Pages tagged "Medical marijuana"

  • Attorney General Holder Says One Thing While His U.S. Attorneys Do Another



     

     

     

     

     

    Yesterday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder answered questions before the House Judiciary Committee on his Justice Department’s handling of the now-famous federal ATF operation, “Fast and Furious.” During the hearing, Rep. Polis (D-CO) asked a series of questions on medical marijuana. Holder responded that the October 2009 Ogden memo de-emphasizing marijuana enforcement in medical marijuana states was still in effect. Specifically, Holder said that, “we will not use our limited resources,” to target people who “are acting in conformity with [state] law.” This seems to equate with the Ogden memo and the pledge that President Obama made before and after taking office. There’s only one (big) problem…the Justice Department is currently on a rampage in medical marijuana states, spending tax dollars like there was no fiscal crisis.

    Over the past year, Obama’s Justice Department has spent millions of dollars raiding more than one hundred dispensaries in at least 7 states. Holder’s U.S. Attorneys have also sent threatening letters to public officials in 10 medical marijuana states, attempting to undermine the same laws that Holder purports to respect. In California, U.S. Attorneys are not only using raids to spread fear and intimidation, they are also threatening landlords with criminal prosecution and asset forfeiture if they continue leasing to medical marijuana dispensaries.

    In March, the Obama Administration conducted the largest set of coordinated raids on medical marijuana facilities yet. No less than 8 federal agencies, including the DEA, FBI, EPA, ATF, OSHA, IRS, and ICE, worked with 22 local law enforcement agencies to execute 26 search warrants in 13 cities across Montana. A number of people were later indicted and are now dealing with federal prosecutions. At the time of the raids, the Justice Department complained of state law violations, but cases currently under way indicate the opposite.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Thaggard is trying to prevent several defendants from using a state law defense at their federal trial. To be robbed of a defense is a travesty, but unfortunately all too common in federal medical marijuana cases. Thaggard’s comments in an August court filing, however, underscore the hypocrisy of the Justice Department’s policy on medical marijuana:
    Montana’s medical marijuana laws have no relevance to the present prosecution…

    So, how long will President Obama, Attorney General Holder, and the U.S. Attorneys on a rabid attack against medical marijuana be able to prop up their Orwellian policy of saying one thing and doing another? Only time and a whole lot of pressure will tell.
  • The GOP Presidential Hopefuls on Medical Marijuana

     


    It seems like every time you turn on the TV lately, there's another debate among the GOP Presidential Candidate hopefuls where they end up discussing important issues from foreign policy to the economy to immigration. One issue, however, that appears to have gottten lost in the shuffle is that of medical marijuana. In fact, the only time the subject seems to have been addressed during a debate was the most recent GOP debate on November 22 when Congressman Ron Paul showed his support for medical marijuana, arguing that medical marijuana laws should not be set by the federal government:
    "You can at least let sick people have marijuana because it's helpful. But the compassionate conservatives say, well we can't do this, we're going to put people who are sick and dying with cancer and are being helped with marijuana if they have multiple sclerosis -- the federal government is going in there and overriding state laws and putting people like that in prison."

    However, Congressman Paul has been the only candidate so far to address the topic of medical marijuana during one of the many debates. So the question remains - where do the rest of the candidates stand on the issue?



    Former Governor Gary Johnson strongly supports medical marijuana and has publicly condemned the Department of Justice for its raids on medical marijuana dispensaries and patients. And former Governor Jon Huntsman, Governor Rick Perry, and Herman Cain all believe the issue should be left up to the  states.

    Then there's former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrinch, who as a senator from Georgia in 1981 co-introduced the first bill that would have allowed marijuana to be used for therapeutic purposes. Speaker Gingrich went on record this weekend calling medical marijuana "a joke." Former Governor Mitt Romney comes down on this side of the issue as well, calling marijuana an "entry drug for people trying to get kids hooked on drugs" and has said that medical marijuana is unnecessary since there are "synthetic forms of marijuana that are available for people who need it for prescription." And despite admitting to using marijuana while he was in college, former Senator Rick Santorum opposes medical marijuana as well, saying what he did in college was "wrong" and accusing Governor Perry of being "soft" on marijuana because of his position supporting states' rights.

