Rhode Island: Governor Signs Marijuana Expungement Legislation Into Law

Democrat Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed legislation permitting those with past marijuana convictions to have their records expunged.

House Bill 8355/S. 2447 allows those with past convictions for crimes involving the possession of less than one ounce of cannabis to petition the court to seek an order of expungement. It states, “[W]here the court has determined that all conditions of the original criminal sentence have been completed, … the court [will] order the expungement without cost to the petitioner.” The law took effect upon passage.

State lawmakers decriminalzed minor marijuana possession offenses in 2013.

“If an act has been decriminalized since a person was charged and paid their price for it, that person shouldn’t have to keep paying the price in the form of being denied jobs and other opportunities because of their criminal record,” bill sponsor Sen. Harold Metts said in a statement. “Let them move on, and they can better support themselves and their families and contribute to our communities and our state.”

Delaware lawmakers passed similar legislation this month permitting the expungement of marijuana-related offenses that have since been decriminalized. That bill is awaiting action from the Governor. Maryland enacted a similar law in 2017.

Both Massachusetts and Oregon have enacted legislation vacating the convictions of marijuana-related crimes that are now defined as legal under state law. In California, where voters elected to legalize the adult use of marijuana in 2016, District Attorneys in various cities and counties – including San Francisco and San Diego – are automatically reviewing and dismissing thousands of past marijuana-related convictions.

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Weekly Legislative Roundup 7/13/18

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

A lot has happened at the state level this week, starting with Maine lawmakers overriding Gov. Paul LePage’s (R) veto of medical cannabis expansion legislation, by a vote of 119 to 23 in the House and 25 to 8 in the Senate. The measure will now become law later this fall.

North Dakota activists submitted what they believe are enough signatures (nearly 19,000!) to qualify a marijuana legalization measure for the November ballot. State officials must certify 13,452 signatures in order to qualify the measure for the 2018 ballot and are anticipated to take an estimated 35 days to verify proponents’ signatures.

Directors at the Oklahoma Department of Health voted 5 to 4 to severely limit patients’ access to a wide range of cannabis products. Specifically, the new provisions: prohibit the sale of smokable herbal  cannabis at licensed dispensaries; require dispensaries to have a licensed pharmacist on staff; impose arbitrary THC potency thresholds on various cannabis-infused products; and mandate that dispensary managers obtain at least four hours of continuing education training each calendar year. Qualified patients will still be permitted to grow their own medical marijuana flowers.

Oklahoma lawmakers formed a bipartisan working group to focus on seeing that medical cannabis is implemented in a way that “conforms to the will of the voters.” House Democrats are calling for a special legislative session to address the issue.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) signed legislation into law permitting out-of-state patients to access medical cannabis while visiting Hawaii. The measure also permits licensed dispensaries to sell cartridges to patients containing cannabis extracts and oils. The law took effect upon passage. However, Gov. Ige vetoed legislation to allow medical cannabis as a substitute for opioids, and for substance use and withdrawal symptoms, stating that the responsibility of adding new qualifying conditions should be left up to the Health Department, not lawmakers.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) signed a bill into law allowing those with past marijuana convictions to have their records expunged for crimes that were subsequently decriminalized, such as marijuana possession. Those with past convictions for crimes involving the possession of less than one ounce of cannabis can now petition the court to seek an order of expungement.

And Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation into law to facilitate state-sponsored medical cannabis research.

At a more local level, The Dane County, Wisconsin Board voted to place a marijuana legalization advisory question on the November ballot, a La Crosse County, Wisconsin Board committee advanced a marijuana legalization advisory measure for the November ballot, and unfortunately the Walworth County, Wisconsin Board killed a marijuana legalization advisory measure proposed for November’s ballot. But activists in Nelsonville, Ohio did turn in signatures to qualify a marijuana decriminalization measure for the November ballot.

Following are the bills from around the country that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check http://norml.org/act 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 at the federal level.

Your Highness,
Carly

Priority Alerts

Federal

End Cannabis Criminalization: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced legislation, the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and to provide funding for the expungement of criminal records for those with past marijuana convictions.

Click here to e-mail your senators and urge them to support this important legislation

Delaware

Senate Bill 197 seeks to permit those convicted of past marijuana possession convictions to seek expungement.

The measure would allow individuals to file a petition with the court requesting the expungement of any past marijuana possession violations that are no longer defined as a crime under state law. State officials estimate the legislation could affect up to 1,300 people convicted of a single marijuana crime from 1977 to 2015.

Update: SB 197 was sent to to Gov. John Carney’s desk. Legal advisers to the Governor are reviewing the bill, but he is expected to sign it into law.

