AG Brown “clarifies” muddy medical pot law

August 18, 2008

By DANIEL BLACKBURN

California’s top prosecutor has dribbled out the maiden set of formal guidelines to help law enforcement interpret and apply medical marijuana laws, and San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Pat Hedges says he has found in them an ounce of redemption.

Attorney General Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown’s final draft of his long-awaited rules for ensuring “the security and non-diversion of marijuana grown for medical use” is circulating among top state and local law enforcement officials. The new Justice Department guidelines are the first definitive words on the subject by a state attorney general, and are written nearly a dozen years after California voters approved Proposition 215, the “Compassionate Use Act.”

Passed in 1996 by California’s voters, the medical pot act decriminalized cultivation and use by patients on a physician’s recommendation. The act immediately conflicted with federal law; local law agencies were left to decipher the act and to formulate policies, resulting in a lack of consistency in enforcement between jurisdictions.

Brown’s 11-page pronouncement is intended to accomplish three objectives: to “ensure” that medical marijuana goes only to patients and caregivers; to help law enforcement do its job “uniformly”; and to “help patients and caregivers… cultivate, transport, possess, and use marijuana under California law.”

Hedges has become a flash point for the controversy surrounding uneven application of enforcement, even debuting in an international arena as a key player in the recent prosecution and conviction of Morro Bay pot dispensary owner Charles Lynch on federal drug charges. Television star and comedian Drew Carey told Lynch’s story in a sympathetic documentary on reason.tv.

It was Hedges who tipped federal DEA agents about Lynch’s dispensary; who ordered an undercover operation by his deputies which spanned a year and cost an indeterminate amount of money; who approved his deputies’ participation in the dispensary’s well-publicized raid by a cadre of well-armed law enforcement officers; and whose contribution to the prosecution’s case helped cement Lynch’s conviction.

He believes taxpayers benefited from his actions: “How do you place a value on a murder case investigation? You do it because it’s the right thing to do,” he said recently.

Hedges’ position is based on federal law, he has said repeatedly. Earlier this year, he told UncoveredSLO.com that he has “heard the argument that I am not required to enforce federal law. I would simply ask if I am required to comply with federal law. My opinion is that I am. I would hope that you would agree.”

The sheriff said the Lynch dispensary was not what voters had in mind, and was an abuse of the enabling act.

“I can’t just allow the law to be flaunted,” he said.

San Luis Obispo County has no other dispensaries. Neighboring Santa Barbara County, however, with a more empathetic sheriff in the saddle, has six operating facilities. Los Angeles County has hundreds.

His opinion is soundly based, Hedges said late last week. Stung by what he called “media misperceptions” about his enforcement of medical marijuana laws in this county, the sheriff has launched a low-key public relations campaign aimed at correcting those perceived mistaken slants. He and Rob Bryn, the department’s public information officer, are “briefing” reporters on the attorney general’s new guidelines.

Still feeling heat from some county residents’ reaction to his involvement in the surveillance, arrest and prosecution of Lynch, Hedges said he is relieved that Brown’s rules appear to address many heretofore unresolved issues.

One is the issue of “storefront dispensaries” of the kind Lynch ran until his arrest.

Brown wrote, “Although medical marijuana ‘dispensaries’ have been operating in California for years, dispensaries, as such, are not recognized under the law.” Individuals who operate dispensary establishments “that do not substantially comply with [the] guidelines… may be subject to arrest and prosecution under California law.” Cooperatives are allowed under the law, subject to established definition.

Hedges now points to that refined provision as ample reason for his enforcement efforts against Lynch.

Asked if he felt he had been damaged politically by the Lynch case, Hedges said, “I don’t know. Politicians sometimes take the most expedient means to reelection. But I will do what I believe in, regardless of the implications.”

The attorney general notes that “California did not ‘legalize’ medical marijuana, but instead exercised the state’s reserved powers to not punish certain marijuana offenses when a physician” has prescribed its use.

