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Your Views: Have drugs been wrongly demonised?

Drug laws are driven by "moral panic" says a new study which concludes that most drugs have been wrongly "demonised". An independent study also recommended the setting up of "shooting galleries" where users can inject drugs safely.

The two year study by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, or RSA argued that "whether we like it or not, drugs are and will remain a fact of life".

This forum debate has now closed. Here is a selection of your views on the topic.
Dean
Yes I would have to agree with the idea of setting up "shooting galleries" for drug users but I don't think the concept should just stop there.Personally I would like to see centres set up for voluntary euthanasia so people who genuinely wanted to die could go along there to be helped to end there own life. In fact I would have to say that opening a centre like that for assisted suicide should definitely be given priority over opening up one for people who just wanted to experience the effects and joys of having mind altering drugs pumped into their sorry systems.
Really, I do think we truly need to get our priorities right over this one instead of wasting precious taxpayer dollars on underdogs and losers who just want to float on clouds in heaven all day instead of bearing the drudge of modern day society.

Amanda
I believe that marijuana should be decriminalised. The amount of time and money that the government spend on finding the people e.g. "growers" "tinnie houses" is amazing, that money could be better spent in finding real criminals. I would also like to note that while this column is about 'Demonising' drugs does more harm than good; many of you have written in doing just that, demonising drugs. For those of you out there that have not experienced taking drugs, what gives you the right to even comment on this topic? You cant just say that all drugs are bad or even different categories are bad. It is the things that some people do in the business of drugs that are the bad things, if you take away the business aspect and turn them into legal business then you will take away the illegal crimes with it as you would be able to report to the police when crimes happen, e.g. you get ripped off. Most of the views I have read seem to think that P is "evil" well that is just not the case. These people you read about in the news that were on "P"' when they created these horrible crimes would have in all likelihood done the same crime straight, it is the people not the drugs that are the problem. I have been a regular user of P for 7 years and it hasnt changed me or effected my life negatively at all, I have never become angry of violent, I have never hurt anyone and have never committed a crime other than doing drugs, I don't have mood swings and I live a great life. If we want to stop the crimes that are happing the best way would be to de-criminalize drugs and get the profits away from the criminals then there would be nowhere near as much crime as there is.

Paula
My partner was also a frequent cannabis user for many years, but without the mood swings, which I think was possibly because I did not hassle him about it. I would rather he was doing that than drinking regularly. I had no trouble getting pregnant. Twice. Two lovely lively intelligent inquisitive children, one an adult now, the other in his teens.

Kim
My husband was a frequent user of marijuana,which I strongly disapproved. He used all the standard excuses that you hear about decriminalizing cannabis. While he was not violent he did get moody & but it down to work pressure .We decided to start a family and after three years of trying with no result had some tests done and found my husband's fertility was less than normal. He gave up his habit and was retested after 3 months-his fertility had increased by 500 per cent-his memory has improved and he does not have the mood swings he used to have. We are now expecting our first child.

Kirk Muse
It seems to me that the question that needs to be asked is: Should marijuana and other recreational drugs remain completely unregulated, untaxed and controlled by criminals? Only legal products of any kind can be regulated, taxed and controlled by any government agency.In 1933, we in the United States re-legalised the drug alcohol. It was not because they decided that alcohol was not so bad after all. But rather because of the crime and corruption that its prohibition caused. When alcohol was re-legalised in 1933, the U. S. murder rate declined for 10 consecutive years. So far we in the U. S. are not smart enough to learn from this experience.

Anon
I have seen too many people seriously damaged by their use of illegal drugs over the years to be able to support legalisation or condone their use. Having said that, I have spent the last 20 years taking prescribed and legal heavy duty drugs with debilitating side effects that are literally keeping me alive, and ironically have nearly killed me on a few occasions thanks to irresponsible prescribing practices by specialists who do not have a clue about what they are prescribing. I've also wound up addicted to benzodiazapines ( class C drugs without a prescription) which are sometimes used for the condition I have, due to not being informed beforehand of the potential for addiction so not having any say in the matter. This problem is sadly wide spread. I have never touched any type of illegal drug, but if the "experts" are doing just as much damage legally with drugs that are probably more toxic -and sometimes just as addictive- then maybe taking up dope would be safer.

