Decriminalization

U.S.: White House Opposes GOP Amendment Undermining DC Marijuana Law Reform

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In a Statement of Administration Policy on Monday, the White House expressed strong opposition to a Republican amendment by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Maryland) that is directed at blocking implementation of a recent law the District of Columbia passed replacing jail time for possessing small amounts of marijuana for personal use with a small fine.

The statement calls marijuana reform a “states’ rights” issue, a groundbreaking policy position for the White House to take, according to the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). The D.C. Council also on Monday passed a resolution condemning congressional interference.

“It is great to see the White House accepting that a majority of Americans want marijuana law reform and defending the right of D.C. and states to set their own marijuana policy,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs at the DPA. “The tide has clearly shifted against the failed war on drugs and it’s only a matter of time before federal law is changed."

The White House Statement of Administration Policy reads: “Similarly, the Administration strongly opposes the language in the bill preventing the District from using its own local funds to carry out locally- passed marijuana policies, which again undermines the principles of States' rights and of District home rule. Furthermore, the language poses legal challenges to the Metropolitan Police Department's enforcement of all marijuana laws currently in force in the District.”

D.C. Council Opposes Republican-Led Effort In Congress To Block Marijuana Law Reform

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D.C. Marijuana Decriminalization Law Slated to Take Effect on Thursday

Marijuana Legalization Ballot Measure Expected to Go Before D.C. Voters in November

The Council of the District of Columbia on Monday morning is expected to pass two emergency resolutions opposing a recent effort led by U.S. House Representative Andy Harris (R-MD) to use congressional oversight to block the District of Columbia from spending any of its locally-raised revenues to enact marijuana reform.

The House Appropriations Committee on June 25 adopted an amendment by Rep. Harris that is directed at blocking implementation of a recent law the District of Columbia passed replacing jail time for possessing small amounts of marijuana for personal use with a small fine. If included in the 2015 federal budget, the rider would block the District from carrying out any law, rule or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce criminal penalties for marijuana.

Advocates warn the rider would overrule the will of D.C. voters should they pass Initiative 71 this fall and block efforts to tax and regulate adult sales of marijuana in the District. District residents have begun organizing a boycott of Ocean City, part of Rep. Harris's congressional district, as a show of their disapproval of Rep. Harris's intervention in D.C. affairs.

New York: Brooklyn DA Won't Pursue Low-Level Marijuana Arrests

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Brooklyn district attorney's office on Tuesday announced that it will immediately stop prosecuting most low-level marijuana cases. The policy change comes after months of resistance from the New York Police Department.

"This new policy is a reasonable response to the thousands of low-level marijuana arrests that weigh down the criminal justice system, require significant resources that could be redirected to more serious crimes and take an unnecessary toll on offenders," DA Kenneth P. Thompson said in a release.

Those caught with under 25 grams of pot will have their cases dismissed prior to arraignment, which has been happening more and more often anyway, reports Christopher Robbins at Gothamist. "Given that these cases are ultimately—and predictably—dismissed, the burdens that they pose on the system and the individual are difficult to justify. We are pouring money into an endeavor that produces no public safety benefit," Thompson said.

The change was proposed in a confidential memo in April, report Stephanie Clifford and Joseph Goldstein at The New York Times, but was delayed as police officials resisted the efforts of prosecutors to convince them to enter the 21st century.

Maryland: Montgomery Council Urges Assembly, Governor to Decriminalize Marijuana Paraphernalia

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Representatives of Maryland’s most populous county say possession of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia should be among its lowest law enforcement priorities

The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday unanimously adopted a resolution urging the Maryland General Assembly and Governor to decriminalize possession of marijuana paraphernalia. Montgomery is the state’s most populated county.

Specifically, the resolution urges them to “make adult paraphernalia possession a civil offense, no more serious than adult possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana.” In April, the General Assembly adopted a bill decriminalizing possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana, and Gov. Martin O’Malley signed it into law.

The council resolution also expresses the opinion that “possession of small amounts of marijuana and paraphernalia by adults should be among the County’s lowest law enforcement priorities.”

"Good cops don't want to waste their time arresting adults for marijuana possession," said Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and a 34-year veteran of the Maryland State Police. "They want to focus on serious threats to our community.

"Each marijuana arrest takes up time and resources that could be used to keep our neighborhoods safe,” Franklin said.