DE resident? Click here to email your Governor in support of expungement

California

Assembly Bill 1793 seeks “to allow automatic expungement or reduction of a prior cannabis conviction for an act that is not a crime as of January 1, 2017, or for a crime that as of that date subject to a lesser sentence.

Update: AB 1793 will be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee on 8/6 at 10am in the John L. Burton Hearing Room.

CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of expungement

That’s all the legislative updates for this week!

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New York: State-Commissioned Study Calls For Legalizing Adult Marijuana Use

Legalize MarijuanaA state-commissioned study released today by the New York Department of Health recommends replacing cannabis criminalization with a policy of adult use legalization.

The 74-page study, entitled “Assessment of the Potential Impact of Regulated Marijuana in New York State,” acknowledges the following:

“Regulating marijuana can reduce opioid use;”

“Regulating marijuana may lead to a reduction in the use of synthetic cannabinoids;”

“Legalizing marijuana will reduce disproportionate criminalization and incarceration of racial and ethnic minority communities;”

“Regulating marijuana will create jobs;”

“Marijuana regulation could generate long-term cost savings.”

The study’s authors conclude: “A regulated marijuana program enjoys broad support and would have significant health, social justice, and economic benefits. … Regulating marijuana enables public health officials to minimize the potential risks of marijuana use through outreach, education, quantity limits at point of sale, quality control, and consumer protection. … The positive effects of a regulated marijuana market in NYS outweigh the potential negative impacts.”

Commenting on the study’s findings, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “The Department of Health ought to be praised for taking a sober look at the available evidence and issuing sensible policy recommendations. Criminalizing adults who use cannabis 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.”

He added: “Despite nearly a century of criminal prohibition, marijuana is here to stay. Our laws should reflect this reality, not deny it, and lawmakers should govern and regulate the marijuana market accordingly.”

This announcement comes in the midst of an opioid and heroin overdose epidemic in the United States.  New York City experienced 937 overdose deaths in 2015, 1,374 in 2016, and approximately 1,000 in 2017, once all numbers are finalized and verified.  Statewide, New York saw 8,444 hospitalizations from all opioid overdoses in 2016, up from 2,185 in 2015.

Legalization will also lessen the racial disparities in arrest among white people and people of color.  This change in policy will let those who self-medicate with marijuana to receive a medical card and will less their fear of being arrested for marijuana possession.  In the first three months of 2018, 89% of those arrested in New York City for marijuana possession were black or Hispanic, despite survey evidence that people of several races smoke cannabis at similar rates.  Over the last three years in New York City, black people were arrested on low-level marijuana charges at a rate eight times that of white people.  In Manhattan, this ratio surges to fifteen.  Despite a similar number of calls to 911 and 311 (an NYC helpline), marijuana arrests are higher in those city precincts whose populations are predominantly people of color.

The full text of the study is available online here. The executive summary is online here.

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Study: Medical Cannabis Access Associated With Significant Reduction In Prescription Opioid Use

The enactment of medical cannabis access laws is associated with significant reductions in prescription opioid use among Medicaid enrollees, according to just-published data in the journal Addiction.

Investigators with the University of California at San Diego assessed the relationship between medical cannabis legalization and opioid use among Medicaid enrollees over a period of 21 years (1993 to 2014).

Authors reported, “For Schedule III opioid prescriptions, medical cannabis legalization was associated with a 29.6 percent reduction in number of prescriptions, 29.9 percent reduction in dosage, and 28.8 percent reduction in related Medicaid spending.” This correlation remained after authors controlled for potential confounders, such as the establishment of prescription drug monitoring programs and variations in patients’ income.

By contrast, authors did not report similar changes in enrollees’ use of Schedule II opioid drugs, like Oxycodone. Authors speculated that this result may be because physicians are more reticent to recommend medical cannabis options to these patients.

They concluded: “In this study, we found that statewide medical cannabis legalization implemented in 1993-2014 in the US was associated with close to 30 percent reductions in Schedule III opioids received by Medicaid enrollees.. … It was estimated that, if all the states had legalized medical cannabis by 2014, Medicaid annual spending on opioid prescriptions would be reduced by 17.8 million dollars.”

Their findings are similar to those of numerous other observational studies – such as those here, here, and here – finding that medical marijuana regulation is correlated with reductions in overall opioid-related use, drug spending, abuse, hospitalization, and mortality. Separate data evaluating prescription drug use trends among individual patients enrolled in state-licensed medical marijuana programs is consistent with this conclusion, finding that many subjects reduce or eliminate their use of opioids following enrollment.

