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New York City Turns A Corner On Drug Policy: City Council Bill Would Harmonize Strategy

CoreyJohnsonOnStreetsOfNYC

First of its Kind City Council Bill Would Create a National Model to Harmonize Drug Strategy Between Dozens of Departments and the Community

Bill Emphasizes Research-based Approaches to Promote Public Health and Safety and Reduce Negative Impact of Past and Current Policies

Building on debates that helped shape the last mayoral election, NYC Council Members Corey Johnson, Andrew Cohen, and Vanessa Gibson on Thursday introduced legislation to create an Office of Drug Strategy. Placed in city hall, the new office would be empowered to convene city agencies, outside experts, and communities impacted by drug use to develop a city-wide, health-focused plan for a coordinated approach in addressing issues related to drug use.

“Past and present ineffective drug policy has contributed to tragic and preventable mortality, crime and inequity here in New York City,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Health Committee. “The Office of Drug Strategy will combat these problems by enhancing evidence-based drug education and public health intervention efforts and the availability of medical, psychological and social services to those struggling with drug use.

"Through the coordination of the many agencies and offices that address the numerous facets of illicit and non-medical drug use, we can develop a forward-looking policy to stem overdoses and enhance rehabilitation,” Johnson said.

New York: de Blasio Administration To Make Reforms To Non-Criminal Summons System

NewYorkMayorBilldeBlasioAndNYPDChiefBillBratton

Common Sense Changes Will Make Summons System Easier to Navigate and More Transparent, and Will Allow City to Track and Address Racial Disparities

Changes Announced After Months of Negotiations with Community and Advocacy Groups

The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ) on Tuesday announced plans to revise parts of the NYC Summons process. The announcement comes after advocates voiced key questions and concerns about Mayor de Blasio’s announcement last November that individuals would receive summonses instead of being arrested for low level marijuana possession in public view.

Advocates expressed concerns about the overburdened and complex summons court system, biased police practices, collateral consequences of summonses, and lack of data transparency. The plan announced on Tuesday includes a new NYPD summons form, website, and automated call-in system to help New Yorkers more easily navigate the NYC Summons court system.

In an October 2014 report, Race, Class & Marijuana Arrests in Mayor De Blasio’s Two New Yorks: The NYPD Marijuana Arrests Crusade Continues in 2014, the Marijuana Arrest Research Project and the Drug Policy Alliance noted the de Blasio Administration was on track to meet or surpass the Bloomberg 2013 marijuana arrests. Following the report’s release, the de Blasio Administration announced that New Yorkers found with small amounts of marijuana would be issued a court summons and immediately released.

New York: Mayor, Police Commissioner Giving Mixed Signals On Marijuana

NYPDCommissionerWilliamJBratton[NYPost]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

When Mayor Bill de Blasio took office in New York City, one of his leading initiatives was responding to possession of small amounts of marijuana with summonses rather than arrests. At the news conference announcing the change -- which affected possession cases involving up to 25 grams of weed -- NYPD Commissioner William J. Bratton stood beside the mayor, holding up a bag of oregano measuring 25 grams, as an educational prop for how much pot is allowable.

Last week, this time without the mayor, Commissioner Bratton turned his attention once again to marijuana, report J. David Goodman and Matt Flegenheimer at the New York Times. Bratton announced homicides were up to 54 through March 1, compared with 45 over the same period last year, as were shootings -- and he claimed marijuana was a factor in the violence.

"The seemingly innocent drug that's being legalized around the country -- in this city, people are killing each other over marijuana," Bratton dramatically announced.

But does the commissioner's sharp turn towards reefer madness territory indicate a schism in the de Blasio administration's approach to cannabis? The mayor said he supports the new policy regarding low-level marijuana possession, voicing concerns that arrests for small amounts of pot disproportionately affect the black and Hispanic communities.

New York: Addiction Counselor Backs 'Inevitable' Marijuana Legalization

JoeSchrank(Loft107)

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

With a recent report predicting that 18 states will legalize marijuana by 2020, there are some major changes on the way, and four states have already taken the plunge.

Last year was a groundbreaking one, according to the report. It "will be remembered as a year when ... a sense of inevitability about national legalization became conventional wisdom among elected officials and the general public."

Social worker, addiction counselor and recovering alcoholic Joe Schrank, the founder of Loft 107, a sober-living facility in the heart of Brooklyn, says it isn't in the public interest to continue a secret culture that facilitates a recession-proof industry for people who don't pay taxes.

