address how Federal measures such as Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act, the RESPECT Act, and the States Act will affect us on the local level.

Never have we been so close to comprehensive reform in Illinois and it’s imperative that we get it right. Help us make legalization a reality in Illinois and ensure that it is done so in a way to build an economy that works for all of us.

Thanks for all you do,
Chicago NORML

 

You can find

Bipartisan Bill To Protect Employment Rights

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The Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act is bipartisan legislation introduced by Representatives Charlie Crist (D-FL) and Don Young (R-AK) to explicitly bar federal agencies from discriminating against workers solely because of their status as a cannabis consumer, or due to testing positive for marijuana use on a workplace drug test.

Click here to send a message to your member of Congress and urge them to support this effort.

Enacted in 1986, the Federal Drug-Free Workplace Program made it a condition for employment that all civilian employees at executive branch agencies be prohibited from using federally illegal substances on or off duty. Medical marijuana is currently legal in 31 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam, and 46 states have some form of medical marijuana law; however, it remains illegal under federal law. Therefore, federal employees can be denied employment or terminated due to testing positive for marijuana metabolites, even if their use is in compliance with state law. This conflict between state and federal laws limits treatment options and federal employment opportunities, particularly impacting veterans who comprise approximately one-third of the federal workforce and whose medical cannabis use to treat chronic pain and PTSD has been found to be double the rate of the general public. A recent American Legion poll found that one in five veterans use marijuana to alleviate a medical condition.

“For our veterans’, cannabis has been shown to address chronic pain …

Florida: State Lawmakers Vote to Restore Patients’ Right To Smoke Medical Cannabis

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On March 13, members of the Florida state House of Representatives voted 101 to 11 to approve legislation (Senate Bill 182) to re-legalize the inhalation of herbal cannabis formulations for medical purposes. The bill was unanimously approved by the state Senate last week, and will now be transmitted to Governor Ron DeSantis.

Seventy-one percent of Floridians voted in 2016 to amend the state’s constitution to allow for the use of medical marijuana. These provisions explicitly protected the rights of patients to access herbal cannabis and placed no restrictions with regard to how they chose to consume it. But after the fact, lawmakers and former Governor Rick Scott, who now represents Florida as a member of the U.S. Senate, quickly moved to ban the practice legislatively. By contrast, newly elected Gov. DeSantis asked the legislature to change the law.

Under this proposal, patients would be permitted to possess up to four ounces of herbal cannabis. Patients under 18 will only be allowed to access herbal medical cannabis if they are terminally ill and receive approval by two doctors.

NORML has long argued against regulations that limit or restrict patients’ access to whole plant herbal cannabis. Many patients seeking rapid relief from symptoms do not benefit from cannabis-infused pills, tinctures, or edibles because they possess delayed onset compared to inhaled cannabis and are far more variable in their effects.



Source: https://blog.norml.org/2019/03/14/florida-state-lawmakers-vote-to-restore-patients-rights-to-smoke-medical-cannabis/…

New York: State legislature signals support for adult-use cannabis legalization

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In news that bodes well for the future of cannabis legalization in the state of New York, both chambers of the state legislature have included legalization language in their annual budget proposals.

Both budget proposals also address the expedited expungement of certain marijuana-related convictions, implementing social equity programs in the state’s growing marijuana industry, and diverting tax money earned through the legal cannabis industry to benefit communities that have borne the brunt of the most brutal aspects of marijuana prohibition and the war on drugs in New York.

Though Governor Cuomo’s budget proposal does not allow for the personal cultivation of marijuana plants, the NY General Assembly’s budget proposal does promote home cultivation upon the legalization of adult-use and retail sale of cannabis in the state. If home cultivation is included in final legislation and is signed into law by the governor, New York would help reinvigorate legislative support for the practice, which has waned considerably in other east coast states that are exploring legalizing cannabis for adult-use.

The legal allowance of home cultivation in private residences is a core tenet of NORML’s Attributes of Adult Access Regulations. Read about home cultivation and our core tenets here.

Though it remains to be seen if the Empire State will legalize cannabis for adult-use in 2019, we cannot let up in our fight for the personal freedoms of New Yorkers. As always, we need your help to make sensible marijuana reform a