The abstract of the new study, “Medical cannabis legalization and opioid prescriptions: Evidence of US Medicaid enrollees during 1993-2014,” appears online here.

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2018 Congressional Letter Writing Campaign

In advance of NORML’s 2018 Conference and Lobby day that’s taking place July 22nd – 24th in Washington, DC, NORML chapters from around the country will be contacting their representatives to urge their support for marijuana-related bills introduced since the 115th Congress convened on January 3, 2017. For more than four decades, NORML Affiliates and Chapters have demonstrated their ability to mobilize thousands of marijuana advocates from around the country so we hope to create some additional excitement around pending marijuana law reform legislation, and in return, drive participation and engagement.

We hope all of you will join us in making this a successful campaign!

Project: NORML 2018 Congressional Letter Writing Campaign

Who: NORML Chapters and Affiliates

When: Thursday, July 12, 2018 through Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Summary: Grassroots letter writing campaign targeting members of the House and Senate requesting their immediate support of pending marijuana-related legislation. We encourage the use of handwritten letters and emails.

Target Legislation:

S.1689 / H.R. 4815: The Marijuana Justice Act

H.R. 1820: The Veterans Equal Access Act

Why Letters?

Legislators often tell us that the most effective method of communicating our position on issues is through letters. Letters can be mailed or easily faxed. Phone calls are necessary and helpful, but letters from constituents make the most difference. E-mails are also a great tool, but sometimes it may be difficult to verify that the sender is a constituent. Also, they normally will respond back to the letter sender.

Must Be A Constituent!

Know who you’re writing! Legislators disregard any letters not from their constituents, and their staff actually check names and addresses to ensure legitimacy. If you use our online tool or email, make sure to include your address and/or a sentence stating, “I live in your district” or “I am your constituent” to ensure that your letter/email is read.

Sample Letters: If you decide to use the templates below, please make sure you research the name and address of your representatives. With 535 members of Congress, offices are spread across Capitol Hill in six different Senate and House office buildings.

To find the correct address, simply type in your zip code and the “Find Your Representative” page will direct you a page with all the details to who your Congress member is and where there office is located. In regard to Senators, each state is represented by two United States Senators, so after you click the link, “Find Your Senator”, you will be directed to a page with a list of US Senators. Here, unlike using your zip code, you can simply select your state utilizing the drop down menu in the upper left hand corner of the website and it will display the names and addresses to your Senators.

Letter Templates:

S.1689: The Marijuana Justice Act

H.R. 4815: The Marijuana Justice Act

H.R. 1820: The Veterans Equal Access Act

Social Media Templates: Please use the following templates to help promote our efforts via Facebook and Twitter. Simply cut and paste the information located within the text boxes below into your social media accounts. Also feel free to tag your representatives in your social media posts.

Marijuana Justice Act – Facebook:

Click below to support the Marijuana Justice Act!

If passed by Congress, the Marijuana Justice Act will remove marijuana from the US Controlled Substances Act, incentivize states to mitigate existing and ongoing racial disparities, expunge federal convictions for marijuana possession, allow individuals currently serving time in federal prison for marijuana-related violations to petition the court for resentencing, and create a community reinvestment fund to invest in communities most impacted by the failed War on Drugs.

The ongoing enforcement of marijuana prohibition financially burdens taxpayers, encroaches upon civil liberties, engenders disrespect for the law, impedes legitimate scientific research into the plant’s medicinal properties, and disproportionately impacts communities of color.

http://norml.org/action-center/item/support-the-marijuana-justice-act

Marijuana Justice Act – Twitter:

Federal: Urge your members of #Congress to support the #Marijuana Justice Act today! Click below to get started. https://bit.ly/2L5DZfm

Veterans Equal Access Act – Facebook:

Click below to support the Veterans Equal Access Act!

If passed by Congress, the Veterans Equal Access Act will expand access to medical cannabis for 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 H.R. 1820 will lift this prohibition.

Lawmakers must stop playing politics with veterans’ health and pass the Veterans Equal Access Act!

http://norml.org/action-center/item/federal-house-bill-introduced-to-expand-veterans-access-to-medical-marijuana

Veterans Equal Access Act – Twitter:

Federal: Our Veterans deserve better! Contact your lawmakers and urge them to support the #Veterans Equal Access Act today. https://t.co/LPuM3aqTct

Have you connected with your local NORML chapter? If there isn’t one in your community, please email [email protected] for more information about starting a NORML chapter today!

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Oklahoma Governor Signs Restrictive Amendments To State’s Voter-Initiated Marijuana Law

Republican Gov. Mary Fallin yesterday signed into law emergency regulations amending SQ 788 — the state’s voter-initiated medical marijuana access law.

