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New York: Activists To Call For Drug Policy Reform June 23 At Brooklyn Detention Center

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‘Support. Don’t Punish’ Actions a Counter-Demonstration to United Nations ‘Anti-Drug Day’, Often Used by Governments to Tout Punitive Policies

NYC Action: Rally at Brooklyn House of Detention

Activists will gather at 8 pm on Thursday, June 23, in front of the Brooklyn House of Detention and hold a rally as The Illuminator projects images and videos of people from all walks of life who use or have used drugs – fathers, teachers, friends, nurses – as part of the Support. Don’t Punish Global Day of Action.

This annual day of action is designed to tell a different story on the United Nations’ International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

Governments around the world often choose to use this day to celebrate their contributions to the global ‘War On Drugs’. In the past, some governments have even commemorated it by holding executions or public beatings of drug offenders.

For example, from 2009 to 2014, China unveiled executions and other harsh punishments in the lead-up to the International Day Against Drug Abuse and in 2008, Indonesia cited the day as it resumed executions after a four-year hiatus.

U.S.: Senate Committee Allows Banks To Provide Services To Legal Marijuana Stores

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Fourth Straight Senate Victory for Marijuana Reform

Senate Bill Would Also Allow D.C. to Tax and Regulate Marijuana

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday voted 16 to 14 to allow banks to provide services to marijuana businesses. Currently, because marijuana is illegal under federal law, both medical and non-medical marijuana businesses are unable to access banking services like any other business. The amendment was offered by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon).

Consequently, many marijuana businesses operate on a cash-only basis, leading to huge public safety issues as businesses become the target of robberies, and are forced to hire armed security to protect their takings.

“One of the motivations for legalizing marijuana is to eliminate the illicit market and put marijuana in the hands of a legitimate regulated market,” said Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Whether you are for or against legalization, you have to recognize that having marijuana businesses handling huge amounts of cash with nowhere to deposit the money is a public safety concern that Congress has to tackle.”

California: Adult Use of Marijuana Act Endorsed by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher

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Longtime GOP congressman U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) on Tuesday announced his support for the statewide ballot measure known as the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA).

He is the second California Congressman to endorse the measure in as many weeks. U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) announced his support last Monday.

"Rohrabacher is a 13-term Congressman who is a powerful voice for libertarian values," the AUMA campaign announced in a prepared statement. He is the co-author of the bipartisan Rohrabacher-Farr amendment which has been passed as part of the Federal Budget and prevents the federal government from prosecuting medical marijuana patients or distributors who are in compliance with the laws of their state.

“As a Republican who believes in individual freedom, limited government and states' rights, I believe that it's time for California to lead the nation and create a safe, legal system for the responsible adult use of marijuana,” said Rohrabacher.

“I endorse the Adult Use of Marijuana Act for the November 2016 ballot,” the Congressman continued. “It is a necessary reform which will end the failed system of marijuana prohibition in our state, provide California law enforcement the resources it needs to redouble its focus on serious crimes while providing a policy blueprint for other states to follow.”

New York: Artists Announce 'The Museum of Drug Policy' On Park Avenue, NYC

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The Museum of Drug Policy is a popup cultural hub that includes an immersive art experience and special live programming looking at the impact of current drug policies on populations around the world . The Museum will occupy space on Park Avenue for three days this month, during the United Nations General Assembly’s Special Session (UNGASS) on the world drug problem.

Through art, conversations and experiential events, the Museum will showcase that the moment is now for drug policy reform and that damage caused by the War On Drugs is evident across the world. The Museum will uplift the voices of people most impacted by the global drug policy: people who use drugs, crop growers, people who are incarcerated, people who have saved lives or lost loved ones to drug overdose, people on death row for drug offenses, doctors who can’t prescribe adequate pain relief to their patients, and other voices of the international drug policy reform movement.

The Museum of Drug Policy will feature 70+ works from artists around the world, with interactive art installations, keynote addresses, panels, and community discussions that take attendees on a journey exploring the real impact and human cost of drug policy in communities around the world.