Several other significant clarifications are incorporated into the attorney general’s instructions, including one regarding possession quantities: “If a person has what appears to be valid medical marijuana documentation, but exceeds the applicable possession guidelines identified above, all marijuana may be seized.”

Ironically, a state court of appeal in May ruled that legislators acted unconstitutionally and erred when they capped the amount of pot a patient could possess. The court suggested patients should be able to possess any amount, and said lawmakers do not have authority to amend a voter-approved initiative. Brown, who advocates “controlled” medical marijuana use, told the Los Angeles Times recently that he will challenge the ruling.

Also defined are rules for the lawful return of confiscated marijuana to patients. Several city police departments in this county, as well as Hedges, have refused on occasion to do this, and local judges have always subsequently ruled in favor of patients. State law enforcement officers who handle controlled substances in the course of their official duties are specifically immune from liability, Brown said.


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8 Comments

  1. ccn_debate says:

    Member Opinions:
    By: Anonymous on 8/26/08
    I said it before and I'll say it again. Pot smokers never gave me any trouble I couldn't handle. But the drunks, oh boy, I woulda liked to kick a lot more of their sorry asses.

    But it is a lot easier and less messy to bust potheads. Given a choice of busing a pothead vs. a crackhead, most will jump for the pothead gig and leave the crackheads to the cops who are still young, dumb and full of it.

    Hedges would not be my first choice for sheriff, that's for sure.
    By: Anonymous on 8/26/08
    Hedges is way off base here. He's out of line. He has used questionable judgment.

    And part of the Hedge's story remains hidden.

    A replacement is called for.
    By: Anonymous on 8/26/08
    How about the will of the voters in the gay marriage stuff? Do you support that will too? Or are you too hypocritical like so many others not to "support the will of the people" in both cases.

    Get off Hedges back and realize that despite his shortcomings, maybe, just maybe he knew a little more about the weed law than you, Lynch, and the rest of the brain dead bong loaders who are attached to the pipe 24/7 and sit here typing their non-stop grievances over the issue.
    By: Anonymous on 8/26/08
    I am so tired of police who are supposed to be serving the public and instead prosecute them against the clear wishes of the voters and state law. Hedges does not work for the federal government and should not be going against local voters by enforcing federal laws at the expense of local law.
    By: Anonymous on 8/26/08
    Your last post is making me cry. My mother has suffered beyond anything that I think I could endure. I wanted her to try marijuana when she was so sick from the chemo. She didn't want to because it was illegal and a terrible drug (loco weed as she had always been told) only now in her deepest despair has she agreed to use it. She is gaining weight but still she is so week. They don't think she has the strength to "make it" because her weight is so low and her body too emaciated. I could just cry over all the propaganda that was "dumped on her".
    By: Anonymous on 8/26/08
    No, I'm not the person providing marijuana brownies at Sierra Vista. And I'm not Florence Nightingale. But maybe we'll meet one day. Sooner or later nearly everyone ends up in the hospital. When your time comes, I don't know who will have it worse, you or your nurse. But when the time comes, somehow I imagine you will most certainly be thinking about how marijuana might be able to help you, while simultaneously pondering, perhaps regretting, all the nasty, negative, comments you have posted on this issue and all the hurt you have so freely spread during your life. God have mercy on you.
    By: Anonymous on 8/25/08
    NOW I know who you are! You must be the nurses who were passing out the mary jane brownies at Sierra Vista last year.

    As for your drug-induced visions of people writhing on a bed of suffering, man, sounds like a bad trip. Get some new stuff, unless you enjoy that sort of thing.

    Florence Nightingale you aren't!

    (-1) 5 Total Votes - 2 up - 3 down
  2. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 8/25/08
    I've seen "Nostradamus" type before. When they visit someone in the hospital they are all brave, giving out sage advice: "buck up," 'you can handle it," "be a man!".

    But when they come to the end of their line and they are suffering, they are the first one to be screaming out, crying, begging for "something, anything! Please, God, forgive me, forgive me, Nurse, nurse, Do Something! God, help me!".

