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For the First Time Ever, the Federal Government Is Referring to Marijuana as Medicine

Editor’s note: this article is posted for the purpose of encouraging dialogue on a controversial issue. Restoring Liberty’s position is that the the federal government has no constitutional right to regulate marijuana within a state; however, the states – under the 10th Amendment – may choose prohibition or legalization.

A profound shift in the federal government’s stance on cannabis was marked by subtle changes made this month to one webpage. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, now has a webpage titled Marijuana as Medicine. Prior to March 2017, it was titled Is Marijuana Medicine?

Apparently, they feel the question has been answered. The timing of NIDA’s update is very curious, as there are signs from the Trump administration that a crackdown may be coming on states’ cannabis legalization progress made over the last few years.

The Department of Justice is now headed by rabid prohibitionist Jeff Sessions, who cites falsehoods and Reefer Madness propaganda when discussing cannabis. Only a few days ago, Sessions said cannabis “is slightly less awful” than heroin – a mind-boggling display of ignorance. Trump chose to keep Chuck Rosenberg as head of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), who said medical cannabis is “a joke” and oversaw the department’s decision to keep the plant as a Schedule 1 drug with “no medicinal use.”

Perhaps this stunning level of denial – in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence of cannabis’ ability to treat a variety of ailments – prompted NIDA to make their change. Twenty-eight states have legalized medical cannabis in some way, eight more have legalized its recreational use, and more states are set to join the list. They aren’t doing this on a whim; decriminalizing medical use is an acknowledgment of cannabis’ power as medicine.

Some would argue that the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services 2001 patent 6630507 called “Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants” was a tacit acknowledgement of medial cannabis. But still, no government agency admitted the obvious conclusion.

In 2015, the federal government unwittingly admitted cannabis is medicine in 2015 when the National Cancer Institute supported a study finding that cannabis kills cancer cells. Now, with the revised webpage title, NIDA appears to have moved beyond a reasonable doubt.

The term medical marijuana refers to using the whole, unprocessed marijuana plant or its basic extracts to treat symptoms of illness and other conditions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not recognized or approved the marijuana plant as medicine.

However, scientific study of the chemicals in marijuana, called cannabinoids, has led to two FDA-approved medications that contain cannabinoid chemicals in pill form. Continued research may lead to more medications.

Because the marijuana plant contains chemicals that may help treat a range of illnesses and symptoms, many people argue that it should be legal for medical purposes. In fact, a growing number of states have legalized marijuana for medical use.

The webpage now has an informational box on CBD and Childhood Epilepsy. This is a rather dramatic inclusion, as cannabidiol (CBD) has become a very promising treatment for childhood epilepsy. At the Dec. 2015 meeting of the American Epilepsy Society, the largest study presented there confirmed the astounding benefits of medical cannabis to treat seizures.

There is now a better explanation of cannabinoids, making a distinction between those naturally derived from the plant and those manufactured in a lab. NIDA also acknowledges the “state-approved medicinal use of marijuana,” and says “continued research [on cannabinoids] might lead to more medications.”

Indeed, we are only just beginning to unlock the secrets of the body’s endocannabinoid system, and using cannabis to stimulate this system for relieving inflammation which is thought to be the cause of many diseases.

Interestingly, the NIDA update also removed a link to WhiteHouse.gov regarding state laws, because the Trump administration removed the White House page explaining state cannabis laws. It appears that talk of respecting states’ rights may be just another Trump lie.

Kudos to NIDA for taking a step in the right direction and being the first federal entity to explicitly acknowledge cannabis as medicine. (For more from the author of “For the First Time Ever, the Federal Government Is Referring to Marijuana as Medicine” please click HERE)

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How Trump’s DOJ Can Start Enforcing Federal Marijuana Law

On Thursday last week, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he “believe[s] that we will see greater enforcement” of the federal laws against recreational marijuana.

While he acknowledged that the question to which he was responding was better directed to the Department of Justice, Spicer said that state legalization of recreational marijuana “is something the Department of Justice, I think, will be further looking into.”