U.S.: Senate To Hold Sham Hearing On Marijuana Legalization Tuesday

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Reform Advocates Denounce Hearing as One-Sided “Prohibitionist Party”

Senator Grassley Stacks the Deck with Known Anti-Legalization Zealots and Ignores Benefits of Legalization, Such as Massive Drop in Marijuana Arrests and Prohibition-Related Violence, as well as New Tax Revenue

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) will hold a hearing in the Caucus on International Narcotics Control titled “Is the Department of Justice Adequately Protecting the Public from the Impact of State Recreational Marijuana Legalization?” The hearing is ostensibly a response to a recent GAO report that criticized DOJ for a lack of oversight of states that have legalized marijuana. However, the hearing is likely to be nothing more than a prohibitionist party.

Global: Canadian, Mexican Lawmakers and Advocates Discuss Marijuana Law Reforms

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US Cannabis Legalization Emboldens International Moves, Which Spur Further American Efforts

Just weeks ahead of the highest-level review of the global War On Drugs in nearly two decades, national legislators and activists from Canada and Mexico will join on Wednesday with US-based drug policy reformers to discuss the countries' moves moves away from prohibition-based marijuana laws.

"With the governments of both Canada and Mexico preparing to enact major reforms to their marijuana policies, these moves will have a major impact on the debate here in the US," said David Borden, executive director of StoptheDrugWar.org. "This is especially true with the special session of the United Nations coming up in just a few weeks, where world leaders will have the opportunity to discuss the failure of current prohibition-based drug policies and chart more effective ways forward."

Legislators and advocates will join in Wednesday's discussion, including:
• Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Member of Canada's House of Commons, who argued for legalization at a recent UN/Inter-Parliamentary Union debate on marijuana
• Laura Angélica Rojas Hernández, Mexican senator, who also spoke in favor of legalization at the UN/Inter-Parliamentary Union debate
• David Borden, executive director of StoptheDrugWar.org
• Donald MacPherson, executive director of Canadian Drug Policy Coalition
• Aram Barra, program officer for Transform Drug Policy Foundation and México Unido Contra la Delincuencia

Global: Canada To Advocate Marijuana Legalization At UN Drug Conference

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The long awaited, much anticipated UN General Assembly's Special Session on Drugs will happen April 19-21 at the UN Headquarters in New York City, and Canada is expecting to advocate for abandoning the organization's longstanding prohibition of marijuana.

Just a month before the important UN drug conference begins, Assistant Deputy Minister of Health Hilary Geller, at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting in Vienna this month, said the new Canadian Liberal government headed by Justin Trudeau will be moving away from American War On Drugs policies, as pointed out by Lanny Swerdlow at the Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project (MAPP),

The Canadian government plans not only to legalize marijuana, but also to open for safe-injection sites for intravenous drug users and to promote other harm-reduction policies.

Attendees at that conference, made up of government and non-governmental organization officials from around the world, "erupted in applause" mid-way through Geller's address and gave a prolonged ovation.

Geller's presentation was at odds with the policies of the former Canadian government of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose Drug War policies closely followed those of the United States, including implementing mandatory-minimum prison sentences and boosting police narcotics enforcement.

U.S.: Obama Grants Clemency To 61 People In Prison For Drug Offenses

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Clemencies Come As Advocates Push Mitch McConnell on Sentencing Reform

Drug Policy Alliance: The President is Acting; Congress Must Step Up Too

President Barack Obama on Wednesday commuted the sentences of 61 people incarcerated in federal prison for drug offenses.

This follows the commutation of 95 people in December, 2015, 45 people in July of that year, 22 people in March 2015, and 8 people in December of 2014. All of those who received commutations Wednesday were serving time in prison for nonviolent drug offenses, and many were victims of the disparity in sentencing between crack and cocaine.

To date, the President has now commuted the sentences of 248 individuals – more than the previous six Presidents combined. And, in total, he has commuted 92 life sentences.

“The power to grant pardons and commutations… embodies the basic belief in our democracy that people deserve a second chance after having made a mistake in their lives that led to a conviction under our laws,” President Obama wrote in a letter to the 61 individuals receiving clemency on Wednesday.

The President cautioned those receiving clemency that what they do with this unexpected opportunity reflects not only on each individual person, but also on all those still behind bars who are seeking the same shot at a new life.

President Obama has been under significant public pressure from advocacy groups and family members of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses who are serving long, mandatory minimum sentences.