Caribbean Leaders Agree to Establish Commission to Review Regional Marijuana Policy

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Commission Will Assess Whether Marijuana Should Be Reclassified

At the semi-annual summit of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which concluded in Antigua this weekend, CARICOM leaders agreed to establish a commission to review marijuana policy in the region in order to assess the need for reforms to marijuana laws.

The communiqué issued at the conclusion of the meeting stated that “Heads of Government agreed to establish a Regional Commission on Marijuana to conduct a rigorous enquiry into the social, economic, health and legal issues surrounding marijuana use in the Region and to advise whether there should be a change in the current drug classification of marijuana, thereby making the drug more accessible for a range of users.”

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines -– who was instrumental in getting the issue on the agenda during his chairmanship of CARICOM -– expects the commission to study reforms taking place around the world on marijuana policy, including Jamaica, the United States, Sweden and Uruguay. “It seems to me counterproductive to ignore the potential of an industry in respect of medical marijuana and to continue to expend police, national security, court resources on persons who consume a minuscule amount of marijuana in the privacy of their homes,” Prime Minister Gonsalves said.

Global: Day of Action Sees More Than 80 Cities Protest The Drug War

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Citizens Take to the Streets on June 26 to Protest Current Drug Policies and to Call for an End to the Senseless Criminalization of Drug Users

Thousands of activists will take to the streets in more than 80 cities on June 26 to fight harmful drug laws that have caused health crises, instability and mass incarceration around the world.

Mass demonstrations and other actions are planned in New York, London, Paris, Warsaw, Mexico City, Kathmandu, Rome, Phnom Penh, Tbilisi, Kuala Lumpur, Moscow and more than 70 other cities. The actions include peaceful demonstrations, street performances, public meetings and workshops, social media campaigns and advertisements on public transportation and billboards.

The events are scheduled for June 26, which is the United Nations’ International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. The U.N.’s anti-drugs day is used by many governments to justify violent crackdowns and to promote harsh punishments. It has even been marked with public executions and beatings of drug offenders in some countries.

The “Support. Don’t Punish: Global Day of Action” seeks to reclaim this day and promote a more effective and humane approach to drugs that is based on public health and human rights.

U.S.: House Committee Votes To Block Marijuana Decriminalization In Washington DC

AndyHarris(R-MD)

Advocates prepare for vote to remove Republican amendment on House floor

The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday passed a Republican-sponsored amendment to the 2015 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill intended to prevent the District of Columbia from implementing its recently passed law decriminalizing the possession of marijuana. It also has the potential to end the District’s medical marijuana program.

The amendment, offered by GOP Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), passed by a vote of 28-21. It prohibits D.C. from spending federal funds or even its locally raised funds to carry out any law, rule or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce criminal penalties for marijuana.

The District of Columbia City Council passed a law in March replacing its criminal penalties for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana with a nominal $25 fine. It is scheduled to take effect July 17.

The law was largely a response to an ACLU report showing blacks in the District of Columbia are roughly eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites, despite similar use rates. In 2010, 91 percent of all marijuana arrests in D.C. were of African Americans.

The District’s medical marijuana law is the product of a 1998 initiative. It was not implemented until 2010 due to a provision in federal law, similar to the amendment offered by Rep. Harris, which was not repealed until 2009.

U.S.: Republicans In Congress May Try To Block Washington, DC From Reforming Marijuana Laws

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Congressional Interference Comes After D.C. Lawmakers Decriminalize Marijuana to Ease Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System

Republicans may offer an amendment to a federal appropriations bill on Wednesday morning that would prevent the District of Columbia from implementing the marijuana decriminalization law recently passed by the D.C. City Council and signed into law by the mayor in March.

The amendment would prohibit D.C. from spending federal funds or even its locally raised funds to carry out any law, rule or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce criminal penalties for marijuana.

Advocates quickly decried this possible attempt by Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee that would interfere and potentially block efforts by D.C. lawmakers to eliminate racial disparities that have long persisted in the enforcement of D.C.’s marijuana laws. In 2010, 91 percent of all marijuana arrests in D.C. were of African Americans.

“D.C. lawmakers recently decriminalized marijuana possession because the people of the District of Columbia demanded an end to the disproportionate arrest of African Americans for small amounts of marijuana,” said Dr. Malik Burnett, D.C. policy manager with the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Any effort by Congress that would block D.C.’s efforts to reform its marijuana laws denies the people of the Nation’s Capital the democratic right to pursue racial and social justice.”