Spicer’s comments are welcome news for those advocating commonsense drug policy.

Scientists agree that marijuana is a dangerous drug, and no major national medical organization advocates legalization. Whether you agree with that or not, marijuana remains illegal for good reason.

Thorough scientific reviews by President Barack Obama’s Food and Drug Administration and Drug Enforcement Administration—as well as drug classification reviews by federal judges—have affirmed that marijuana should remain a Schedule 1 drug. Such drugs are defined as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

As I have written here and here, the predictable consequences of marijuana legalization are beginning to emerge in states like Colorado and Washington.

Annual reports from the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, Smart Approaches to Marijuana, and the Colorado Department of Public Safety have analyzed the negative impact that marijuana legalization has had on health and public safety in Colorado.

With such research finally emerging, the Trump administration and the Department of Justice are in a strong position to enforce federal law and take appropriate and aggressive action in crafting a commonsense drug enforcement policy for marijuana.

The Trump administration should consider the following actions:

1. Reaffirm support for the law. Issue a statement affirming the incoming administration’s commitment to the Controlled Substances Act with the goal of reducing, not expanding, the use of marijuana in the nation.

2. Coordinate with lower-level officials. Have the new attorney general prioritize reaching out to governors and key law enforcement officials in states that have legalized marijuana to work with them on enforcement of federal marijuana laws.

3. Reassert America’s drug position on the world stage. The White House should make clear that the United States continues to support the three international drug conventions, and that it intends to change its domestic policy to reflect that support.

4. Up the profile of key drug enforcement personnel. Restore to Cabinet-level status the position of the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and adequately fund the office so that it can be effective.

5. Rescind and replace the August 2013 memorandum from then-Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole—i.e. the “Cole Memo.” The Department of Justice could do this by reiterating that marijuana cultivation, distribution, and sale are against federal law and that while states may decriminalize possession of marijuana, they may not issue licenses to sell it or commercialize it. Reiterate that the federal government is not locking up people for smoking marijuana, and that state employees are not going to be arrested, but that the Department of Justice fully expects states to not permit commercialized marijuana production and sale.

6. Select marijuana businesses to prosecute. Find a handful of cases in which large, well-funded marijuana businesses are in violation of both state and federal marijuana laws and prosecute both their management/operators and financiers. A real threat of prosecution will raise the cost of capital in the industry significantly, and seriously impede any operations above the cottage-level. Moreover, selection of unsympathetic defendants in violation of both state and federal law will (1) minimize political pushback, (2) avoid conflict with congressional appropriations provisions, and (3) clearly demonstrate the failure of the Cole Memo.

7. Rescind the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s guidance for banks and oppose efforts to expand banking services to the marijuana industry. One of the principal brakes on the expansion of the marijuana industry is its lack of access to banking. Once pot businesses have regular, unimpeded access to institutional capital, their ability to scale up will expand significantly—and the financial sector will begin to lobby in favor of expanded sales of the drug.

8. Support state attorneys general in nonlegalized states. Nonlegalized states have suffered significantly from illegal diversion of marijuana from legalized states, and from the apparent uptick in sophisticated cartel activity there. Support could include entering as an amicus to support the merits of the suit Nebraska and Oklahoma filed against Colorado.

9.Prosecute those dealing in marijuana—which is illegal under federal law—using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Those who engage in a pattern of racketeering activity through a corporation or other enterprise are liable for three times the economic harm they cause. RICO gives federal courts the power to order racketeering enterprises and their co-conspirators to cease their unlawful operations.

10. Prosecute those who provide financing for marijuana operations. Federal anti-money laundering statutes make it illegal to engage in financial transactions designed to promote illegal activities, including drug trafficking. Start with one major marijuana financier and successfully prosecute it.