Utah: Poll Shows Strong Support For Asset Forfeiture Reform On Eve Of Primary

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One out of 11 Surveyed Utah Voters Report Having Property Taken by Police without Criminal Charge from Themselves or Someone They Know

Utah Voters Also Signal Support for Presidential Candidates Who Embrace Asset Forfeiture Reform

An overwhelming majority of registered Utah voters support civil asset forfeiture reform, according to a new poll released by Drug Policy Action. The poll was released the day before Utah’s primary election vote.

Eighty-three percent (83%) of Utah registered voters, including 83 percent of all Republicans, think police should not be able to seize and permanently take away property from people who have not been convicted of a crime. Sixty-six percent (66%) of voters polled, including 70 percent of Republicans, would be more likely to support a candidate for president who took the position that the government should not be able to take property from a person who has not been convicted of a crime.

Also, a high number of surveyed Utah voters (1 out of 11) reported that a police officer has taken property from them or someone they know without being charged with a crime. Most of these respondents said that property was taken from them during a traffic stop.

Florida: Poll Shows Strong Support For Asset Forfeiture Reform; Bill Heads To Gov's Desk

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An overwhelming majority of registered Florida voters support civil asset forfeiture reform, according to a new poll released by Drug Policy Action. Eighty-four percent of Florida registered voters, including 86 percent of all Republicans and 81 percent of independents, think police should not be able to seize and permanently take away property from people who have not been convicted of a crime.

Sixty-six percent of voters polled, including 65 percent of Republicans and 68 percent of Democrats, would be more likely to support a candidate for president who took the position that the government should not be able to take property from a person who has not been convicted of a crime.

“The notion that police officers can take cash or other property from people never charged with any criminal wrongdoing and keeping any profits from the sale of seized property doesn’t sit well with the public,” said Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs for Drug Policy Action. “Voters want action on civil asset forfeiture.

"Governor Scott should sign the reform legislation on his desk, and presidential candidates would be wise to address the issue,” Smith said.

The Florida House of Representatives on Wednesday unanimously passed SB 1044, reforming Florida’s “Contraband Forfeiture Act,” sending the legislation to Gov. Scott’s desk for a signature. Last week the Florida Senate passed the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes, in a 38–0 vote.

U.S.: Obama Says Marijuana Reform Is Not On His Agenda For 2016

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

It seems that cannabis activists who had hoped for a big shift in federal marijuana policies from the Obama Administration in its last year are likely to be disappointed.

White House press secretary John Earnest on Friday said any progress on cannabis law reform would have to come from Congress, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post. President Obama had, a day earlier, said marijuana reform isn't on his list of end-of-term priorities, according to Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee).

Cohen said he'd asked the President whether he wanted to reschedule marijuana; the federal government considers cannabis a Schedule I substance, the most dangerous category, under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs are considered to have a "high potential for abuse and potentially severe psychological and/or physical dependence."

Many lawmakers want to move pot to Schedule II, which would acknowledge the plant's medicinal potential, but would also effectively hand over control of it to Big Pharma, since prescriptions would be required.

Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders wants to DE-schedule marijuana, which means removing it from the federal list of controlled substances altogether.

U.S.: Most Americans Support Marijuana Legalization

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A new poll released on Friday by YouGov shows that more than half of Americans -- 52 percent -- now support marijuana legalization, with just 34 percent opposing it. This is up from 48 support legalization when YouGov last asked the question in March 2015.

More than half of all adults under age 65 support legalization, according to YouGov, but more people over 65 (49 percent) oppose legalization than support it (39 percent).

Two-thirds of Democrats (66 percent) and half o independents (51 percent) want to legalize weed, but just over a third of Republicans (36 percent) are down with that plan.

Two-third of Americans as a whole believe government efforts to enforce the marijuana laws cost more than they are worth. A big majority of those favoring legalization (86 percent) agreed with that sentiment, but even legalization opponents narrowly agree that current efforts aren't worth the cost (42 percent to 33 percent).

Last October, Gallup found that 58 percent of Americans want marijuana to be legalized. Pew measured the level of support at 53 percent in an April survey.

The new YouGov poll was conducted December 16-17, 2015 and included 1,000 web-based interviews with American adults. The margin of error is ± 4.6 percent.

Texas: Local Marijuana Reform Advocates To Gather In Amarillo, Lubbock For Training

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Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy is mobilizing activists throughout Texas in an effort to inject marijuana policy debate into 2016 state legislative races

Local marijuana policy reform advocates will gather Saturday (in Amarillo) and Sunday (in Lubbock) for advocacy training events.