    That's just the way some people have to learn about compassion: when it is too late.
    By: Anonymous on 8/25/08
    Nah. I didn't enjoy it. I sure admired their courage and will to live, though.
    By: Anonymous on 8/25/08
    Marijuana can help stimulate the appetite of patients who have "wasting syndrome" and are basically slowly starving to death.

    Is that what happened to your friends with cancer? Did you enjoy it?
    By: Anonymous on 8/25/08
    "…squirm and twist and puke in your sickbed…" Ye cats, Nurse, you sure have a way with words. Compassion drips from each honeyed syllable. So which nurse are you – Ratched or Annie Wilkes?

    By the way, I've had friends with cancer. They never felt the need to use illegal substances to dull the pain.

    Go smoke a rope or take a Midol. Maybe you'll feel better….
    By: Anonymous on 8/25/08
    Your words are duly marked, whoever the hell you are. One day you will be sick and nauseous, perhaps slowly dying of cancer. And you can remember this discussion about how marijuana might make you feel a little better during your dying days. And you can also remember your own little personal, mindless campaign to keep marijuana away from sick and dying people who could be helped from it. And maybe you will then break down and cry out in misery as you deal with the conflict in your mind and realize all the mean, snotty, harmful things you have posted over the years and how you hope to God someone will show you compassion as you squirm and twist and puke in your sickbed. And maybe you can phone Pat Hedges to stop by and comfort you. Maybe he will offer you an aspirin.

    By: Anonymous on 8/25/08
    Hedges will be there for years to come, much to the chagrin of the red-eye set.

    Mark my words.

    By: Anonymous on 8/25/08
    I resent and object to the word "pothead" being used in this context. Simply because one chooses to occasionally partake of the herb does not mean one is a "pothead". No more than one who drinks an alcoholic beverage once in a while is an "alcoholic".

    Can we please start showing more respect for various lifestyle choices?

    And let us not forget that there are people suffering from cancer whose suffering could be eased somewhat by being allowed medical marijuana.

    Thank you.

    P.S. Replace Sheriff Hedges.

    (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
  3. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 8/25/08
    Beware, potheads! Sheriff Hedges is videotaping your every move. Since he was not charged for secretly recording his own employees on the job, I'm sure he plans to expand the surveillance beyond his office.

    Next time you light up a bowl and prepare to blog, remember: Big Brother is watching you!
    By: Anonymous on 8/24/08
    What makes all these anti-marijuana fanatics want to be so mean, rude and nasty? They sound like they are hating life, big time. Can't they just keep it to themselves. Whatever they are suffering from, I hope they find an antidote fast.
    By: Anonymous on 8/24/08
    Try obeying the laws. Instead of using your sick friend as an excuse to get your drugs.
    gimme a break!
    By: Anonymous on 8/24/08
    Right on dude. You told him..

    Hey, I'm going to be downtown by the mission till about 5 PM maybe you could come by and we could talk about my "estate" planning. I'm a little short today if you know what I'm saying.

    I'm wearing the rainbow t-shirt. A small guy w/ red hair.
    By: Anonymous on 8/24/08
    I'm smoking pot at this very moment and I can still spell better than Mr. "to bad".

    If there is anyone who could stand to get a little medicated, it would be "to bad" and any other anti-pot fantatics, who burden the taxpayers with their insane support of barbaric laws against using one of God's most famous herbs.

    There are so many ways to get pot now, the people being hurt the most are the true cancer patients and other's with serious problems who could use pot but are too new at it, or too sick, to get it any where else but a sanctioned, safe, controlled, taxpaying Medical Marijuana Dispensary.

    (How did I do with this posting? Pretty good, huh? Considering the stuff I'm smoking is pretty heavily oriented to stimulating right brain activity, rather than left. Time to crank the tunes and get working out in the garden on this beautiful, glorious day on the Central Coast!)
    By: Anonymous on 8/24/08
    The fact remains you potheads are not going to have a pot grocery store in slo county. So cry all you want but it's not going to happen… and there is nothing you can do about it……

    By the way your friends at the DEA have a plan for the other grocery stores…..
    By: Anonymous on 8/23/08
    Hedges literally does not know what he is talking about. To "flaunt" a law means you are "displaying' the law in conspicuous manner.