11. Empower the FDA to take action to regulate marijuana in order to protect patients and the public. Marijuana legalization poses a public health problem, and the FDA should be tasked with investigating marijuana for chemical contamination and pesticides. Marijuana should also be subject to the standards of the rigorous criteria of the FDA approval process, which has been carefully constructed to protect consumer and patient health and safety.

None of these recommendations advocate criminal prosecution for simple possession of marijuana. Enforcing federal marijuana laws should not be about putting people in jail. In fact, that is not the current state of federal marijuana enforcement.

As Kevin Sabet writes in his book “Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana,” according to the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice,

[O]nly one-tenth of 1 percent of people in state prisons are serving sentences for first-time marijuana possession. Just three-tenths of 1 percent of people in state prisons are serving time for marijuana possession if they have prior offenses, and only 1.4 percent of people are in jail for offenses involving only marijuana-related crimes … Unless it is in the context of a parole or probation violation, virtually no one is serving prison time for using small amounts of marijuana.

Thus, it has not been the case and should not be the case that people are criminally prosecuted and jailed for simple possession of small quantities of marijuana.

However, the recommendations listed above provide a targeted approach to marijuana enforcement that focuses on protection, not punishment. These recommendations should be part of any commonsense approach that is consistent with an interest in public health and safety. (For more from the author of “How Trump’s DOJ Can Start Enforcing Federal Marijuana Law” please click HERE)

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What Malia Obama Getting Caught Smoking Weed Tells Us About the Drug War

When celebrity website Radar Online shared a video of Malia Obama allegedly smoking marijuana at Lollapalooza in Chicago last week, the internet came to her defense.

On Twitter, comedian Chris Rock suggested she could one day be an Olympic gold medalist — or even president of the United States. Other users complained about those criticizing Malia by telling them to “let her live!”

But has anyone touched on Malia Obama’s father’s reluctance to embrace personal freedom outside the boundaries of his own household?

This Thursday, the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a response to petitioners asking the government to remove the “Schedule I” classification of marijuana. In a letter, DEA leadership maintained its refusals to give in to proponents of legalization. In an interview, Chuck Rosenberg, the acting administrator of the DEA, said the decision is due to the fact that “science doesn’t support” the notion marijuana may be used for medical ends — a narrative that has previously been debunked by several studies . . .

Despite Malia’s apparent acceptance of the substance — and the Internet’s apparent resistance to finding anything contradictory about her father’s positions on drug policy — President Obama had, by early 2013, been harsher on marijuana users than former President George W. Bush, Reason observed. “In other words,” Jacob Sullum wrote, “Obama is averaging 36 medical marijuana prosecutions a year, compared to 20 a year under his predecessor.” Even the Huffington Post has reported that when it comes to pot, Obama has a highly hypocritical stance, ignoring his own history and promises. (Read more from “What Malia Obama Getting Caught Smoking Weed Tells Us About the Drug War” HERE)

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The Dirty Little Secret Pot Pushers Don’t Want You to Know About

States have passed so-called “medical marijuana” laws under the theory that pot has medicinal benefits that can’t be produced by other, legal means.

But what if there was a Food and Drug Administration-approved drug that gave you all the benefits of the active ingredients in marijuana, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol?

What if that drug had been rigorously tested through clinical trials to make sure that it worked as promised, was properly dosed, and had no unanticipated side effects?

And what if you could get that lawful drug from your doctor in pill or liquid form?

And what if there were three such different FDA-approved drugs, and two more on the FDA-approved fast track?

Would it surprise you to know there already are three FDA-approved THC drugs and that at least five more are on the way? We suspect so, because the pot pushers—those that push smoked and edible marijuana as “medicine”—don’t want you to know about these safe alternatives.

Some of those FDA-approved drugs have been around since the 1980s.

That’s right—the dirty little secret they hide from you is that you don’t have to smoke marijuana, eat it in a brownie, or chew it in a marijuana-laced gummy bear to reap the medicinal benefits of THC.

The three FDA-approved drugs are Marinol, Cesamet, and Syndros. Drugs like Syndros show great promise for countering today’s dangerous “medical marijuana” movement.