Webby
Drugs do not kill people. Drug laws kill people.This might seem hard to accept to those raised with strict opposition to all drugs, but the difficulty of obtaining well-made, good quality drugs is what causes someone to sniff glue, use dirty heroin, or take a bad ecstasy pill. Yes, some are dangerous in the wrong hands...so are cars. Mankind could benefit from the access to higher thought that famous users throughout the ages have experienced. When will we feel we are ready to grow up and enjoy personal freedom?

Dude
The emphasis is that drugs generally are bad and the underlying statement is "illegal drugs" yet the Government and big business corporations are against illegal drugs as their drugs eg; cigarettes, alcohol, prescription drugs are okay. Marijuana needs to be given the same laws as alcohol, it was only the Dupont company that got marijuana outlawed so that their synthetic products would be marketed over hemp and hemp oil. By-products such as marijuana oil is dangerous from the solvents used to make it aka isopropyl alcohol, is carcinogenic. Hydroponic- grown marijuana is contaminated with chemical growth products. To legalise marijuana is the way to make it less dangerous for the gangs profiteering from it and they do it with chemicals anyway. Any kind of speed, ecstasy or other kind of home manufactured chemical drug is definitely needing a very long time in jail...no good has come out of using P. Yet prescription drugs can be a nightmare through abuse and even in the medical profession experiments with "new drugs" are still used on terminal patients most times without their knowledge. All in all, does any government really care? Llaws are introduced all the time using marijuana as the crime to invoke violation against our rights. and on one last note...who is the victim when a joint is lit up?

Daniel
Regarding drug laws: Drug abuse is a health issue not a legal issue when will we realise that abusers need help, not incarceration. Prohibition did not work with alcohol. Why would it work for cannabis? Many cannabis users, myself included, consume in a similar fashion to drinkers. ie responsibly, in moderation and after work. The difference being that if I get caught with cannabis, I run the risk of criminal penalties which could have a dramatic affect on the rest of my and my families life. I have made this decision because I like cannabis more than alcohol, Should not I have the right to make that decision? Over the last 20 years I have smoked cannabis regularly, completed my undergraduate degree, been constantly employed and am undertaking post graduate studies.

Bryan S.
This is in regards to Ollies response. In it, he stated that he had just recently seen the movie Traffic, and he points out how drugs ruin everyone who are involved with them. I would merely like to point out how ignorant this deduction is. It's a sensationalized production of the media - hardly "proof" or "scientific evidence" that drugs should be criminalized.
And the whole emphasis of decriminalization is not to de-emphasize their dangers; drugs still pose threats. It is acknowledged that many of the dangers of drugs are created in the black markets that sell them. When a drug dealer is forced to use secret channels to sell his product, he is free to sell whatever he wants. In order to make the greatest profit, he can cut any one given product (MDMA, for example) with other, cheaper substances that may be more dangerous. Consider this: a responsible, recreational cocaine user buys some "cocaine" from a dealer. But it turns out that this cocaine mostly contains phenacetin, a painkiller that was taken off the market in some countries because of links with kidney failure (source: http://www.ndc.hrb.ie/directory/news_detail.php?cat_id=&news_id=1665&pointer=0).
This drug experience turns deadly not because of the original intent, but because of the back alley means the user was forced to acquire his drug. If drugs were decriminalized, they could be subject to the standards that all drugs (advil, caffeine, benadryl) are subject to. Drug abuse, of course, should be reprimanded, with rehab and the likes. And if a crime is committed while on drugs, the penalty should be increased (high driving = drunk driving, etc). But throwing someone in jail for possessing a little marijuana or an ecstasy pill is irresponsible allocation of our law enforcement and legal system.

Alan Wilkinson
Those who believe drugs must be outlawed have got exactly the outcome they deserve - rampant irresponsible abuse and escalating violent crime. I just hope they get mugged before the rest of us who want to do something more constructive about it.

Andrew Atkin
If a woman can kill her baby through an abortion because it is "her" body, then should not we be able to take drugs because it is "our" body?

