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U.S.: Reps From 30+ Cities To Meet On Innovative Approach To Low-Level Drug Offenses

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LEAD Established Unique Collaboration Among Law Enforcement, Human Service Agencies, Business Leaders, and Community Members to Produce Nearly 60% Reduction in Recidivism in Seattle

Wednesday: Convening Hosted by Major Foundations and Seattle Police Department

Thursday: Convening Co-Hosted by Major Foundations and The White House

This week, government officials and community leaders from more than 30 city, county and state jurisdictions will gather to discuss an innovative program that brings together diverse stakeholders seeking to achieve better outcomes in public health and safety by diverting people from jail to services.

The program, known as Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or LEAD, was pioneered in Seattle. Under LEAD, police divert individuals who commit low-level drug offenses to harm reduction based case management services. An independent evaluation found that it reduced the likelihood of reoffending by nearly 60 percent compared to a control group that went through the criminal justice system “as usual.”

LEAD’s successes and positive evaluations have sparked widespread attention and interest, especially in a moment when the police role in dealing with “quality of life” issues is controversial and the way forward after the War On Drugs is uncertain.

New York: City and County of Albany To Reduce Low Level Arrests, Racial Disparities

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Broad Array of Community Stakeholders Sign Memorandum of Understanding To Collaborate on Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion – LEAD

Working Group Includes Albany Police Department, District Attorney, Albany Mayor’s Office, County Executive and Departments, Business and Community Leaders, and Health Organizations

Officials and community leaders on Thursday announced that the City and County of Albany, New York, will be developing an innovative program to reduce recidivism while advancing public safety and public health. The program is known as Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or LEAD.

Under LEAD, police officers may exercise their discretion and divert individuals for certain low-level criminal offenses like drug possession; instead of being arrested and going through the regular criminal justice process, the individual is referred to a case manager, who then facilitates access to a comprehensive network of social services.

Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion was launched in 2011 in Seattle. LEAD emerged from a growing consensus that the war on drugs has failed, its associated racial disparities are unacceptable, and there is a need for innovative, effective approaches to reduce the number of people unnecessarily entering the criminal justice system.

Santa Fe became the second jurisdiction to implement the program in 2014. Albany is the first East Coast city and the third city in the nation to begin developing LEAD.

New York: NYC Council Holds Hearing On Bill To Reorient Drug Policy Towards Health

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Legislation Would Create an Office to Coordinate Drug Strategy Between Dozens of Departments

Emphasizes Evidence-based Policy Making to Promote Health and Public Safety and Reduce Negative Impact of Past and Current Policies

As the New York City Council prepared to hold a hearing on legislation to reshape how the city deals with illegal drug use, advocates packed the steps of City Hall in support.

The bill would create an Office of Drug Strategy charged with coordinating policy and programmatic priorities across dozens of city agencies and collaborating with community organizations. While similar approaches exist in scores of Canadian and European cities, the New York City office would be the first of its kind in the U.S.

“I know firsthand why we need an Office of Drug Strategy, dedicated to creating alternatives to our city's failed drug policies," said Shantae Owens, a member of VOCAL New York. "When I was arrested for possessing a small amount of drugs, I was homeless and drug addicted, selling drugs just to support a habit.

"I was offered a prison sentence instead of treatment, which was a waste of my life and our tax dollars," Owens said. "New York City can and should be a national role model for how we can end drug war policies and replace them with policies of justice and equity, and politics of compassion and love."

Washington: Seattle's New Approach To Drug Offenses Produces Nearly 60% Reduction In Recidivism

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LEAD Establishes Unique Collaboration Among Law Enforcement, Human Service Agencies, Business Leaders, and Community Members

Interest in LEAD Grows Among Major Cities Across the Nation, Including New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Houston, Atlanta, and Albany

According to a new, independent study by a University of Washington evaluation team, one of the nation’s most innovative and promising approaches to ending the War On Drugs and mass incarceration has been shown to produce a dramatic drop in recidivism.

In 2011, Seattle launched "Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion" (LEAD), a bold new harm reduction-oriented approach to address low-level drug and prostitution crimes and break the cycle of addiction, joblessness and homelessness. Under LEAD, police officers exercise discretion to divert individuals for certain criminal offenses (including low-level drug sales) to a case manager and a comprehensive network of services, instead of booking them to jail and initiating the standard criminal justice process.

LEAD established a unique collaboration between multiple stakeholders who all work together to find new ways to solve old problems. Stakeholders include police, district attorneys, mental health and drug treatment providers, housing providers and other service agencies, the business community, public defenders, elected officials, and community leaders.