According to Schrank, millions of people are already using cannabis recreationally, untaxed and unregulated. Schrank points out that alcohol has had a monopoly on legal intoxication for generations, so it's wrong to not let individuals make their own choice.

Furthermore, as more states legalize, Schrank hopes to see an "intoxicating substance" tax that will fund treatment and recovery options that are available and easily accessible -- "a far better policy than threats and incarceration," he said.

Photo: Joe Schrank/Facebook

New York: City Council Speaker Supports Marijuana Legalization

MelissaMark-Viverito(NYCCouncil)

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has endorsed the legalization of marijuana, making her one of the first high-ranking officials in the Big Apple to take such a position.

"Yes, I do support the legalization of marijuana," Mark-Viverito said at an unrelated news conference on Thursday, reports Mara Gay at The Wall Street Journal. "I think based on conversations that we're seeing nationally, the way people feel about it, I think that it's just something that is appropriate at this time."

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio this week announced a new policy under which those stopped for low-level marijuana possession will be given tickets instead of being arrested. That change is a "step forward," Mark-Viverito said.

She added that she's concerned that the mayor's new policy doesn't do enough to improve the "initial interaction" between police and New York City residents. She said she supported the outright legalization of cannabis, and said she had used it herself.

"If you're asking whether I have smoked marijuana, yes," Mark-Viverito said.

Mayor de Blasio said on Monday that issuing court summons instead of arresting people for low-level marijuana possession is "good for New Yorkers of color and particularly young people of color."

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.

California: Retired Police Chief Who Fought To End The Drug War Dies At 79

JosephMcNamara(LEAP)

San Jose's Joseph McNamara Leaves Behind a Remarkable Legacy of Public Service and Activism

Retired police chief Joseph McNamara, who fought to end the War On Drugs, died on Friday, September 19 at the age of 79. His 35-year law enforcement career began in 1956 as a beat cop for the New York City Police Department.

He would later become a criminal justice fellow at Harvard, where he focused on criminal justice research and methodology. During this time McNamara took leave from police work to obtain a doctorate in Public Administration, and was appointed deputy inspector of crime analysis in New York City upon his return.

McNamara spoke out publicly against the Drug War long before the issue had come to the political forefront. He was a speaker and advisory board member for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of law enforcement officials opposed to the War On Drugs.

“When you’re telling cops that they’re soldiers in a Drug War, you’re destroying the whole concept of the citizen peace officer, a peace officer whose fundamental duty is to protect life and be a community servant,” McNamara said at a presentation for the International Conference on Drug Policy Reform in 1995.

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

StopAndFrisk-MarchToEnd

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?

U.S.: Rev. Sharpton's National Action Network Convention To Address Failed Drug War

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President Obama, AG Holder, NY Gov. Cuomo, NYC Mayor DeBlasio and DPA’s Art Way to Speak at National Action Network (NAN) Convention April 9-14

Convention to Address Major Civil Rights Issues, Including the Failed Drug War and Mass Incarceration

President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio will all join Reverend Al Sharpton at his National Action Network’s annual national convention being held April 9-12 in New York, NY.

The conference is being billed as the largest civil rights convening of the year bringing the nation’s top activists, political strategists and leading academia together to create an action plan for a civil rights agenda. Participants will address key policy issues such as jobs, voter ID and immigration; which will be key in this midterm election year.

The conference is also focusing on the failed drug war and mass incarceration. A panel called “Up in Smoke: Banning of Menthol, Legalization of Marijuana & Criminalization of African Americans” will address racial justice and the war on drugs.

"We are at a critical point where momentum to end the drug war and mass incarceration is gaining traction,” said Art Way, Senior Policy Manager, Colorado, of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “It's not time to let up, it's time to ramp up."

U.S.: Mexican Legislators Visit DC and NY to Discuss Marijuana Reform Proposals

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Mexican Marijuana Decriminalization and Medical Marijuana Legislation Recently Introduced

Unprecedented Momentum for Drug Policy Reform Continues to Spread Throughout Latin America

This week, legislators from the Mexican Congress and the Mexico City Assembly will be in DC and NY to discuss the bills they introduced to decriminalize the consumption and purchase of marijuana for personal use in Mexico City and to legalize medical marijuana countrywide.