John Thomas
Interesting to see the demonization of marijuana and marijuana consumers here. If you're going to discuss it, you need to seperate the myths from the facts. http://www.drugpolicy.org/marijuana/factsmyths/ --and should probably know why/how it was made "illegal" in the first place.http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/History/whiteb1.htm

Brett Le Mouton
If anyone took the time to research the vast history of the drugs in the world, they would see just how long they have been around without completely destroying society. What has changed is the culture, which now assumes that anyone who touches a drug is a fiend, addict, immoral, scum, backstabbing freak who will do anything to get their fix. This is incorrect! People forget the difference between using and abusing - a drug being illegal which is used, does not automatically mean its drug abuse. No drug is 100 per cent safe. There is not a single drug in this world that does not carry some risk with its usage. Alcohol prohibition did not work, neither will any kind of prohibition. Prohibition ignores the nature of reality, which is that certain people will and do use drugs. All prohibition has done is enable gangs to make a great profit, made more potent drugs attractive to dealers and users (crack and meth are great examples of the Iron Law of Prohibition), made drugs more readily available to your children (despite popular belief, it does not protect your children - drug dealers never ask for ID), made drugs more expensive and less pure (less pure drugs means higher risks of death and injury, which is ironic considering prohibition seems to think it reduces death) and taken the control of the drug market out of the hands of the very people who falsely believe they have control of it, and actually increases crime (gang wars over drug supply, people trying to protect their crops and so on).Zero tolerance policies dont do jack to lower drug use, supply or prevent people from using drugs. Period.

Chris Winn
"Drugs" should be decriminalised in my opinion. A young girl died recently in Australia because the pill she took, which she believed contained MDMA, actually contained PMA - a highly toxic substance. Had the government not outlawed MDMA this young girl would still be alive.This is truly tragic to me. Illegal drugs are still available through the black market which cuts corners and results in unnecessary deaths like Annabelles. I believe our drug laws are outdated and not in keeping with a sensible and wise society.
To the doctor who wrote in, who was attacked by a P user, I am sorry you had this nasty experience. Keep in mind this attack happened while P is illegal.P is not the same as psychedelics, mdma and cannabis....drugs which have the potential for medical benefit. While P may not have any redeeming features perhaps regulation of it too would reduce the desperation and depths of depravation which its unfortunate abusers can suffer. New Zealand Hemp(which contain no drugs I e THC) growers are prevented by retarded red tape(Food Standards Australia/NZ) from utilising 80 per cent of their harvest. 20 per cent is turned into Hemp Seed Oil (incidentally and interestingly containing the perfect ratio of essential fatty acids for humans). The rest cannot be sold despite being a human grade food which also means New Zealand loses out on a host of potential biomedical benefits from growing hemp crops, such as the removal of untreated chemical residuals and the lowering of nitrogen levels.

Mark Campbell
As a youth worker of 20 years in South Auckland I think drugs deserve all the bad press they get. I have seen many young lives go down the tubes and conversely seen many young lives restored as they are helped to kick habits by people in the community. Smoking and alcohol are only slightly down the scale from drugs but are still huge problems in their own right. At the core of the problem are deeper issues than the drugs etc though. Inevitably they are the symptom of issues in poeples lives that need more than just tighter laws. However the laws can serve to reduce the number of people turning to drugs to cope with problems they find hard to face.

Karl
First of all, I would like to point out how broad and vague the term "drugs" is. To the average person, a "drug" is automatically bad... And unfortunately that means any chemical that has been labelled a drug is assumed to be bad, and reckless to consume. To put marijuana in the same category as methamphetamine is like saying a game of marbles is the same as a Super 14 rugby match. Completely different players, rules and equipment. A different field entirely. Our media love to pin the blame of "P" on any crime. Sure, the criminal may very well be a P user but this constant reminder to our ignorant public is indeed demonising methamphetamine, and consequently any other 'drug' along with it. I am a frequent marijuana smoker, and I also enjoy using LSD. However both these substances are deemed unsafe, through naivety more than anything else. Neither LSD nor cannabis has ever deserved to be flamed by the public, government and media... No deaths have been brought by these "drugs" as people like to call them. I believe there is great hope for these chemicals in the strenghtening of our minds and communities, alongside similar illegal and demonised 'drugs' such as MDMA, Mescaline, mushrooms etc.
These drugs are still available. They are there for anyone to take, however we are forced to get them through dangerous channels, such as gangs and criminals - paying them extortionate amounts of money which they no doubt go on to purchase weapons with and who knows what else. Our government are not achieving anything from prohibition, they are ruining our country.