New York: Officials Ignore Patients; Pursue Unworkable Medical Marijuana Program

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Advocates Say Final Regulations to Leave Thousands of Patients to Suffer Needlessly

Abandoned by Cuomo Administration, Critically Ill Patients and Families Vow to Return to the Legislature to Fix New York’s Broken Medical Marijuana Program

The New York State Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday night released the final regulations for New York’s medical marijuana program. The announcement followed a period of public comment in which patients, families, experts, and industry professionals submitted more than a thousand letters and emails critiquing the proposed regulations for being too restrictive and unworkable.

In response to this incredible level of input from the public and private industry, the Department of Health made absolutely no substantive changes to the regulations. Instead, they made only handful of technical fixes, such as correcting typos, according to the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).

Twenty-two other states have passed medical marijuana laws, five jurisdictions have passed laws taxing and regulating marijuana for adult use, and the federal government has made clear that they will not interfere with properly administered state marijuana programs. Despite this, the Cuomo Administration, in its response to the public comments, repeatedly uses federal laws as an excuse for inaction.

New York: Advocates Call NYPD's Statement Linking Marijuana and Shootings 'Reefer Madness'

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Drug Policy Alliance: The Real Way to Address Violence Related to Marijuana is through Legalizing and Regulating It

NYPD Commissioner William Bratton this week gave a press conference about the rising number of shootings in NYC. Incredibly, Bratton went on to blame marijuana, of all things, for the increase in violence.

“Commissioner Bratton’s claims today about marijuana are straight out of the tired old drug war handbook and frankly, are ridiculous," said gabriel sayegh, managing director of policy and campaigns at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "What evidence is Bratton relying on in making these statements? Hasn’t he heard that correlation does not equal causation?

"Marijuana is the most widely used illicit substance in the U.S. and in New York and, therefore, is far more likely to be found on New Yorkers than any other drug," sayegh said. "It appears that finding marijuana on the scene of a violent crime is enough for Bratton to assert a causal link.

"Using that rationale, we can make other causal links to violence – for instance, if police find a cell phone at the scene of a violent crime, then certainly the cell phone must cause that crime," sayegh said.

New York: Legislators Hold Forum On Taxing And Regulating Marijuana Like Alcohol

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Senator Liz Krueger and Assemblyperson Crystal Peoples-Stokes on Wednesday sponsored a public forum about the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, a bill that would tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.

Under the proposal, those over 21 would be able to purchase small amounts of marijuana from a state-regulated store. The bill would rectify the many problems associated with marijuana prohibition, including the arrests of tens of thousands of primarily young people of color.

“There is no question that New York’s marijuana policies are broken,” said Kassandra Frederique, policy manager at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Each year, tens of thousands of New Yorkers are swept into the maze of the criminal justice system for nothing more than possessing small amounts of marijuana.

"Enforcement of these policies is focused almost entirely focused on young people, primarily young people of color, such that our laws are now applied differently to different people based on the color of their skin and their income level – this must stop,” Frederique said.

The hearing comes amidst a wave of marijuana policy reform nationally. Four states and the District of Columbia have voted to legalize marijuana for adult use.

At the federal level, Congress has just passed and President Obama on Tuesday signed the omnibus bill that contained an amendment that prohibits the Department of Justice from using funds to interfere with states that have passed medical marijuana laws.

New York: NYPD Poised To Stop Low-Level Marijuana Possession Arrests

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Individuals Would Instead be Ticketed and Ordered to Court

Advocates Cautiously Optimistic, But Key Questions and Concerns Remain

An article on the front page of Monday's New York Times outlines a plan by the de Blasio Administration to end low-level marijuana possession arrests in New York City. According to the article, those found with small amounts of marijuana would be issued a court summons and immediately released.

This would be a shift from the current arrest practice, wherein police charge people with a misdemeanor – the person is then handcuffed, taken to the precinct and held for hours, fingerprinted and photographed, and eventually released with a court date and a virtually permanent arrest record. Ending arrests for marijuana possession is a constructive step towards reform, yet many questions and concerns about the new proposal remain.

The new proposal comes on the heels of a recently released report by the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, which analyzed marijuana arrest and income data. It shows that low-income and middle class communities of color face dramatically higher rates arrests for marijuana possession than do white communities of every class bracket.