Mexico City Senator Mario Delgado and Mexico City Assembly member Vidal Llerenas, both from the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), will be in DC on March 24 and 25 and in NY on March 26 to discuss the aims of the marijuana reform proposals in Mexico.

The central aim of these initiatives is to provide the groundwork for alternative policies to the current punitive approach, which results in widespread criminalization and incarceration of people who use drugs in Mexico. Since Mexico’s Drug War escalated in 2006, at least 80,000 people have been killed in prohibition-related violence.

The bills build on the spirit of progressive reforms passed in Mexico City in recent years, which broaden the rights and freedoms of Mexico City’s citizens (which include the legalization of abortion, the recognition of same-sex marriages, same-sex adoptions, strict tobacco control laws, and universal pension for elder citizens, among others).

New York: Patients, Family Members Launch Month of Actions in Support of Medical Marijuana Bill

NewYorkMedicalMarijuana

“March for Compassion” Includes Actions and Events Across New York in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Capitol Region, Westchester, New York City, and Long Island

Major Push by Patients and Families to Pass Compassionate Care Act

Patients, families, caregivers and healthcare providers gathered in Albany on Monday to launch March for Compassion, a month of activities and events held around New York to demand the State Senate to past the Compassionate Care Act by April 1. The patients are living with cancer, multiple sclerosis, and other serious, debilitating medical conditions, and the families include parents of children who suffer from severe forms of epilepsy, such as Dravet’s syndrome.

While Albany dithers and delays on A.6357-A (Gottfried) / S.4406-A (Savino), patients are suffering and families are leaving the state. A major Monday story in the Buffalo News by Tom Precious illustrates how many families and patients in New York are leaving the state for places like Colorado, where they can access medical marijuana.

Patients, caregivers and healthcare providers, tired of waiting for Albany to take action, launched March for Compassion, a month-long series of events across the state, on Monday. Events include public educational seminars, lawmaker education meetings, lobby days in Albany, and press conferences.

New York: Gripping New Video Shows Life-Altering Consequences of Marijuana Possession Arrests

AlbertoWillmoreArtTeacher

Statewide Polls Show Strong Majority of New Yorkers, Including Republicans, Support Fixing Marijuana Possession Laws; NY Lags Behind Neighboring States in Marijuana Reform

Advocates Call on Mayor-Elect de Blasio and Incoming NYPD Commissioner Bratton to End Racist, Costly and Unpopular Marijuana Arrest Crusade in NYC

BuzzFeed on Sunday night released a gripping video about one New Yorker’s harrowing experience of being arrested for marijuana possession. A Marijuana Arrest tells the story of former Manhattan Public School art teacher Alberto Willmore, who recounts how his life was upended after NYPD officers aggressively seized and charged him with marijuana possession.

Willmore immediately lost his teaching job, spent nearly two years fighting the case in court, and -– even though the case was thrown out -– he was still penalized by his employer, the Department of Education.

New Yorkers are all too familiar with stories like Willmore’s. Since 2002, nearly 500,000 people have been arrested in New York for marijuana possession. The vast majority of those arrests, 440,000, took place in New York City.

In 2012 alone in the City, there were nearly 40,000 such arrests, far exceeding the total marijuana arrests in NYC from 1981-1995. The cost to taxpayers is at least $75 million a year, and more than $600 million in the last decade, a profound waste of money. A report released earlier this year found that the NYPD had spent one million hours making these arrests over the past decade.

New York: Can Mayor-Elect De Blasio End The War On Drugs In NYC?

UncleSamINeedYouToEndTheDrugWar

Saturday: “Talking Transition” Event Brings Together Treatment Providers, Drug Users, Civil Rights Activists, Academics, and Elected Officials to Map New City Drug Policy

Future Drug Policy to be Based in Equity, Health and Safety rather than Racism, Criminalization and Violence

New Yorkers on Saturday, November 16, will gather to map the future of the city’s drug policies for progressive champion Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio and a new, increasingly progressive City Council. As part of the innovative Talking Transition series, New Yorkers have a unique opportunity to envision new drug polices based in equity, health and safety, rather than drug policies rooted in racism, criminalization and violence.