    To "flaunt a law" in no way means one is "breaking" a law.

    In reality, it is Hedges who is trying to "flaunt" a law, a law that many people feel is unjust, barbaric AND goes counter to laws enacted by the majority of voters in the great state of California.

    Hedges sure is "flaunting" something, but it certainly isn't wisdom or the best interest of our community.

    (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down
  4. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 8/23/08
    “I can’t just allow the law to be flaunted,” he said.
    Uhhhhhhh how about when one of your deputies is going "35 mph" but manages to take out 4 cars?Reaching for a water bottle. lol Probably was more like a Bong.

    Sheriff’s deputy slams four parked cars.
    By: Anonymous on 8/23/08
    These "medical" herb people must have inhaled from their youth up. All they can think about is access to weed.
    By: Anonymous on 8/22/08
    So now we have to drive to Santa Barbara to buy marijuana for my sick friend. And Santa Barbara gets all the sales tax.

    Does Hedges really think his crazed anti-pot crusade is stopping people from getting pot?

    So we'll grow it instead, or drive to Santa Barbara, or buy it from gang members and SLO County doesn't get any sales tax from stuff that sells for several hundred dollars an ounce.
    And the really sick folks are the ones who will be most inconvenienced.

    What good does Hedges think he is doing? Who's he working for? What's the scam? Who is he protecting?

    By: Anonymous on 8/22/08
    Jerry brown has lost way too many brain cells trying to cure his athlete's foot with illegal drugs!
    By: Anonymous on 8/19/08
    Hey Joe, what makes you such an expert on pot?
    By: Anonymous on 8/19/08
    You are confusing real medical pot with California medical pot. People who WANT it and people who NEED it. Yes, the laws are pretty poor, but they are the law. Until they are changed, amended or a tighter loophole is found, it is the law of the land that this is illegal. A waste of money, a waste of time and a huge waste of resources.
    By: Anonymous on 8/19/08
    The Federal marijuana laws are archaic and barbarian and are doing harm to the United States.

    People who support those laws are sadly misguided and are harming our community.
    By: Anonymous on 8/19/08
    MARIJUANA:
    Growing it, selling it, smoking it, driving under it's influence etc…ARE ILLEGAL!
    As much as you may want to, you can't just obey the laws you agree with and break those you don't.
    If you would stop smoking that dangerous drug for 90 days and let your brain partially recover you'd see this truth.

    (-2) 2 Total Votes - 0 up - 2 down
  5. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 8/19/08
    I don't have the impression that these bloggers dislike cops. I've never had that impression on this site in any of the blogs. I have the impression that these people don't like what some of our government does. A spade is a spade and they have been addressing real issues here. There is a big difference.
    By: Anonymous on 8/19/08
    Maybe Hedges doesn't have to be replaced if he somehow realizes that his stance on the medical marijuana issue runs contrary to the wishes of SLO County citizens.

    As of right now, however, he seems hopelessly out of touch with the modern world.