    At this time, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has not yet publicly taken a position on medical marijuana.

    As we are all well aware, though, positions are subject to change at any time based on poll numbers and public response so stay tuned!

     
  • Washington Raids Indicate Need for State Wide Protection!

    Drug Enforcement Agents executed warrants on fifteen medical cannabis access points across the state of Washington last week.  US Attorney Jenny Durkan alleges that the access points were using the state law to conceal criminal activity and money laundering; however, this is only true so long as medical cannabis is illegal on a federal level.  Because of this there will always be room to charge those participating in civil disobedience with illegal activity.  During an interview, Durkan joked, “There’s always more crime than time.”  This statement is indicative of the Department’s mis-prioritized agenda because they chose to pursue the easiest target: a legal state sanctioned medical cannabis dispensary operating above ground to provide for patients in need.



    Earlier this year, Governor Christine Gregoire vetoed several provisions of a bill that would have legitimized these access points across the state, bowing to the threats of the Federal Government and US Attorneys.  Despite the fact that access continues to be compromised without the operating of legal distribution centers, the Governor and US Attorney claim that patients are being left alone in this battle: “We will not prosecute truly ill people or their doctors who determine that marijuana is an appropriate medical treatment”.  While the state of Washington is not blatantly arresting and prosecuting patients, it is pursuing them in a much more passive manner by cutting off the access these patients desperately need.  It is hypocritical to say that you support the right to access and use of cannabis by certain qualifying people, but then limit the means by which they acquire it.

    Seattle recognized the necessity of cannabis distribution centers, and took the necessary steps to pass a local ordinance providing a regulatory scheme for dispensaries to exist in the locality.  If Washington is truly committed to ensuring that safe and legal access is available to all patients in need, the more localities must follow in Seattle’s footsteps.  Passing such ordinances is a necessary response to the most recent raids we have seen across the state.  Click here to view our Washington Raid Response page to find out how you can take action!  
  • California State, Local Elected Officials Blast Federal Attacks on Medical Marijuana



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Earlier this month, in response to federal attacks by California’s U.S. Attorneys, several local and state officials spoke out against the aggressive interference in their medical marijuana laws. State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) held a press conference with patients and advocacy groups, including Americans for Safe Access. The message was clear: the federal government must “stand down.”

    On October 19th, Senator Leno stated the following:
    I urge the federal government to stand down in its massive attack on medical marijuana dispensaries, which will have devastating impacts for the state of California. At a time when resources are precious and few, federal officials have chosen to waste time and money in an ambush that will harm countless patients who will no longer be able to safely access doctor-prescribed treatments. Our federal dollars, especially during a down economy, would be better spent on activities and programs that save jobs and help people in need. Instead, this ill-timed offensive would have no positive impacts on our state and would only force more Californians into unemployment.

    Assembly member Ammiano also declared that:
    Instead of supporting state efforts to effectively regulate medical marijuana in accordance with Prop 215, the Obama administration seems committed to re-criminalizing it. This destructive attack on medical marijuana patients is a waste of limited law enforcement resources and will cost the state millions in tax revenue and harm countless lives. I urge President Obama to reconsider this bad policy decision and respect California's right to provide medicine to its residents.

    In a separate statement, State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) also blasted the decision to shut down licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in the city:
    Medical marijuana dispensaries are helping our economy, creating jobs, and most importantly, providing a necessary service for suffering patients. There are real issues and real problems that the US Attorney’s Office should be focused on rather than using their limited resources to prosecute legitimate businesses or newspapers. Like S-Comm, our law enforcement agencies – both state and local – should not assist in this unnecessary action. Shutting down state-authorized dispensaries will cost California billions of dollars and unfairly harm thousands of lives.