Global: More Than 80 Cities Worldwide To Protest Drug War On June 26

Support.Don'tPunish.

Citizens Take to the Streets on June 26 to Protest Current Drug Policies and to Call for an End to the Senseless Criminalization of Drug Users

Thousands of activists will take to the streets in more than 80 cities on Thursday, June 26, to fight harmful drug laws that have caused health crises, instability and mass incarceration around the world.

Mass demonstrations and other actions are planned in New York, London, Paris, Warsaw, Mexico City, Kathmandu, Rome, Phnom Penh, Tbilisi, Kuala Lumpur, Moscow and more than 70 other cities. The actions include peaceful demonstrations, street performances, public meetings and workshops, social media campaigns and advertisements on public transportation and billboards.

The events are scheduled to coincide with the United Nations’ International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, which is also June 26. The U.N.’s anti-drugs day is used by many governments to justify violent crackdowns and to promote harsh punishments. It has even been marked with public executions and beatings of drug offenders in some countries.

The “Support. Don’t Punish: Global Day of Action” seeks to reclaim this day and promote a more effective and humane approach to drugs that is based on public health and human rights.

Pennsylvania: Philly City Council Votes To Decriminalize Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

If you have a Phillies Blunt, fire that thing up, man. The Philadelphia City Council, with a veto-proof 13-3 majority, on Thursday voted to decriminalize marijuana. The Philadelphia Police Department could stop arresting people for possessing small amounts of cannabis under the bill, with every Democrat on the council voting in favor of it, and every Republican against it.

Democratic Michael Michael Nutter has until September to make a decision, reports WPVI-TV; even if he chose to veto it, there are enough votes to override his veto.

Mayor Nutter doesn't have to take any action at all on the bill, according to Councilman Jim Kenney's director of legislation, Jim Engler, until the Council is back in session in September. The mayor could either sign the bill, veto it, or do nothing, which would result in the bill becoming law without the mayor's endorsement, reports Dan McQuade at Philadelphia Magazine.

The mayor's spokesman, Mark McDonald, wouldn't immediately say if Nutter plans to sign the bill.

Under the measure, the police would no longer be required to arrest adults 18 and older for possessing 30 grams or less of marijuana. Possession of such amounts would still be punishable by a $25 fine.

Delaware: Lawmakers To Hold Hearing On Removing Criminal Penalties For Marijuana

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Advocates will urge the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee to support a measure that would replace possible jail time with a civil fine similar to a traffic ticket; the hearing is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET in the House Minority Caucus Room

The Delaware House of Representatives Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Wednesday on a proposal to remove criminal penalties for adult marijuana possession.

The committee will consider an amended version of HB 371, sponsored by Rep. Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington), which would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana a civil offense, punishable by a fine, similar to a traffic ticket. Under current Delaware law, possession of any amount of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $1,150 and up to six months in jail.

“Nobody should be saddled with a criminal record simply for possessing a substance that is less harmful than alcohol,” said Rachelle Yeung, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), who will be at the hearing to testify in support of the bill. “A marijuana conviction can haunt individuals for the rest of their lives, depriving them of educational opportunities, employment, and public housing.

"Law enforcement officials’ time would be better spent addressing serious crimes instead of arresting and prosecuting adults for marijuana possession,” Yeung said.

Jamaica Poised To Decriminalize Marijuana Possession, Approve Medical and Religious Use

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Jamaican Minister of Justice Mark Golding on Friday released a statement announcing government support for a proposal to decriminalize the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana and the decriminalization of marijuana use for religious, scientific and medical purposes.

"The objective is to provide a more enlightened approach to dealing with possession of small quantities and smoking, while still meeting the ends of justice,” Minister Golding said. “The proposed changes represent an approach which will ensure to the benefit of the persons concerned and the society as a whole, and reduce the burdens on the court system.”

The Jamaican Cabinet approved these amendments on June 2; Parliament is expected to approve the proposal in September.

The measure approved by the Cabinet includes the following stipulations:

• Possession of up to two ounces of marijuana becomes a non-arrestable, ticketable infraction, which does not give rise to a criminal record; minors in possession and those with appearance of dependency will be referred to treatment programs;
• Smoking of marijuana will be allowed in private places and by Rastafarians in places designated for their religious worship; and
• Decriminalization of possession of marijuana for religious, therapeutic and scientific research purposes.