New York: NYPD Continues Quixotic, Discriminatory Marijuana Arrest Crusade

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From March to August Under de Blasio/Bratton, NYPD Made More Marijuana Possession Arrests than Bloomberg/Kelly in Same Period of Previous Year

Extreme Racial Disparities Persist as Blacks and Latinos Make up 86% of Marijuana Possession Arrests, Despite Young Whites Using at Higher Rates

A new report released on Monday by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project and the Drug Policy Alliance shows that, despite campaign promises, marijuana possession arrests under New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio are on track to equal – or even surpass – the number of arrests under Mayor Bloomberg. As under the Bloomberg and Giuliani administrations, these arrests are marked by shockingly high racial disparities.

The report, "Race, Class & Marijuana Arrests in Mayor de Blasio’s Two New Yorks: the NYPD’s Marijuana Arrest Crusade Continues in 2014" draws on data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services and shows that despite a change in mayoral administrations and police commissioners, the NYPD continues its practice of making wasteful, racially biased, and costly marijuana arrests.

New York: Governor Asks DOJ To Allow New York To Get Medical Marijuana From Other States

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Patients, Families, and Advocates Thank Cuomo For Federal Request, But Urge Additional State Action to Save Lives of Critically Ill Patients

Patients Call on Governor to Create State-Based Emergency Access Program

The Cuomo Administration on Friday sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Cole following up on an earlier letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, sent on August 13. Both letters asked the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) to extend a narrow, time-limited exception to federal law to allow the importation of certain strains of medical marijuana from other states for use by children in New York with severe forms of epilepsy.

The letters follow the deaths of several children and a sustained campaign by advocates pressuring the Cuomo Administration to create an interim emergency access program for patients who may not survive the 18 months or longer that the governor has said he needs to get the full medical marijuana program up and running. New York passed a medical marijuana bill that Governor Cuomo signed into law in July, but the Administration has said the program won’t be up and running until at least January of 2016.

To establish emergency access for patients in need, medical marijuana can either be produced within New York state, or, with appropriate federal clearances, acquired from a different jurisdiction. The Cuomo Administration’s letters address one of those two options.

New York: Elected Officials, Community Groups Announce Legislation To End Racist Marijuana Arrests

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Comprehensive Legislation would also Address Racial Bias, Collateral Consequences, and Fix Loopholes in NY Marijuana Laws

Despite Dramatic Drop in Stop and Frisk, NYPD on Track to Arrest as Many People in 2014 as Previous Year... and Racial Disparities Persist

Elected officials, community members and the coalition, New Yorkers for Public Health & Safety, will rally on Wednesday, July 9, on the Steps of New York City Hall, to call for comprehensive reform to address racially biased marijuana arrests and devastating collateral consequences.

Last year, there were nearly 30,000 marijuana possession arrests in New York City alone. Based on first-quarter data obtained from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, the NYPD is now on track to make nearly as many marijuana possession arrests in 2014 as it did in 2013, with similarly shocking racial disparities.

Proposals to fix New York’s marijuana possession law have stalled in Albany the past few years. With the continued staggering racial disparities and Governor Cuomo’s recommitment to ending marijuana arrests, Assembly member Camara and Senator Squadron along with community members and advocates are calling for reforms that not only end racially bias marijuana arrests but also address the racial bias in the NY criminal justice system and deal with the devastating collateral consequences of these racially biased arrests.

What Does the Fairness and Equity Act Do?

New York Officially Becomes 23rd Medical Marijuana State

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Patients, Caregivers and Healthcare Providers Thank Legislators and Governor, Immediately Turn Their Attention to Swift Implementation: “Patients Are Out of Time and Need Access Now”

Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday signed a medical marijuana bill into law, making New York the 23rd state to allow legal access to medical marijuana for seriously ill patients. Patients, caregivers and healthcare providers are attending the bill signing ceremony at The New York Academy of Medicine, along with the bill sponsors, Assemblyman Dick Gottfried and Senator Diane Savino.

After years of advocacy and intense last minute negotiations between lawmakers, the bill passed on the final day of the legislative session with extraordinarily strong bipartisan support. New York is the second largest state in the nation

“Thanks to the bill sponsors and the Governor’s actions today, New York has joined twenty-two other states in creating safe and legal access to medical marijuana for seriously ill patients,” said Holly Anderson, executive director of the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester. “Patients in New York have been fighting for this for 18 years, and they have waited long enough. I urge the Governor to do everything within his power to insure that patients in New York can access medical marijuana as soon as possible."

New York Becomes 23rd Medical Marijuana State - But No Smoking

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Hope is On the Way for Thousands of Seriously Ill New Yorkers, Despite Flawed Bill

Patients, Caregivers and Healthcare Providers Praise Lawmakers and Vow to Fight for Improvements

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The New York State Senate and the New York State Assembly on Friday passed a medical marijuana bill, making New York the 23rd state to create legal access to medical marijuana for seriously ill patients. After days of tense negotiations, the bill was passed in the final hours of the legislative session on Friday.