In early July, the FDA approved Syndros as the first orally administered liquid form of THC. Like Marinol, the original oral cannabinoid to gain FDA approval in 1985, Syndros treats anorexia associated with weight loss in patients with AIDS, as well as nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy.

Epidiolex is one drug currently on the FDA fast track. According to a recent press release from GW Pharmaceuticals, a study of 171 randomized patients suffering from Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes found that Epidiolex decreased seizure occurrence, was relatively well tolerated among patients, and generated no unexpected adverse effects.

Other cannabinoid-based medications on the international market today include Cesamet, another synthetic drug that treats nausea and vomiting stemming from chemotherapy; Cannador, which is currently used in Europe and has demonstrated potential to relieve multiple sclerosis symptoms and postoperative pain management; and Sativex, another GW Pharmaceuticals drug on the FDA fast track that treats spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis.

Since these are all medical cannabinoids, they do not require smoking. They are also safer to use because levels of THC can be monitored.

Knowing these safer alternatives exist, ask yourself: Why? Why have the pot pushers kept this secret and why don’t they want you to know this?

“The medicinal marijuana system in this country has become a bad joke, an affront to the concept of safe and reliable medicine, defying the standards that we have come to expect from the medical establishment,” Dr. Kevin Sabet, former senior adviser to President Barack Obama’s drug policy office, wrote in his book, “Reefer Sanity: Seven Great Myths About Marijuana.”

We can thank Ed Rosenthal and Richard Cowan for creating the current public perception of the so-called “medical marijuana” marketplace.

In a video filmed many years ago, which we highlighted in this 2010 blog post, Rosenthal (former editor of High Times magazine) and Cowan (former director of NORML—the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law) joked about the nationwide “scam” they started. They realized that if they convinced enough people that smoking marijuana was “medical marijuana,” that would be the beginning of a movement toward full legalization.

“Once there’s medical access, if we continue to do what we have to do and we will, then we’ll get full legalization,” Cowan explained.

“I have to tell you that I also use marijuana medically,” Rosenthal joked. “I have a latent glaucoma which has never been diagnosed, and the reason why its never been diagnosed is because I’ve been treating it.”

But, according to Rosenthal, pleasure trumps any medicinal benefit he should derive from marijuana anyway.

“There is a reason why I do use it,” he said. “And that’s because I like to get high. Marijuana is fun.”

Sabet acknowledges that THC has potential therapeutic effects, but these do not come from smoking pot. (We don’t light any of our FDA-approved medicine on fire and smoke it, after all).

With the average strength of marijuana being five to six times what it was in the 1960s and 70s, the repercussions of marijuana and legalizing it are more evident than before. Some of these include higher risks of motor vehicle accidents, heart attacks, and impaired immune systems and short-term memories. Evidently, the pot pushers don’t want you to know this truth.

“America is being sold a false dichotomy: ‘We can either stick to our current failed policies, or we can try a ‘new approach’ with legalization,” Sabet said. “Sadly, this kind of black-and-white thinking conceals the fact that there are better, more effective ways than either legalization or incarceration to deal with this complex issue.”

Cannabinoid-based drugs are better alternatives because they reap the benefits of marijuana’s therapeutic components safely, as well as have the potential to become FDA approved if they aren’t already.

So the next time a pot pusher encourages a state to enact so-called “medical marijuana” laws, or goes for full legalization in violation of federal law, ask them: Why are they pushing an unsafe, untested product instead of pushing FDA-approved THC? (For more from the author of “The Dirty Little Secret Pot Pushers Don’t Want You to Know About” please click HERE)

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Alaska’s Legalization of Pot Was Really About Commercialization

There was quite a myth going around in 2014 that Ballot Proposition #2 was only to legalize marijuana. In fact, as many people are finding out with over 50 zoning permits issued, it did little for legalization, it mostly was for commercialization. This has led to many establishments being proposed and approved in residential neighborhoods. A lot of those starting those business don’t seem to care about neighborhoods, or even borough and state rules.