    I don't now what it is, but something doesn't seem right about Hedges anti-pot fanaticism. There is a part of the puzzle that has not yet come to light.
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    How many of you anti-drug fanatics have ever had the "joy" of watching a loved one, child, sibling or spouse, go through the pain of Chemotherapy, or the throes of cancer. Here's how it works….you ingest chemotherapy,(poison which takes all of the cells in your body to the point of almost dying, with the hope that the cancer cells can't repair themselves….) The pain is beyond description, and the physiological and psychological effects are outrageous. In many instances, the treatment consumes the patient's short remaining life span. If medical marijuana makes any person's life more tolerable, or hopefully enjoyable, for even the smallest period, who can claim the right to deny that prospect, especially in light of the voting majority of this state. If you're a zealot against the prospect of medical marijuana, then you've very likely never found yourself in the receiving position on a short-term diagnosis.
    America was founded on the concept of "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness"….so from where do you draw your power to deprive those in need from the prospect of this possibility of relief? This isn't the 1930's, and hopefully most of us are intelligent enough to appreciate the fact that marijuana is neither an opiate or otherwise addicting……Here's some perspective for you….your mother has just been diagnosed with stomach cancer, and can only find the way for her to to continue eating (or tolerate the chemo) involves the use of medical marijuana,…….SO…. do we allow her the dignity of continuing her life in a legal manner, or do we send in the sheriff to arrest her "dealer", and let her address whatever is left of her life as she may…..Sorry about the pain, misery and discomfort Mom…..but for heaven's sake, I didn't want you to be a druggie…(Doc, can we please give her some legal and prescribed opiates and keep her in la-la land until it's over).
    Have a heart. And if you enjoy an occasional beer or cocktail, don't be such a hypocrite for god's sake.
    I'd hoped our society would have been beyond this nonsense by this time in my life, but I guess we need to work on our educational system. You get what you pay for.
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    He ought to like prison as much as many of the posters in this forum like cops.

    Good thing about federal time is you do what you're given. No good time or behavior credits.
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    I wonder how Charles will like prison?
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    So why don't all you pro-marijuana people work towards legalizing the stuff unstead of hiding behind the supposedly sick people argument. The bottom line is 215 was a way for you potheads to start to get the stuff legal. Why don't you admit it and work towards that end.

    Gee, maybe cause that will never happen?

    (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
  6. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    Why do we have to deal with dispensaries anyways? If this stuff is legitimately medicinal then it should be procured from a pharmacy like other medications.
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    When was the last time our county sent someone to prison for smoking pot? Uh, never. It's the rest of the garbage that goes along with the weed industry that causes the majority of the problems.

    Move to Amsterdam.
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    Hey…Responsible Taxpayer.
    Read it again dummy.

    SLO Dr.
    Thank you for getting my point.
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    We have an entire industry in our county that encourages people to get in their cars and go wine tasting, moving from one winery to the other, drinking free or cheap alcohol and driving on our country roads. We celebrate this. We advertise it. We profit from it.

    And now these same alcohol promoters want to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries and send pot smokers who haven't hurt anyone to years in prison?

    Is this some weird, psychotic form of denial? San Luis County is an alcoholic's paradise. People who get accepted to Cal Poly get a four year course in learning how to drink on campus and off. Bars are the center piece of downtown SLO. We are raising a generation of alcoholics, and yet we want to crush medical marijuana.

    Something seems a little askew here.

    P.S. Get rid of Hedges and lets find a more sensible, modern law enforcement official, not so tied into the old ways.
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    Hey Joe, what planet are you from? Nobody is "driving….thousands of miles" just to buy an ounce or two of pot. And it cost more than just a "few dollars." The dispensaries are not cheap! The stuff sells for several hundreds of dollars an ounce."

    On the other hand, growers ARE traveling hundreds of miles to supply the dispensaries.

    As for smoking pot and driving, it's rather remarkable that it hasn't been much of a problem all these years.

    Stoned drivers are more likely to miss an off ramp, rather than speed and crash. That's just the reality, though I'm not at all trying to say one should drive stoned. But the fact is that pot and driving is nowhere near as dangerous as drinking alcohol and driving. In fact, I now people who use pot to mellow out and relax and slow down while driving.

    Maybe you have to drive a lot while stoned to understand this. I understand it.

    You anti-pot people have a tendency to go way overboard in wanting to demonize the stuff and destroy people's lives who have a taste for herb. It's your attitudes, not the weed, that causes so much harm and suffering and has led to so much animosity between the public and law enforcement officials.

    The anti-pot laws truly are archaic and barbarian.