    Most recently, California Attorney General Kamala Harris spoke out against the recent federal crackdown:
    Californians overwhelmingly support the compassionate use of medical marijuana for the ill. … While there are definite ambiguities in state law that must be resolved either by the state legislature or the courts, an overly broad federal enforcement campaign will make it more difficult for legitimate patients to access physician-recommended medicine in California. I urge the federal authorities in the state to adhere to the United States Department of Justice’s stated policy and focus their enforcement efforts on ‘significant traffickers of illegal drugs.

    Even local officials are speaking up. Mendocino County Supervisor John McCowen called the federal raid on a medical marijuana collective licensed by the county, “outrageous.” Supervisor McCowen said in a written statement, “if the federal government truly wants to protect public safety,” it should change its strategy of:
    [R]aiding medical marijuana growers who are doing everything they can to operate in full compliance with state and local law.

    Perhaps the feds should take heed, lest more officials from across the state speak up in defense of patients and state law.
  • Members of Congress Urge President Obama to Reschedule Cannabis



    Today, in a joint effort between Congressional Representatives and Americans for Safe Access, several members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama expressing "concern with the recent activity by the Department of Justice against legitimate medical cannabis dispensaries in California that are operating legally under state law." The letter, headlined by Representatives Sam Farr (D-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and signed by Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Pete Stark (D-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), and Bob Filner (D-CA), noted that California was only the latest state hit in the federal government's campaign against medical marijuana.
    This year alone has seen aggressive SWAT-style federal raids in at least seven medical marijuana states, as well as threats of criminal prosecution by U.S. attorneys against local and state public officials. It is our strong position that local and state governments must be allowed to develop, implement and enforce their own public health laws with regard to medical cannabis.

    The members of Congress further stated that:
    [I]t is more urgent now than ever to reschedule marijuana as a legitimate controlled substance for medicinal purposes.

    Specifically, they requested that the Obama administration either reschedule cannabis as a Schedule II or Schedule III drug or that they publicly support the adoption of legislation that would remove cannabis from its current place in Schedule I. The letter comes on the heels of the Department of Justice's most recent attempt to circumvent California's 15 year old medical cannabis law.

    In the beginning of October, California's four U.S. attorneys sent letters to at least 16 landlords and property owners who rent buildings or own land where dispensaries provide safe access to medical cannabis, notifying them that they were violating federal drug law. The letters warned that the dispensaries must shut down within 45 days or the landlords and property owners will face criminal charges and confiscation of their property - both real and personal - even if they are operating legally under the state's medical cannabis law.

    This latest instance of federal interference is in stark contrast to the spirit if not the precise letter of the Obama Administration's policy on medical cannabis and though the DOJ is now claiming that President Obama had no prior knowledge of these latest enforcement tactics, the signers of the Farr-Rohrabacher letter urge the President to show respect for patients and their providers by changing federal policy and providing them with safe access to their medicine rather than pushing them back into the illicit market. Whether or not their pleas fall on deaf ears remains to be seen.
  • The Ongoing Saga of Federal Interference in Washington State & Push Back from Congress



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Earlier this year, on April 21st, the Washington State legislature passed SB 5073, a bill that would have established a licensing system for the dozens of medical marijuana distribution centers that existed to provide much-needed medication to thousands of patients throughout the state. Notably, the legislature passed the bill after Governor Christine Gregoire sought and received feedback from the Obama Justice Department. U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby wrote that growing facilities, dispensaries, landlords, financiers, and even state employees “would not be immune from liability under the CSA (Controlled Substances Act).” In other words, anyone remotely connected to the production and distribution of medical marijuana could be criminally prosecuted under federal law. Yet, the legislature must have seen through these threats of intimidation because it passed SB 5073 anyway.

    Less than a week after SB 5073 was passed, on April 27th, U.S. Congressman Jay Inslee (D-WA) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, seeking “further clarification” on the Justice Department’s position on “federal prosecution in states that have enacted laws authorizing medical use of marijuana.” Specifically, Congressman Inslee sought clarification on whether the Justice Department would really “prosecute a state employee who is operating in full compliance with SB 5073.” Unfortunately, nearly 6 moths later, Congressman Inslee is still waiting for a response.