Hundreds of New Yorkers -- students, cultural workers, academics, advocates, community organizers, young people, treatment providers, civil rights activists and others -- will break into small groups, to come up with solutions to a range of issues such as: racially biased marijuana arrests, lack of effective treatment, legal access to medical marijuana and overdose prevention strategies. The recommendations emerging from the Ending the New Jim Crow forum will be delivered to the new de Blasio Administration for consideration.

Ending the New Jim Crow: Mapping the Future of Drug Policy in NYC
When: Saturday, November 16, 2013
Time: 2:00 -- 3:30pm
Where: Talking Transition Tent at the corner of Canal St. and 6th Avenue, Manhattan

New York: NYC's Next Mayor Favors Marijuana Decriminalization

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The next mayor of New York City will favor the decriminalization of marijuana, regardless of who win's the seat. That's because all three candidates in the race have announced their support for lowering the penalties for cannabis possession.

Mayoral candidates Bill de Blasio and Joseph Lhota, selected in the Democratic and Republican primaries earlier this month, both favor marijuana decrim, as does Independence Party mayoral candidate Adolfo Carrión, Jr., reports Ramiro S. Fúnez at PolicyMic.

"I support legislation to decriminalize the display of small amounts of marijuana," de Blasio, the Democratic candidate, said during an online interview with the New York Daily News in July. "The current law saddles many young people with a criminal record unfairly and it must be changed. I think there are appropriate medical uses for marijuana and I am open to policies that allow for medical use."

Lhota, not to be left out, last month admitted he smoked marijuana more than 40 years ago, and was the first major candidate to support legalization back when he was the transit chief of the Metropolitan Transport Authority, reports Gideon Resnick at Politicker.

New York: Premier of 'America's Longest War' Highlights Disastrous 40-Year War On Drugs

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Panelists Include: Director Paul Feine, Drug Policy Alliance’s Ethan Nadelmann, New York City Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito, Wall Street Journal’s Mary Anastasia O'Grady and The New York Times’ John Tierney

Reason TV is hosting a special New York City reception, panel discussion and screening of the new Drug War documentary America's Longest War on Tuesday, September 24.

From murders on the Mexican border to death row in Mississippi, America’s Longest War, from Reason.tv, shows how the Drug War is destroying families and communities. Viewers will understand the horror and barbarity of the War On Drugs on a visceral level after viewing this film.

The documentary tells the stories of those victimized by the War On Drugs, including a Marine who survived two tours in the Iraq war, only to be shot and killed by police in a drug raid where nothing illegal was found.

Director Paul Feine also introduces you to several other Drug War victims, including a daughter who grew up without her father because mandatory federal sentencing rules forced him to serve 20 years in prison for a nonviolent drug crime.

America’s Longest War shines a light on the very real human costs of the War On Drugs and points to a viable alternative approach to drug policy.

Who
Paul Feine, Director, America's Longest War
Melissa Mark-Viverito, New York City Councilmember
Ethan Nadelmann, executive director, Drug Policy Alliance
Mary Anastasia O'Grady, "The Americas" columnist, The Wall Street Journal

New York: NYC Comptroller Calls For Establishment of a Medical Marijuana Program

JohnLiu(NYC-Comptroller)

Report Shows that 100,000 Seriously Ill New York City Residents Could Benefit from Medical Marijuana

Patients, Healthcare Professionals, and Advocates Call on State Legislature to Pass Compassionate Care Act Immediately

New York City Comptroller John Liu on Thursday released a report calling on the Legislature to pass the Compassionate Care Act, a bill that would create a carefully regulated medical marijuana program in New York. The report details how more than 100,000 seriously ill New York City residents could benefit from medical marijuana.

The report notes that there is strong scientific evidence that medical marijuana can help alleviate the suffering of those living with cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS and a number of other serious illnesses. Patients and medical professionals joined Comptroller Liu in calling for the immediate passage of the Compassionate Care Act.

"As a stage 4 metastatic cancer patient I can't be cured, but medical marijuana improves the quality of my life and allows me to be me, rather than at the mercy of my disease," said Beverly McClain, a member of Compassionate Care New York, a group of patients, healthcare providers and organizations who support the Compassionate Care Act. "Why can't we have the best possible lives in the time we have left?"

Twenty states and the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana programs, and more than 116 million Americans (37 percent of the total U.S. population) now live in states where access to medical marijuana is legal.