    (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  7. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    These dispensaries should all be shut down, it is unconscionable that people come from hundreds if not thousands of miles driving in and out of these places, showing ID's, shelling out a few dollars and getting in their cars and driving off TO YET ANOTHER DISPENSARY only to do it over and over again. It is a problem caused by locals and "tourists" alike. These people drive our roads heavily under the influence of the crap pedaled, and it is accepted? WHY?

    Shut down "tasting rooms"!
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    Well, it seems Jerry Brown has made it clearer, and the potheads and ganja supporters still sound upset. It's still Hedges' fault? Sounds like maybe he was more on target than originally thought by the prop 215 supporters, and still he's the villain in the CCCC saga.

    And the point about SB and LA counties have medicinal weed aplenty: Do you really want to be like LA County? Just a thought.
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    "To Paso Guy" obviously wasn't listening to Congalton today asking for a kindler, gentler blog.
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    Paso Guy is an idiot is "irrelevant, but true"!
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    Thank You to the Administrators for deleting that "off topic rant" about Santa Maria Bill. It had nothing to do with story. It wasn't even close to anything to do with this story or any story. There has to be a limit somewhere.
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    of course you meant to say "irrelevant, but true"

    Is no one going to dispute that it is true?
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    Thank you for deleting that irrelevant post about Santa Maria Bill. The Republican swift boaters in Paso should get their own blog. Maybe that hick station KPRL can help them.
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    You can't handle the truth!! That is, if that truth doesn't fit the editors own agenda, then it goes to deleted posting land. I'm seeing a pattern.
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    Seems to me if info is going to be deleted, an explanation is in order. It was off-topic, but news-worthy. Was the info fiction? Cannot this site handle the truth?

    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    So now Hedges is blaming the "media." The truth is the local media has pretty much given Mr. Hedges a free ride through all kinds of B.S. in his department.

    It is not the media that is questioning his judgment and fitness for the job, and his over-zealous need to fill the local jail cells with pot users, it is THE PEOPLE OF SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY.

    The very fact that Hedges tries to blame the media is an example of him using complete propaganda to avoid taking responsibility for all this crap that he has brought on.

    So he blames the "media." That is total crap and shows what kind of leader Mr. Hedges really is.

    (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  8. ccn_debate says:

    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    Hedges is totally ridiculous with his quote equating murder with running a medical marijuana dispensary.

    If that is the best he can do in justifying his questionable, wasteful, taxpayer-financed shenanigans, he should definitely be replaced by a more in-tune, modern law enforcement leader.
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    The question remains: Do we recall Hedges now, or wait until the next election to replace him?
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    Where did that gigantic rant bashing Snta Maria Bill go?
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    …pot smoking attorney……
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    also, apparently there is nothing poistive to say so, everyone is saying nothing.
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    To a little more to uncover,
    I don't know if your correct or not but I know that this site deals with public issues and your post seems to be nothing but a personal vendetta or a democrat hater. Shame on you.
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    Facinating!
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    Looks to me like Hedges was looking for the "limelight" He got his 20 minutes of fame and I bet it's gonna cost him his job. That idiot spent all that tax money for his own benefit.
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    Hedges' comments and the context of the Lynch case in the state as a whole show how political Lynch's prosecution was. And it is a misallocation of resources both for the Sheriff's Dept and the feds. Any reasonable set of priorities would put stuff like this near the bottom.
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    To "Love The Critics", in reference to your comments about Paso Guy… It's funny how an admitted police officer, who found several opportunities to bash Chitty, Solomon and Linden, has plenty of time to monitor this site isn't it? I bet someone as noble as he would never surf the internet at work. Seems to be pretty negative doesn't he? I also find it interesting that he considers the Sheriff's Dept. spending taxpayer money on enforcing drug laws a "waste".
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    One has nothing to do with the other.

    I'm also wring a book on how to waste the taxpay's money and gain new friends.
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    For someone who never contributes anything but criticism and snide comments, Paso Guy sure seems to spend a lot of his time on this site.
    By: Anonymous on 8/18/08
    You lost me at "dribbled". How about a factual report and leave the commentary to us

    (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down

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