    Not-so-coincidentally, a day after the congressman sent his request for clarification, the federal government conducted several aggressive law enforcement raids in Spokane, Washington and later indicted multiple dispensary operators under federal law. A day after that, Governor Gregoire vetoed the parts of SB 5073 that included the establishment of medical marijuana production and distribution regulations.

    Apparently, this was a thought-out, well-conducted strategy by the Obama Administration to undermine the efforts of Washington State legislators to establish sensible public health policy with regard to medical marijuana. And Washington is not alone. Similar derailments of public health policy happened in Arizona, California, Montana, and Rhode Island, to name a few.

    Thursday, Congressman Jay Inslee sent a follow-up letter to Attorney General Holder, reminding him that the Justice Department has:
    [F]ar more critical functions than preventing some of our Nation’s most vulnerable residents from getting the relief they need.

    Once again, Congressman Inslee asked for:
    [A] detailed justification as to why the Justice Department is focusing such a substantial portion of its limited resources in this area.

    This is yet another example of the push back from federal legislators on President Obama’s confusing war against medical marijuana. He would do well to respond and, better yet, President Obama should reconsider his harmful and indefensible policy.
  • Some City Council Members in LA and Long Beach Move to Ban Patients’ Coops and Collectives

    [caption id="attachment_1977" align="alignnone" width="202" caption="Long Beach City Attorney Robert Shannon"]
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    In the wake of a confusing ruling in Pack v. Long Beach from California’s Second Appellate District, efforts are under way in Los Angeles and Long Beach to ban medical cannabis dispensing centers (MCDCs) altogether. Earlier this month, the court held that federal law preempts certain provisions of the highly-restrictive medical cannabis ordinance adopted by the City of Long Beach last year. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) holds that the impact of the ruling on local regulation is limited, and the decision is already the subject of an appeal to the state Supreme Court (see our previous blog for more). Nevertheless, medical cannabis opponents on the Los Angeles and Long Beach City Councils are moving recklessly towards banning patients’ associations.



     Los Angeles City Council Members Bernard Parks and Jan Perry, who have consistently opposed medical cannabis in the city, made a motion to ask the City Attorney to “phase out” MCDCs in the city. The City Council voted unanimously today to meet in closed session with the City Attorney on Tuesday to discuss the impact of Pack v. Long Beach, a move that alarmed advocates. ASA submitted a letter clarifying the scope of the Pack decision, and City Council Member Dennis Zine praised ASA for its ongoing commitment to protecting safe access and supporting regulation.

    Meanwhile in Long Beach, the City Council also voted to meet with their City Attorney in closed session for a similar conversation. Long Beach City Attorney Robert Shannon told reporters that he has been instructed to appeal Pack v. Long Beach to the California Supreme Court. The outcome of that case may have serious implications for the right of local governments to implement California’s medical cannabis laws. But the appeal may also confuse efforts to use the decision as a rationale for banning MCDCs. Keep an eye on ASA’s mailing lists, web page, and this blog for developments.

    Patients and community members should hope that efforts to ban MCDCs in Los Angeles, Long Beach, and other cities that may follow suit fail. Research conducted by ASA and fifteen years of experience in providing safe access show that sensible regulations reduce crime and complaints around MCDCs, while preserving safe access for legitimate patients. Banning MCDCs would deny these proven benefits for both cities. ASA is committed to defending safe and well-regulated access for patients – in the courts, at City Halls, and if necessary, at the ballot box. Lawmakers in Los Angeles and Long Beach should remember that voter referendums have stopped bans in the City of San Diego, Butte County, and Kern County. Voters still believe in medical cannabis, even if some cynical lawmakers do not.
  • RAND Buckles to Political Pressure on Medical Marijuana



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    A Los Angeles-based study issued less than a month ago by the RAND Corporation, which analyzed levels of crime around the city’s medical marijuana dispensaries, has been pulled as a result of political pressure. Warren Robak of the media relations department at RAND recently said:
    We took a fresh look at the study based in part upon questions raised by some folks following publication.

    One of the loudest voices to question the RAND study was staunch medical marijuana opponent, Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich. RAND said that:
    The L.A. City Attorney’s Office has been the organization most vocal in its criticism of the study.