The changes, approved Tuesday in a 5 to 4 vote by directors at the Department of Health, seek to severely limit patients’ access to a wide range of cannabis products. Specifically, the new provisions: prohibit the sale of herbal cannabis at licensed dispensaries; require dispensaries to have a licensed pharmacist on staff; impose arbitrary THC potency thresholds on various cannabis-infused products; and mandate that dispensary managers obtain at least four hours of continuing education training each calendar year. Qualified patients will still be permitted to grow their own medical marijuana flowers.

The Oklahoma State Medical Association, which opposed the passage of SQ 788, lobbied for many of the amendments. Governor Fallin also was a vocal critic of the initiative campaign.

NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano criticized the changes. “Government officials are not acting in good faith. Not only are they undermining the will of the voters, but they are violating the spirit of the law in a manner that will be detrimental to the very patients this measure was intended to protect.”

Initiative proponents are considering pursuing legal actions. Activists are also in the process of gathering signatures to place a broader, adult use legalization measure on the 2018 ballot.

NORML has long argued that patients should not be limited solely to non-inhaled forms of cannabis because these alternative formulations possess delayed onset and their effects are far less predictable than those of herbal cannabis. Further, restricting patients’ access to herbal cannabis limits their exposure to the multitude of synergistically acting therapeutic compounds and terpenes found naturally in the plant, many of which are no longer present in formulations produced following the extraction of individual cannabinoids.

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NORML Questions Police Tactics That Led to Man’s Death Over Small Marijuana Grow

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) questions the excessive use of force used by Pennsylvania law enforcement, whose pursuit of a man suspected of growing a small amount of marijuana outdoors ultimately led to his death.

The body of a suspect in the case, Pennsylvania resident Gregory A. Longenecker, was found earlier this week under a bulldozer operated by a Pennsylvania Game Commission worker. The bulldozer was carrying a Pennsylvania state trooper in pursuit of Mr. Longenecker, who was suspected to have been cultivating ten marijuana plants in Penn Township, PA. A police helicopter was also used in the search.

NORML questions law enforcements’ decision to pursue the suspect in such an extreme manner, especially over such a minor offense..  “As a former prosecutor and practicing criminal defense attorney, it is inconceivable to me that a man lost his life during an investigation of a very small grow,” said Patrick Nightengale, Executive Director of Pittsburgh NORML. “Had he been arrested, prosecuted and convicted Pennsylvania’s sentencing guidelines would have provided for a sentence of probation. The heavy-handed tactics employed cannot be justified by the seizure of ten plants. I do not understand why law enforcement couldn’t simply wait. A vehicle was on scene and another individual was taken into custody. Rip the plants, run the plate and ask the arrestee what his friend’s name is. How difficult is that?”

“This awful event could have and should have been prevented,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said. ”This tragedy is a direct result of our nation’s draconic and failed criminalization of marijuana. Not only was the use of resources in this matter excessive and the tactics highly questionable, but more importantly a man lost his life over the act of growing a plant that is now legally regulated in a majority of US states. No matter your opinion on marijuana legalization, the penalty for growing cannabis should never be an extrajudicial death sentence.”

The commercial cultivation and dispensing of marijuana for medical purposes is legal in 31 states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam; The regulation of marijuana for adults is permitted in nine states and Washington, DC. Recent national polls have revealed that over 60% of all Americans support the legalization of marijuana for adults.

“As an activist and cannabis lobbyist in Pennsylvania, I always use decorum and process to my advantage. There would seem to have been a total lack of both by law enforcement this past Monday outside of Bernville. By all accounts the death of an illicit marijuana grower being chased by a state bulldozer, under the direction of Pennsylvania State Troopers, was an unnecessary and reckless use of resources,” says Jeff Riedy, Executive Director of Lehigh Valley NORML. “These horrible events only fuel the need for marijuana reform, including the right for personal use and home cultivation in our state, and across this country. Endless pursuit at all costs, leading to the death of a suspect, over a few marijuana plants is excessive, to say the least.”

Connect with Lehigh Valley NORML

Connect with Pittsburgh NORML

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North Dakota: Advocates Turn In Signatures For 2018 Adult Use Initiative

Legalize marijuanaProponents of a statewide ballot initiative to legalize the adult use of marijuana in North Dakota turned in nearly 19,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office today in an effort to place the measure before voters this November. State officials must certify 13,452 signatures in order to qualify the measure for the 2018 electoral ballot.

The voter-initiated measure, organized by the grass-roots group Legalize North Dakota, legalizes the possession, use, and sale of cannabis, as well as the possession of marijuana paraphernalia, by those over the age of 21 and also expunges past marijuana convictions.