Minister Golding also announced a separate marijuana-related bill to be presented to Parliament, which would expunge existing criminal records for the smoking or possession of small quantities of marijuana.

Global: Former UN Secretary General's West Africa Commission On Drugs Calls For Decrim

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West Africa Commission On Drugs Calls Drug War a Failure and for Treating Drug Use as Health Issue

The drug policy reform movement received a global push on Thursday with the release of the West Africa Commission on Drugs statement calling for decriminalization of low-level non-violent drug offenses and broader drug policy refom. Initiated by former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, the Commission is chaired by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasango and includes other former heads of state as well as a distinguished group of West Africans from the worlds of politics, civil society, health, security and the judiciary.

The report, Not Just in Transit: Drugs, the State and Society in West Africa, concludes that drug use must be regarded primarily as a public health issue; highlights the need for treatment rather than punishment for drug use; states that the consumption and possession of drugs for personal use should not be criminalized; and that West Africa must not become a new front line in the failed “War On Drugs.”

At the report’s release in Dakar, Senegal, chair of the Commission Obasanjo said, “We call on West African governments to reform drug laws and policies and decriminalize low-level and non-violent drug offenses.” Kofi Annan agreed: “Most governments’ reaction to simply criminalize drug use without thinking about prevention or access to treatment has not just led to overcrowded jails, but also worsened health and social problems.”

Illinois: Chicago Police Still Making Marijuana Arrests, Despite New Law

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Surprise, surprise: Give cops the option to bust you, or not, for pot, and they will still bust you. Chicago police continue to arrest almost all people caught with small amounts of marijuana -- despite a city ordinance that allows them to write tickets and avoid the arrest, according to a new study.

When the ordinance was first passed in 2012, supporters -- including Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy -- claimed it would enable officers to issue tickets and stay on the street, rather than go through the time-consuming process of hauling pot offenders to jail.

But apparently the police enjoy that process -- or else, they really dislike marijuana users.

About 93 percent of misdemeanor marijuana possession cases resulted in arrests by the Chicago Police Department in 2013, the first full year the decrim ordinance was in effect after being passed in 2012, according to the study from Roosevelt University's Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy, reports the Associated Press.

Bermuda: Government Board Recommends Immediate Decrim of Marijuana Possession, Cultivation

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Drug Policy Historian Alan Gordon Claims Bermuda Paper Is First of Its Kind, Anywhere

A new government-commissioned report in Bermuda recommends that the island nation should "decriminalize personal possession and personal cultivation immediately," and "develop a phased approach to cannabis reform and policies that limit potential of Bermudians being denied access to the United States."

Bermuda’s independent Cannabis Reform Collaborative (CRC) on Friday, May 9 issued "An Analysis of Cannabis Reform in Bermuda," which is being called the world’s first government-commissioned independently-assessed specific recommended mechanism to remove criminal/civil penalties for cannabis production and supply, as well as possession and use, says drug policy historian and Bermudian activist Alan Gordon.

Gordon, who was previously (1996-1998) the Executive Director of the American Drug History Institute, says that while previous nationally-commissioned independent review panels have recommended cannabis legalization, the CRC’s appears to be the first to propose a specific mechanism -- in this case, permission to non-commercially grow up to 8 mature cannabis plants at home, with limited cannabis club and retail licensure.

U.S.: GOP Congressman Introduces Bill To Block New D.C. Marijuana Decriminalization Law

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In Congressional Hearing, Republican-Led Panel Criticizes New D.C. Law

D.C. Council Passed Decriminalization Law to Address Racial Disparities and Out-of-Control Arrests

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on Government Operations held a Friday hearing on legislation recently passed by the District of Columbia that eliminates criminal penalties for marijuana possession. The panel, chaired by Rep. John Mica (R-FL), heard testimony describing severe racial disparities in the enforcement of D.C. marijuana laws and strong support among D.C. lawmakers and residents for eliminating criminal penalties for marijuana possession.

Speaking to a reporter with CQ Roll Call, Rep. John Fleming (R-Louisiana) indicated he plans to introduce a Congressional resolution to overturn D.C.’s marijuana decriminalization law and Rep. Mica said that his views on whether Congress should intervene are “evolving.” In closing remarks during today’s hearing, Rep. Mica indicated he might soon hold an additional hearing on the D.C. measure.

“It’s outrageous that Congress is trying to sabotage D.C.’s success in ending marijuana arrests,” said Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs with the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Congress should follow the lead of lawmakers in D.C. and reform federal marijuana laws.”