Here’s some examples.

1) There is a cultivation operation being put in an adjacent lot to Camp Li-Wa, a Christian youth camp that has been here since statehood. That’s up for protest next Thursday night (23rd) at 7pm.

2) There is a retail establishment that got a borough zoning permit, but it is within the borough zoning buffers for schools next to the Sprucetree Montessori School. It is also within the state buffer distance from churches, being close to Immaculate Conception Church off Illinois.

3) There is a cultivation facility that got a conditional use permit from the planning commission, but it is in violation of state buffer distances from both a nearby church and a daycare that it’s only 50’ away from (and is right next to a residential neighborhood).

There have also been a few establishments that the Borough Assembly has voted down protests for that were in residential neighborhoods.

While there is a small window for people to protest and testify against these at the State and Borough level, it’s complicated to keep track of it all and to be able to testify on regulatory details, and comes with tight timeframes.

One common theme that has come out from talking to people is that while they wanted legalization or decriminalization, they had no idea that all these establishments would be so pervasive and in their neighborhoods.

Drug-Free Fairbanks has started a petition to create a ballot initiative to ban all marijuana establishments outside of the city boundaries. The logic is clear on this, in the cities there are local police forces that can maintain order and enforce the laws, outside of the city we only have the State Troopers who are spread pretty thin, and may not have the resources to do full-on drug investigations.

Also, a large amount of the residential neighborhoods outside of the cities have general use zoning, so they have virtually no protection from these facilities coming in and affecting their neighborhoods.

The sponsors of the petition have to gather 2000 signatures in about two weeks. No one who is a city resident can carry a petition or sign one, you have to live in the borough but outside of the cities. So they need all the help they can get from non-city residents to get petitions and get them signed. You can pick up the petitions at the Borough offices, 809 Pioneer Rd. After you gather signatures, and get your petition copy notarized you can call Drug-Free Fairbanks at 378-8229. You can also sign the petition at the Midnight Sun Festival, or call the above number to find somewhere you can sign. This is the one real chance you have to stop these establishments, and remember it doesn’t change the legalization status of marijuana, it just stops the pot shops from being next door.

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Smoking Cannabis ALTERS Your DNA ‘Causing Mutations That Can Trigger Serious Illness, Including Cancer’

Smoking cannabis can alter a person’s DNA, causing mutations that expose a user to serious illnesses, experts have warned . . .

Though the link between cannabis and severe illnesses, such as cancer, has previously been documented, how this occurs and the implications for future generations was not well understood.

Dr Stuart Reece, and Professor Gary Hulse from the University of Western Australia’s School of Psychiatry, analyzed literary and research material to understand the likely causes.

Dr Reece said: ‘Through our research we found that cancers and illnesses were likely caused by cell mutations resulting from cannabis properties having a chemical interaction with a person’s DNA.

While a person may appear healthy and lead a normal life, the unseen damage to their DNA could also be passed on to their children, and cause illness for several generations to come. (Read more from “Smoking Cannabis ALTERS Your DNA ‘Causing Mutations That Can Trigger Serious Illness, Including Cancer'” HERE)

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Post-Legalization, Marijuana-Related Fatal Crashes Double in This State

The number of fatal crashes involving drivers who had recently used marijuana doubled in Washington after the state legalized the drug, according to new research. But the impact of impaired drivers on the state’s roads remains unknown.

Those are the conclusions from a pair of new studies conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. More than anything, the organization’s dual findings illustrate the complexity of determining impairment in marijuana-using drivers and, more broadly, how difficult it is to measure the scope of stoned driving.

With at least 20 states considering marijuana legalization this year, the studies’ findings heighten concerns about drugged driving spreading across a nation already grappling with a historic rise in traffic fatalities, but they also show early approaches in trying to legislate solutions might be wrong-headed.