In 2016, nearly two-thirds of state voters approved a ballot measure regulating medical cannabis access. However, state officials have yet to make the program operational — with regulators now aiming to have licensed dispensaries up and running by June 2019. Regulators’ failure to swiftly implement the 2016 measure was the impetus for the 2018 campaign, activists have acknowledged.

State officials are anticipated to take an estimated 35 days to verify proponents’ signatures. According to internal polling data commissioned by the Legalize North Dakota campaign, a plurality of voters back the measure.

Voters in Michigan will also be deciding this November on whether to legalize the adult use of marijuana, while voters in Utah and Missouri will be deciding on medical access measures.

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Maine: Lawmakers Override Governor’s Veto, Expand Medical Marijuana Access

Legislation to significantly expand patients’ access to medical cannabis will become law later this fall following a decision today by Maine lawmakers to override the Governor’s veto.

By a vote of 119 to 23 in the House and 25 to 8 in the Senate, lawmakers rejected Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of LD 1539. The bill will become law 90 days after the conclusion of the 2018 legislative session.

Under the new law, physicians will possess the discretion to recommend cannabis for any patient for whom they believe it will benefit. It also expands the total number of licensed medical dispensaries from eight to 14, earmarks funding for medical marijuana research, permits caregivers to oversee multiple patients, and licenses marijuana extraction facilities, among other changes.

An estimated 42,000 patients are currently certified with the state to use medical marijuana.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage has a long history of opposing virtually all marijuana law reform legislation, and has previously vetoed numerous bills seeking to liberalize the state’s cannabis policies.

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Weekly Legislative Roundup 7/6/18

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

At the state level, Vermont’s law legalizing marijuana possession and home cultivation took effect on July 1, and so did Georgia’s law allowing low-THC medical cannabis preparations for PTSD and intractable pain. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said that although marijuana legalization didn’t make it into the state’s budget deal, there is agreement from lawmakers to get it done “sooner rather than later.” The Senate president said that legislators are “committed” to passing marijuana legalization this summer.

At a more local level, the Rock County, Wisconsin Board voted to place a marijuana legalization advisory question on the November ballot. The Forest Park, Georgia City Council voted 3-2 for decriminalization and a Savannah, Georgia law allowing police to avoid low-level marijuana arrests took effect on Sunday.

Following are the bills from around the country that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check http://norml.org/act 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 at the federal level.

Your Highness,
Carly

Priority Alerts

Federal

End Cannabis Criminalization: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced legislation, the Marijuana Freedom and Opportunity Act, to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and to provide funding for the expungement of criminal records for those with past marijuana convictions.

Click here to e-mail your senators and urge them to support this important legislation

Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

Senate Bill 20-62 seeks to legalize, tax, and regulate cannabis in the US territory of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

If passed, the bill would legalize the personal use and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana for adults age 21 or older, and establish a licensing scheme for its commercial production and retail sale. The tax revenue would be used to fund the implementation of the program and other government services.

Update: The House Judiciary & Government Operations Committee recommended the passage of SB 20-62 on 7/2.

CNMI resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of legalization

Delaware

Senate Bill 197 seeks to permit those convicted of past marijuana possession convictions to seek expungement.

The measure would allow individuals to file a petition with the court requesting the expungement of any past marijuana possession violations that are no longer defined as a crime under state law. The bill was already passed by the Senate last month.

Update: on 7/2, SB 197 was unanimously approved by the House. The bill now awaits action from Governor John Carney (D).

DE resident? Click here to email your Governor in support of expungement

California

Assembly Bill 1793 seeks “to allow automatic expungement or reduction of a prior cannabis conviction for an act that is not a crime as of January 1, 2017, or for a crime that as of that date subject to a lesser sentence.

Update: AB 1793 will be heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee on 8/6 at 10am in the John L. Burton Hearing Room.

CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of expungement

Senate Bill 829 would exempt compassionate care programs from paying state cannabis taxes when they are providing free medical cannabis to financially disadvantaged people living with serious health conditions.

Update: On 7/2, SB 829 was approved by the Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation by a vote of 8-1, and was re-referred to the Committee on Appropriations.

CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of helping needy patients

Senate Bill 1127 would help students with severe medical disabilities attend school by allowing a parent or guardian to come on campus to administer medical cannabis to them in non-smoking and non-vaping forms.

Update: SB 1127 was heard by the Judiciary Committee on 7/3, and then approved by the Committee by a 7-3 vote.

CA resident? Click here to email your elected officials in support of expanded access to medical cannabis in schools

That’s all the legislative updates for this week!

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