Governor Cuomo has said he will sign the bill into law. The bill will provide relief for thousands of New York patients suffering from serious and debilitating conditions – such as cancer, MS, and epilepsy, by allowing the use of medical marijuana under the supervision of their physician.

Patients, caregivers and providers watched from the gallery as the Senate debated and then voted 49 to 10 in favor of the bill.

Late last week, Governor Cuomo announced a series of last-minute changes that he wanted to the bill. The bill’s sponsors, Assemblyman Dick Gottfried and Senator Diane Savino, worked tirelessly to accommodate the Governor’s concerns so that a deal could move forward.

New York: Governor, Legislature Announce Medical Marijuana Program; No Smoking Allowed

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Senate, Assembly and Governor Announce Medical Marijuana Deal

Thousands Will Still Benefit, Although Bill Excludes Smoked Marijuana

The New York Assembly, Senate and Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday announced a deal to move forward on a limited medical marijuana program, which makes New York the 23rd state to adopt such a program. The new law will provide relief to thousands of New Yorkers suffering from debilitating illnesses such as cancer, AIDS, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis, as well as children struggling with seizure disorders.

Although the final bill language has not yet been released, advocates were pleased to hear that there had been a breakthrough in Albany. As recently as yesterday, it was unclear that an agreement could be reached between the Governor and legislative leaders on behalf of thousands of patients and their caregivers who have demanded passage of the Compassionate Care Act, which recently passed the Assembly.

Information currently available about the bill suggests that it has some serious limitations and restrictions. For example, the bill would prohibit smoking, restrict any access to the raw plant form of marijuana. The number of producers and dispensaries is also reportedly extremely limited, raising questions about whether the system will be able to meet the needs of patients in New York.

“New York has finally done something significant for thousands of patients who are suffering and need relief now," said gabriel sayegh of the Drug Policy Alliance. "They will benefit from this compromise.

New York: Gov. Cuomo Undermines Medical Marijuana; Makes Last-Minute Demands To Sink Bill

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For Years, Governor Ignored Pleas by Patients and Advocates to Work Together on Legislation

Outraged Patients and Families Demand Governor Stop Playing Politics With Peoples Lives; Senate Should Vote Immediately

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday leaked to the media his list of changes he wants made to New York’s comprehensive medical marijuana bill -– the Compassionate Care Act –- before he’ll support it. The full list of changes, which has been obtained by advocates, puzzlingly includes many demands already addressed in the current legislation.

Additionally, bill sponsors have already agreed to make a number of changes to satisfy the governor. But the list includes “poison pills”, like eliminating serious conditions, including Alzheimer’s, ALS, and muscular dystrophy, and preventing cancer patients and those living with HIV/AIDS from using medical marijuana to treat the side effects of their medications and chemotherapy, such as nausea, wasting, and pain associated with those treatments.

The Governor wants to eliminate post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury, conditions which affect veterans at high rates and for which medical marijuana is beneficial. Cuomo also wants to eliminate any timelines for implementation and add a sunset clause to the bill, despite the fact that the legislation already gives the governor nearly full control over the entire program.

New York: Third Republican State Senator Now Co-Sponsors Medical Marijuana Bill

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Republican Support for Medical Marijuana Builds After GOP-Led U.S. House of Representatives Passes Bipartisan Bill Directing Feds to Respect State Marijuana Laws

Patients, Families and Advocates Cheer Maziarz and New York Times Editorial, Travel to Albany Monday to Demand Vote in Senate Finance Committee

In a another strong sign of growing GOP support for medical marijuana, new York State Senate Vice President Pro Tempore George Maziarz (R-Lockport) has signed on as co-sponsor of the Compassionate Care Act ( S.4406-B (Savino)), which would allow eligible patients with serious and debilitating conditions to access medical marijuana under the supervision of their healthcare provider.

In February, Maziarz became one of the first Senate Republicans to publicly announce his support for the Compassionate Care Act along with Senators Grisanti and Robach. Since then then, they’ve been joined by O’Mara, Bonacic and Larkin, who also announced their support. Maziarz, the third-highest ranking member of the Senate Republicans, joins Sen. Robach and Grisanti as Republican a co-sponsor.

Patients, healthcare providers and advocates with the statewide Compassionate Care NY coalition praised Sen. Maziarz and called on Senate leadership to finally allow a vote on the measure.