While increases in blood-alcohol content correlate with decreases in driving abilities, there’s no such correlation with THC, the active component of marijuana, in the bloodstream. AAA says there is no scientific evidence that drivers perform more poorly behind the wheel at a certain level of marijuana use. As a result, arbitrary thresholds “could result in unsafe motorists going free and others being wrongfully convicted for impaired driving.”

The AAA studies are the latest in a growing body of research that shows Americans should be concerned about stoned driving, but that quantifying both risks and solutions is a confusing process. (Read more from “Post-Legalization, Marijuana-Related Fatal Crashes Double in Washington” HERE)

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What’s That Word? Marijuana May Affect Verbal Memory

Years of smoking pot may have an effect on a person’s verbal memory, which is the ability to remember certain words, a new study finds.

For every five years of marijuana use, researchers found that, on average, one out of two people remembered one word fewer from a list of 15 words, according to the study.

Long-term use was not, however, significantly associated with decreases in other measures of cognitive function, such as processing speed or executive function, the researchers wrote in the study, published today (Feb. 1) in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. Executive function includes skills such as planning and focusing.

To examine the effects of long-term marijuana use, the researchers studied participants who were enrolled in the long-running Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study. The CARDIA study included more than 5,000 adults who initially enrolled in the study between ages 18 and 30. During a series of follow-up visits, the participants reported if they had used marijuana in the previous month. At the 25-year follow-up, the participants were given a series of cognitive tests that looked at verbal memory, processing speed and executive function.

While long-term marijuana use was associated with worse performance in all three tests, after the researchers adjusted for other factors (such as use of other substances and depression), they found that only the association between long-term use and verbal memory was statistically significant (meaning the associations between marijuana use and both processing speed and executive function may have been due to chance). (Read more from “What’s That Word? Marijuana May Affect Verbal Memory” HERE)

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High School Seniors Now Prefer Marijuana to Cigarettes

More students in the 12th grade said they smoked pot every day, compared to those who smoke daily cigarettes, finds a new federal report. It’s the first time since the survey began in 1975 that daily marijuana use surpassed cigarettes.

The “Monitoring the Future” survey released on Wednesday shows that 6% of 12th graders used marijuana every day—about the same rate as last year—while 5.5% of seniors reported smoking cigarettes daily. (That’s a drop from 2014, when 6.7% of high school seniors smoked cigarettes every day.)

Their perceptions of pot also changed; fewer students think it’s dangerous. Almost 32% of seniors said they thought regular marijuana use could be harmful, compared to 36% who felt that way last year. “The sense that marijuana has medicinal purposes and that doctors are prescribing it creates a sense that this drug cannot be so harmful,” says Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health (the group that funded the research).

Volkow says she is surprised that marijuana rates didn’t rise from 2014, after the past year’s attitude and policy changes surrounding the legalization of marijuana. “All of those factors have led many to predict that there would be an increase in the pattern of use of marijuana among teenagers, and we are not seeing it,” she says. Still, it was one of the only substances in the report that did not decline in usage. (Read more from “High School Seniors Now Prefer Marijuana to Cigarettes” HERE)

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At Least 12 People Overdose on Synthetic Marijuana in San Diego

At least a dozen people became sick in San Diego Sunday after they apparently ingested a batch of synthetic marijuana, also known as “spice”, police said.

San Diego Fire Rescue Capt. Joe Amador told Fox 5 that the victims were mainly young people, including a 13-year-old. Amador said it was not immediately clear whether the victims took the drug voluntarily.

The station reported that the victims experienced symptoms varying from a bloody nose to seizures. Medical officers responded to multiple calls reporting sick patients in at least three locations in downtown San Diego . . .

San Diego police said the drug was being sold in black packages with blue dragons on the side. A police spokesman told the San Diego Union-Tribune that officers were trying to track down victims and witnesses, and were also warning the public about the overdoses in case others had purchased the drug in the downtown area. (Read more from “At Least 12 People Overdose on Synthetic Marijuana in San Diego” HERE)

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