    Indeed, in media interviews the City Attorney’s Office called the report’s conclusions “highly suspect and unreliable,” claiming that they were based on “faulty assumptions, conjecture, irrelevant data, untested measurements and incomplete results.”

    Evidence of the influence and pressure of “politics” over “science” is no starker than this.

    On September 20, RAND issued a study that analyzed crime data from more than a year ago. According to a statement from RAND, the study “examined crime reports for the 10 days prior to and the 10 days following June 7, 2010, when the city of Los Angeles ordered more than 70 percent of the city’s 638 medical marijuana dispensaries to close.” Researchers analyzed crime reports within a few blocks around dispensaries that closed and compared that to crime reports for neighborhoods where dispensaries remained open. In total, RAND said that, “researchers examined 21 days of crime reports for 600 dispensaries in Los Angeles County -- 170 dispensaries remained open while 430 were ordered to close.”

    If that doesn’t seem thorough and “to-the-point” enough, RAND senior economist and lead author of the study Mireille Jacobson concluded that:
    [RAND] found no evidence that medical marijuana dispensaries in general cause crime to rise.

    Notably, this conclusion directly contradicted the claims of medical marijuana opponents such as Trutanich.

    However, this is not the first time politics has trumped science with regard to medical marijuana. There has been a long history of this in the United States. One of the more recent examples occurred only a few months ago when the National Cancer Institute (NCI) revised its website on medical cannabis after being pressured by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a federal agency which is responsible for obstructing meaningful research into medical marijuana. After adding cannabis to the list of Complementary Alternative Medicines (CAM) and recognizing the plant’s therapeutic qualities, NCI was urged to revise its statements. As a result, references to research indicating that cannabis may be helpful in subduing cancer growth were removed.

    Although RAND called its study “the first systematic analysis of the link between medical marijuana dispensaries and crime,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck previously conducted his own study a year earlier. Chief Beck compared the levels of crime at the city’s banks with those around its medical marijuana dispensaries. Beck found that 71 robberies had occurred at the more than 350 banks in the city, compared to 47 robberies at the more than 500 medical marijuana facilities. Beck at the time concluded that, “banks are more likely to get robbed than medical marijuana dispensaries,” and that the prevalent law enforcement claim of dispensaries inherently attracting crime “doesn't really bear out.”

    The RAND study also affirmed what Americans for Safe Access (ASA) had already concluded by way of qualitative research, that crime is normalized or reduced in areas near medical marijuana dispensaries. Numerous public officials interviewed by ASA stated in a report re-issued last year that by regulating dispensaries their communities were made safer.

    When will objective science on medical marijuana be honestly and thoroughly considered without the intrusion and constraints of politics? As a decades-old institution, RAND should stand by its research and not buckle to political pressure.
  • Elected Officials Push Back Against Threats by DOJ Over Medical Marijuana



     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    On Friday, President Obama’s Justice Department (DOJ) made clear its motivations to disrupt and undermine California’s medical marijuana laws. However, advocates argue that last week’s announcement by the state’s four U.S. Attorneys, which included threats against property owners, comes after months of aggressive DOJ attacks in several medical marijuana states. SWAT-style raids and threats of criminal prosecution against local and state officials has become emblematic of Obama’s policy on medical marijuana, a far cry from his pledge on the campaign trail that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.”

    Yet, just as Obama’s confusing war on medical marijuana has reached a fever pitch, condemnation could be heard from several state and federal officials in California. Some state legislators and members of Congress are refusing to be intimidated by this latest round of threats from the federal government. Congressional members Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA), as well as State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) all decried the recent DOJ announcement in California.

    In a statement issued to Americans for Safe Access (ASA), Congressman Rohrabacher called the DOJ effort “a waste of scarce federal resources.” In a separate statement issued to ASA, Congressman Farr had this to say:
    Medical cannabis continues to be prescribed by physicians to patients suffering from painful and serious illnesses, as a means to minimize their pain and support their recovery. For that reason it is important that patients continue to have safe access to the medication they need. California has adopted clear regulations that allow patients to do just that, it is unfortunate that the Federal Government has decided to target these legal vendors instead of focusing those resources on those who sell illicit drugs.