New York: State Assembly Passes Comprehensive, Bipartisan Medical Marijuana Bill

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New York One Step Closer Becoming 23rd Medical Marijuana State

Patients and Families Cheer Assembly Action, Call for Vote in the Senate

The New York State Assembly on Tuesday passed the Compassionate Care Act (A. 6357-B/Gottfried) by a bipartisan vote of 91–34. This is the fifth time that the Assembly has passed a medical marijuana bill, and comes just months after the Assembly included the measure in their one-house state budget proposal. The bill remains stalled in the Senate.

The bill, known as the Compassionate Care Act, would provide relief for thousands of New York patients suffering from serious and debilitating conditions -– such as cancer, MS, and epilepsy -- by allowing the use of medical marijuana under the supervision of their healthcare provider. Patients, caregivers, and providers watched from the gallery as the Assembly debated and then voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bill.

“Once again the Assembly has shown that it understands the needs of seriously ill patients in New York,” said Donna Romano of Syracuse. “As someone who lives with MS and seizures, I know medical marijuana can help alleviate my suffering and that of thousands of other New Yorkers.

"I hope the Senate will finally do the right thing and pass the Compassionate Care Act now," Romano said.

New York: Senate Health Committee Passes Bipartisan Medical Marijuana Bill

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New York Takes Major Step Toward Becoming Medical Marijuana State

Patients and Families Cheer Step Forward, Call for Vote in Full Senate

The New York State Senate Health Committee on Tuesday passed a medical marijuana bill, the Compassionate Care Act, by a bipartisan vote of 9–8. This is the first time in years that the Senate has taken up the issue of medical marijuana.

The bill (S.4406-B/Savino) would alleviate the suffering of thousands of seriously ill New Yorkers by allowing the use of marijuana to treat debilitating, life-threatening illnesses under a doctor’s supervision, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. The committee room was packed with patients from across the state, and the room erupted into applause when the Committee voted the bill in the affirmative. The bill now goes to the Finance Committee.

“Today the Senate Health Committee sided with cancer patients when it voted to move the Compassionate Care Act forward,” said Andi Gladstone, executive director of the New York State Breast Cancer Network. “We know that medical cannabis can help alleviate the pain and nausea that many cancer patients experience from chemotherapy, and we are thrilled that the Senate has moved one step closer to make this treatment available to them.

"It’s time for the Senate to bring this bill to the floor for a vote so that patients can finally get the relief they deserve," Gladstone said.

New York: NYPD Making As Many Marijuana Arrests In 2014 As Last Year

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Extreme Racial Disparities Persist: 86% of Arrests are Young Black and Latino Men, Even Though Young White Men Use Marijuana At Higher Rates

Analysis: Significant Drop in Stop-and-Frisk Does Not End Marijuana Possession Arrests; Advocates Call for Focused Plan to End Biased Arrests

The Marijuana Arrest Research Project on Friday released data showing that racially bias marijuana arrests continue to be one of the leading arrests in New York City, despite the precipitous drop in stop and frisks.

In March 2014, the NYPD under Mayor Bill de Blasio made more marijuana possession arrests than almost every other month in 2013 under Bloomberg and Kelly. New York City's marijuana possession arrests in the first quarter of 2014 are higher than in the third and fourth quarters of 2013, with identical racial disparities.

As illustrated in graphs by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, approximately 86 percent of those arrested are Black and Latino – mostly young men -- despite government studies show that young white men use marijuana at higher rates. Indeed, if this trend continues, NYPD could make as many or more marijuana arrests in 2014 as they did in 2013.

New York: Advocates Say Medical Marijuana Could Be Legalized This Spring

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

It's been a tough fight in New York for medical marijuana. Time after time, advocates and patients believed they were on the brink of victory, only to be disappointed. But medicinal cannabis may finally be a dream that is coming true in the Empire State, and the change may come soon, according to advocates.

Pointing to favorable opinion polls and an evolving position from the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, proponents believe a new medical marijuana bill will be approved in Albany this spring, making New York the 22nd medical marijuana state, reports Glenn Blain at the New York Daily News.

"We're closer to this than we have ever been before," said gabriel sayegh of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).

Advocates have revised the bill to more tightly control how marijuana can be used, and who gets to use it. The new version, introduced on Friday, removed language that gave doctors the freedom to authorize medical marijuana for a wide array of symptoms.

The new version limits pot's use to about 20 serious conditions, including cancer, traumatic brain injury, AIDS, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and post-traumatic stress disorder. It also prevents anyone under 21 from being able to smoke marijuana for medicinal purposes, though they could be authorized to use other forms of cannabis, such as tincture or capsules.

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