D.C.: Congress To Review District of Columbia Marijuana Decriminalization

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House Oversight Committee’s Government Operations Subcommittee to hold hearing on bill approved by D.C. Council that replaces criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession with a civil fine

The U.S. House Oversight Committee's Government Operations subcommittee will hold a hearing on Friday to review the marijuana decriminalization measure approved by the D.C. Council and signed by Mayor Vincent Gray in March.

The new law, which is scheduled to go into effect on July 18, removes criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for individuals 18 years of age and older and replaces them with a civil fine of $25. Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a criminal offense punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

The measure also removes penalties for possession of paraphernalia in conjunction with small amounts of marijuana, and it specifies that individuals cannot be searched or detained based solely on an officer’s suspicion of marijuana possession. Public use of marijuana would remain a criminal offense punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.

"This one is a no-brainer," said Robert Capecchi, deputy director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "We hope Congress will respect the decision made by the D.C. Council on behalf of its citizens."

"Voters in the District and around the nation overwhelmingly support the removal of criminal penalties for marijuana possession," Capecchi said.

New York: Landmark Conference Explores Past, Present, Future of Marijuana Policies

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Groundbreaking Gathering at The New York Academy of Medicine Brings Together Leading Academics, Lawmakers, Community Groups and Experts in Policy to Discuss New Approaches

Brooklyn Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and More To Discuss How to Fix New York’s Broken Marijuana Policies

Thursday, May 1, marks the start of a major one-and-a-half day conference at The New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) to discuss marijuana and broader drug policy reform. The conference commemorates the 70th anniversary of one of the nation’s first systematic studies to address many of the myths about marijuana, The La Guardia Committee Report: The Marihuana Problem in the City of New York, published in 1944.

The NYAM published report concluded that “the sociological, psychological, and medical ills commonly attributed to marihuana have been found to be exaggerated,” but marijuana prohibition has stood largely intact for 70 years – until now.

When the LaGuardia Commission released its final report on marijuana in 1944, it was in the midst of a national debate about marijuana, and prohibition was still new. Now, 70 years later, a national discussion is again underway about our marijuana policies.

New York: Rally Supports Brooklyn DA's Proposal To Stop Prosecuting Low-Level Marijuana Possession

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Historic Step Will Reduce Both Racial Disparities and the Number of Brooklynites Unfairly Saddled with Lifelong Arrest Records

Advocates, Community Groups Applaud DA Thompson for His Leadership and Demand Action by City Hall and Albany

Brooklyn elected officials, community groups, and advocates on Friday rallied on the steps of Borough Hall to support District Attorney Ken Thompson’s proposal to stop prosecuting people arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

A memo outlining DA Thompson’s proposal, shared with the press, states that when the police make a low-level marijuana arrest and the defendant has no criminal record or a minimal criminal record, “there will be a presumption that such case will be immediately dismissed.” With this bold and smart initiative, DA Thompson is using his discretionary authority as the top law enforcement officer in Brooklyn to refocus limited law enforcement resources on serious public safety issues, address and reduce unwarranted racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and ensure that Brooklyn residents are no longer saddled with lifelong arrest records for simple possession of marijuana.

New York: Groups To Gather In Support Of DA's Proposal To Stop Prosecuting Minor Marijuana Cases

BrooklynDAKenThompson

Community Groups, Elected Officials Support Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson’s Proposal to Stop Prosecuting Low-Level Cannabis Possession Cases

Major Step Will Dramatically Reduce the Number of People in Brooklyn Unfairly Saddled with Lifelong Criminal Records
Advocates, Community Groups Applaud DA Thompson for His Leadership and Demand Reform at City Hall and in Albany

Elected officials, community members and the coalition, New Yorkers for Public Health & Safety, on Friday at 11 a.m. will rally on the steps of Brooklyn’s Borough Hall to applaud DA Ken Thompson’s proposal to stop prosecuting people arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

DA Thompson’s office hopes that “individuals, and especially young people of color, do not become unfairly burdened and stigmatized by involvement in the criminal justice system for engaging in nonviolent conduct that poses no threat of harm to persons or property,” according to The New York Times. The Times obtained a confidential policy memo that was sent by the district attorney to NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton.

What: Press Conference about Marijuana Arrests in Brooklyn

When: Friday, April 25th 11am

Where: Steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall – 209 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201

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