The Amarillo event, on Saturday, January 9, will be held at 12:30 p.m., at the Amarillo Southwest Library, 6801 SW 44th Ave. Details of the event are available at http://texasmarijuanapolicy.org/marijuana-law-advocacy-training-amarillo/.

The Lubbock event, on Sunday, January 10, will be held at 12:30 p.m., at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites South, 6506 I-27 South. Details of the event are available at http://texasmarijuanapolicy.org/marijuana-law-advocacy-training-lubbock/.

The events, hosted by Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, are the sixth and seventh in a series of events being held around the state as part of an effort to inject the marijuana policy debate into 2016 state legislative races.

“Marijuana prohibition has been a miserable failure, and we want to give concerned Texans the tools to help enact sensible marijuana policy reform,” said Heather Fazio, a spokesperson for Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy. “Our communities should not be using their limited law enforcement resources to criminalize adults for using a substance that is safer than alcohol.

U.S.: Congress Adopts Significant Drug Policy Reforms In New Spending Bill

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Congress on Friday morning passed a must-pass spending bill that includes language that stops the Obama Administration’s Department of Justice from spending money to block the implementation of state medical marijuana laws. The amendment was passed last year on a temporary basis and had to be renewed this year.

“The renewal of this amendment should bring relief for medical marijuana patients and business owners,” said Michael Collins, Deputy Director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “For decades Congress has been responsible for passing disastrous drug laws. It’s encouraging to see them starting to roll back the war on drugs by allowing states to set their own medical marijuana policies.”

“Patients who benefit from medical marijuana should not be treated like dangerous criminals, and the businesses that support them need to be protected from the old drug war mentality that still runs deep within the DEA,” said Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of criminal justice professionals working to end the Drug War. “It’s very encouraging to see such widespread support for protecting state’s rights and the rights of patients.”

U.S.: Rep. Blumenauer Calls On Obama To Fire DEA Head For Medical Marijuana Comments

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, the Democratic Congressman from Oregon who's been such a friend to cannabis law reform, on Monday made another powerful statement, calling on President Obama to fire DEA head Chuck Rosenberg for calling medical marijuana "a joke."

Blumenauer made the "Decisionmaker Response" on a Change.org petition.

"There’s a revolution taking place across America to reform and modernize our marijuana laws, and no change is more profound than the treatment of medical marijuana," Congressman Blumenauer wrote. "The reforms taking place are the result of the grassroots nature of this movement – including efforts by hundreds of thousands of people like you who signed this petition.

"Over the last 20 years – despite the misguided federal prohibition of marijuana – we‘ve seen overwhelming evidence of the benefits of medical marijuana," Rep. Blumenauer wrote. "The success of marijuana in offering relief for patients dealing with symptoms associated with chemotherapy, glaucoma, PTSD, chronic pain, and more has led 23 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam to change their laws and fully legalize medical marijuana. An additional 17 states have approved more limited programs. Well over one million people now use medical marijuana in accordance with their state’s law.

Texas: Local Marijuana Reform Advocates To Gather Saturday For Advocacy Training

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Local marijuana policy reform advocates, including a former police officer and the head of the Texas Young Republicans, will gather Saturday for an advocacy training event at the Trini Mendenhall Community Center in Houston.

The event, hosted by Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, is the fifth in a series of events being held around the state as part of an effort to inject the marijuana policy debate into 2016 state legislative races. Regional events are also scheduled in Amarillo on January 9 and Lubbock on January 10.

The featured speaker at Saturday’s event will be David Clark, a former police officer from South Carolina and member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).

"If the goal of marijuana prohibition is to reduce the harms to society caused by drugs, then prohibition should be illegal, not marijuana," said Clark. "It should be illegal to waste so many law enforcement resources arresting and charging nonviolent adults for using marijuana. It should be illegal to divert the focus of our police away from violent and property crimes, which should always take priority."

Joining David Clark will be John Baucum, political director of Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition and recently elected chairman of the Texas Young Republicans.

Details of the event are available at http://texasmarijuanapolicy.org/training-houston/.

Massachusetts: Marijuana Legalization Drive Gets A Little Clearer

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The push to legalize marijuana in Massachusetts got a little less complicated this week. Voters had faced the possibility of two separate pro-legalization questions on next year's ballot, but now only one group's initiative is still standing.