    State Senator Mark Leno told the Los Angeles Times that the DOJ strategy was a waste of precious resources at a time of fiscal crisis:
    They’re wasting money they don’t have. This is not the issue of the day. This doesn’t create jobs. This does not keep the security of the nation intact. It doesn’t clean the environment. If anything, they should be demonstrating leadership in resolving the conflict between federal and state laws. Until we deal with that, we’re going to be going around in circles here.

    Assembly member Tom Ammiano had perhaps the strongest words of condemnation in a press release issued shortly after the DOJ press conference on Friday. Ammiano said that the attack on medical marijuana would cost the state “millions in tax revenue and harm countless lives.”
    I am bitterly disappointed in the Obama Administration for this unwarranted and destructive attack on medical marijuana and patients’ rights to medicine.  [Friday’s] announcement by the Department of Justice means that Obama’s medical marijuana policies are worse than Bush and Clinton.  It’s a tragic return to failed policies that will cost the state millions in tax revenue and harm countless lives. 16 states along with the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana laws -- whatever happened to the promises he made on the campaign trail to not prosecute medical marijuana or the 2009 DOJ memo saying that states with medical marijuana laws would not be prosecuted?  Change we can believe in?  Instead we get more of the same.

    Notably, Congressman Rohrabacher’s statement had a prescriptive solution:
    [The DOJ announcement] underscores the need for Congress to pass H.R. 1983, the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act.

    He’s right. People across the country should contact their member of Congress and urge them to pass H.R. 1983, a bill that would reclassify medical marijuana and allow states to develop, implement and enforce their own laws without interference from the federal government.
  • Push Back on the Federal Attack



    The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a major new crackdown on medical cannabis patients, providers, growers, and property owners on Friday. US Attorneys told reporters at a press conference in Sacramento that every medical cannabis patients’ cooperative and collective in California is illegal and must close within forty five days – even if they are obeying state law. The DOJ also dusted off a Bush-era tactic by expanding their crackdown to property owners who rent to medical cannabis providers and growers. The DOJ has already started sending letters threatening to prosecute property owners and confiscate their real estate using federal civil asset forfeiture laws.



    The Obama Administration’s about face on medical cannabis in California should be a wakeup call for medical cannabis patients and providers in every state. The new crackdown represents the most visible evidence yet of a national medical cannabis backlash. Banks are closing accounts, the Internal Revenue Service is squeezing providers, and state access programs are on hold. And of course, the Drug Enforcement Administration continues to raid medical cannabis dispensing centers and gardens.

    Opponents are reacting to the expansion of safe access in sixteen states and the District of Columbia, and to moves by state and local governments to implement medical cannabis laws with meaningful regulations. Federal law enforcement and other opponents know they must move now, or risk having medical cannabis permanently entrenched in local and state law. If patients and advocates fail to check the federal escalation in California, we can expect to see these same tactics in every state where medical cannabis is legal.

    Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is calling on medical cannabis patients and advocates to redouble their commitment to the grassroots campaign for safe access. We need to make our voice heard at City Hall, in our state legislatures, and in the District offices of federal lawmakers right now. Elected officials need to know they cannot sweep safe access away, and they also need to know there is a safe political space for supporting medical cannabis. ASA provides a free Advocates Training Center to hone skills in direct advocacy, community organizing, media relations, and more.

    ASA also calls on the nascent medical cannabis industry, and the industries that support it, to marshal their substantial financial resources to support the patients’ movement for medical cannabis. Lawyers, consultants, bankers, real estate professionals, merchant service providers, business equipment dealers, and others are needed in the campaign for safe access right now.

    The solution to this newest challenge is political. If we rise to the occasion, we can push back this federal attack on medical cannabis and swing the pendulum back in our direction. But to do it, we need the time and resources of our constituency. ASA urges everyone who cares about medical cannabis to join the fight today.

    Are you an ASA member? Join today!