New York State’s legalization of marijuana in April 2021 represents a true victory for proponents of criminal justice reform. Unfortunately, the federal government’s approach towards cannabis is stuck in the outdated and harmful era of the failed Drug War of the 1970s and 1980s. The official position – that marijuana is just as dangerous as heroin and cocaine –is absurd. We are only beginning to explore the clear and proven medical benefits of cannabis and the significant economic opportunities created by transforming the manufacture and sale of cannabis into a legitimate retail industry, most notably by creating jobs and expanding tax revenues.

I strongly support the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2021. Today, many banks are hesitant to invest in the cannabis industry because they fear prosecution under the federal laws that make cannabis illegal on that level. The SAFE Banking Acts removes the bank’s fear of being penalized. The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2021 allows financial institutions, such as banks, to conduct business with state-licensed cannabis enterprises in states that allow cannabis for recreational and/or medical use.

We must legalize and decriminalize marijuana on the federal level. We must better align marijuana’s federal Schedule I status with state and local governments and broaden commercial licenses and their impact on the hemp and cannabis industry to foster job growth. A critical corollary effect is creating a pathway to parole, probation, and expungements for those convicted of minor, marijuana-based offenses. Sates and local governments are looking for the federal government to take the lead on this issue, and we should have a representative in Congress who will do just that, lead.

Our goal must be the elimination of the stigmatization that surrounds mental illness. People must feel equally comfortable seeking emotional and psychological support as they do for physical assistance.

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