New York City Comptroller Releases Report Detailing Costs of Marijuana Prohibition

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Report Calls for the Taxation and Regulation of Marijuana for Adults

Advocates Demand a Comprehensive Overhaul of New York’s Racially Biased and Broken Marijuana Policies

New York City Comptroller John Liu on Tuesday announced the release of a report calling for a system to tax and regulate marijuana for adult recreational use. The report, to be released Wednesday (August 14), comes two days after Federal Judge Shira A. Scheindlin condemned the city’s police department’s use of stop and frisk – which has resulted in 600,000 unlawful arrests for marijuana possession since 1997 – as racially-biased.

That same day, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called for Americans to rethink the “unintended consequences” of the War On Drugs. Comptroller Liu’s report details the problems associated with marijuana arrests in New York City -- including racial disparities and the impact of saddling young people with a permanent criminal arrest record -- and the overall financial costs of marijuana prohibition.

The report comes at a time when the federal government and states around the country are engaged in a significant review of drug policies generally and marijuana policies in particular. On Monday, Attorney General Holder noted that the war on drugs has resulted in “the decimation of certain communities, in particular of communities of color” and directed federal prosecutors to develop guidelines for some drug sentencing issues to be handled on the state or local level.

New York: Mayor Bloomberg Calls Medical Marijuana A Hoax; Doctors Outraged

MayorBloombergSnarls

Mayor’s Claim that Medical Marijuana is “Hoax” Comes One Day after 600 New York Physicians Pledge Support for NY Medical Marijuana Bill

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Maybe New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg should stick to politics, and stay away from medicine.

Mayor Bloomberg on Friday ran afoul of medical science and the opinions of more than 600 New York physicians when he called medical marijuana “one the great hoaxes of all time." The statement came just one day after NY Physicians for Compassionate Care held a press conference announcing the support of more than 600 physicians from across New York for medical marijuana legislation pending in Albany.

The New York medical community has been pushing for the passage of the Compassionate Care Act – A.6357 (Gottfried) / S.4406 (Savino) – a bill that would allow healthcare practitioners to talk to their patients about medical marijuana and certify those with serious, debilitating illnesses so that they may have access to a small amount of medical marijuana to relieve their symptoms.

New York: Man Hands Out Marijuana Lollipops On The Street

JudahIzsraaelAndStaff

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

An Oakland, California man has been handing out marijuana lollipops on the streets of New York City since April.

"Marijuana has had a bad rap for too many years, man," activist Judah Izsraael, 44, co-owner of Weed World Candies, said on Wednesday, reports Shane Dixon Kavanaugh of the New York Daily News. "Its time is now."

Izsraael, driving a Ford Econoline van painted with pot leaves and ganja babes, said he has handed out weed lollipops along St. Marks Place and West 4th Street, Times Square and Union Square for a month now. The candies have strain names such as White Widow, O.G. Kush and Blueberry Dream.

"We just set up wherever," Izsraael said. "We're all about educating people."

A handful of attractive women in denim shorts and tank tops working for Izsraael stood on 14th Street near University Place on Wednesday night, offering passersby handfuls of the pot-laced lollipops. While most ignored the spectacle, others were agape.

"Is this for real?" asked one wide-eyed woman. "How do you not get caught?"

"Izsraael claims his candies contain only a small, yet legal, amount of THC -- the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gets you stoned," reports the Daily News, but of course that's nonsense, since there is no "legal amount" of THC under federal law.

"We're not giving out blunts," Izsraael said. "We can't guarantee that everyone is going to get high."

New York: Big Apple Marijuana Arrests To Drop 20% In 2013

(Photo: The L Magazine)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The New York Legislature decriminalized marijuana in that state back in the 1970s. But simple marijuana possession is still the #1 cause of arrest in New York City, with 149,951 pot busts last year. What gives?

NYPD cops use the "public view" exception to the decrim law to trap people, that's what. Officers will misleadingly ask a suspect to "take the pot out of your pocket," and then bust them for "public display" of the weed, which ups what would have been a traffic ticket-like event into a violation with arrest and possible jail time.

More and more civil rights activists have noticed this disturbing phenomenon, and the NYPD is increasingly coming under pressure to stop its dishonest tactics when it comes to busting pot smokers. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tried last year to remove the "public view" provision in the criminal code last year, reports John Surico at the Village Voice, and even NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly has asked his officers to back off with the pot arrests, already.

Happily, it seems this is finally starting to have an impact, 35 years after decrim.

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