The Committee to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) on Tuesday said it had submitted enough signatures -- more than 64,750 -- to the secretary of state to move forward in getting a proposed law in front of voters, reports Adam Vaccaro at Boston.com. If the signatures are deemed valid, the question will go to the Massachusetts Legislature; if the Legislature fails to act by May, CRMLA wilal need about 11,000 more signatures to make the ballot for November.aaaa

The leader at Bay State Repeal, a competing ballot question, on Wednesday night conceded his group hadn't gathered enough signatures to qualify. "We didn't make it, Steve Epstein said.

The two groups have pitched different approaches to legalization. The CRMLA, backed by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), is of the "tax and regulate" philosophy with pages and pages of tight rules, including a new state commission and an excise tax on cannabis sales.

Texas: Local Marijuana Reform Advocates To Gather Saturday For Advocacy Training

Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy is mobilizing activists throughout Texas in an effort to inject marijuana policy debate into 2016 state legislative races

Local marijuana policy reform advocates -- including an active-duty Dallas police officer -- will gather Saturday for an advocacy training event at the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce in Tyler.

The event, hosted by Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, is the fourth in a series of events being held around the state as part of an effort to inject the marijuana policy debate into 2016 state legislative races. Regional events are also scheduled for Houston on December 12, Amarillo on January 9, and Lubbock on January 10.

The featured speaker at Saturday’s event will be Nick Novello, an officer with the Dallas Police Department and member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). Members of the media are invited to listen to his presentation at 3:30 p.m. CT, and he will be available for interviews immediately after.

“I work toward marijuana legalization because, as an active police officer, I have an obligation to improve public safety and protect my community,” Officer Novello said. “Regulation and education will focus police resources on more important crimes and make the drug more difficult for children to get. By every measure, marijuana prohibition has failed. Safer communities are within reach.”

D.C.: Drug Policy Alliance To Host Lobby Day On Capitol Hill To End The War On Drugs

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More than 200 Attendees Will Meet with Lawmakers and Lunch with Members of Congress Who Have Championed Drug Law Reform in Congress

DPA-Led Constituent Lobby Day Occurs Just Hours before the Start of the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Arlington, VA

The Drug Policy Alliance is hosting a Federal Lobby Day on Wednesday, November 18 that is expected to bring more than 200 people from nearly 25 U.S. states and 15 countries to Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers to pass legislation that would roll back some of the worst excesses of the failed War On Drugs.

The lobby day comes as numerous reform proposals gain momentum in Congress, including sentencing reform, marijuana law reform, and overdose prevention.

“Members of Congress are under a lot of pressure to reform punitive and ineffective drug policies and we’re turning the heat up,” said Bill Piper, senior director of national affairs of the Drug Policy Alliance. (DPA). “Our supporters will talk about what they’re doing in their community to reduce the harms associated with both drugs and the war on drugs.”

Lobby day participants will meet with lawmakers in roughly 70 meetings over the course of the day and attend a special luncheon with five members of Congress who have championed legislative efforts to reform federal marijuana and other drug laws. This historic constituent lobby day comes on the same day that House lawmakers are expected to vote on whether to advance major drug sentencing reform legislation.

U.S.: Ira Glasser To Receive Top Award At International Drug Policy Reform Conference

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Glasser Has Shown Leadership in Drug Policy Reform for Nearly 50 Years

Leading Drug Policy Reformers to be Honored at International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, November 21

The Richard J Dennis Drugpeace Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Drug Policy Reform will be awarded to Ira Glasser at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference on November 21, in Arlington, Virginia.

Ira Glasser will be honored for being a leader in drug policy reform for nearly 50 years, beginning in 1967 when he joined the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU). He directed that organization from 1970 to 1978, when he became the executive director of the ACLU, retiring in 2001. Ira joined the board of the Drug Policy Foundation (DPF) in the early 1990s, becoming its chairman some years later, and played a key role in the merger of DPF and The Lindesmith Center in 2000 to create the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).

He has served as chairman of DPA’s board ever since, providing wise counsel and leadership, mentoring staff at all levels, and educating and inspiring countless activists with his unique capacity to place the drug policy reform movement in the historical context of other great political struggles for personal freedom and social justice. His sustained and pivotal contributions to drug policy reform in the United States are both exceptional and unparalleled.

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