Tony
Cannabis has - as a consequence so has medical cannabis. ... One of the most effective supportive medication for many and varied medical complications. Only those who have no cause to require its medical properties can question its merit. But unfortunately those who have and do gain by its use cannot speak out for fear of the legal implications. Even special interest groups rely on Pharmaceutical and Govt funding so refrain from upsetting them. As five year user of medpot , I can personally attest it works for me.

MrNiceGuyNZ
The demonization of drugs is a tool used by those who prohibit substances to gain public support. The research conducted by prohibitionists is always slanted towards their stance so as to deceive the public.Any research done outside their realms is seen as coming from hoons or conspiracy theorists. The US/UN 'War on Drugs' isn't really a war on drugs, its a war on drug profits. The UN allows a certain percentage of Opium to continue to be produced legally for the pharmaceutical industry.Cannabis is the new target for pharmaceutical companies, previously our politicians said cannabis had no medicinal properties but since a pharmaceutical company has approached them, suddenly it can be used as a medicine.
Prohibition in this country means a drug market controlled by the black market, a market that doesn't care what age the buyer is, legalising and regulating drugs will remove them from children's hands. It appears no matter what evidence we produce supporting our claims our government has a secret agenda to keep it illegal to benefit the pharmaceutical industry. The two politicians in particular involved in this are both minority parties with agreements under coalition with Labour, they constitute a small proportion of voters yet get to control the majority.

John Thomas
The "war on drugs" is just another name for prohibition. It is primarily about marijuana, the most widely used "illegal" drug. Prohibition did not work with alcohol, and it certainly will never work against marijuana, which is non-addictive and any times less harmful than alcohol. The fact is, the more people use marijuana instead of alcohol, the better off individuals, and society as a whole, will be. Marijuana prohibition is simply a monstrous fraud that makes money for many powerful people - law enforcement, prisons, drug-testing, pharmaceutical and alcohol industries that do not want the competition, and all their related industries. Plus, it is a powerful tool used by oppressive governments to control minorities and the poor. These are the forces keeping the Inquisition steaming on and destroying millions of lives. Wake up people! This is the biggest con game ever perpetrated on the planet!

Smithy
We read these comments,(Drug laws are driven by "moral panic" says a new study which concludes that most drugs have been wrongly "demonised".) and can only wonder where the writer has been living for the decade or so? Try living with a family member who started smoking pot at age 14. Innocent enough you thought but over a four year period, the "high" obviously wasnt enough so the strength and type of drugs changed until he was mainlining P. It is not "moral panic" when you watch one of your own loved children self destruct and go from a caring well rounded human being to something bordering on evil, then you know what the consequences of drug taking are. The grief and heartbreak to those around the drug taker are enormous - a fact that doesnt seem to bother him because he has become so selfish that unless he can scam something for his own personal gratification, family members are treated like a door-mat. This is a brief inight into a personal experience and know lot of other people who have children that have become almost leaches (by way of crime etc)upon society and wonder where they, the parents, went wrong! You dont have to be Einstein to figure that one. As far as setting up "shooting Galleries" go. well, I am lost for words and struggle to comprehend the thought processes of some people. And we have squatters in Parliament who condone legalisation of some of the so called "soft drugs". The is no such thing as a "soft drug" - you only have to read the Monday Herald each week to see the awful damage drugs have cause over the previous weekend.

Richard McGrath
Firstly, as a doctor who works for a local methadone treatment centre, I have seen too many times to count the damage that people do to themselves with drugs. I repeat: the damage people do to themselves with drugs - through their own freely chosen actions. None of the "addicts"I see are automatons lacking in self-control. Every time they self-medicate they have to make a conscious choice to do so. The whole concept of "addiction" is a cop-out for people unwilling to take personal responsibility for their own actions who commit violent crimes.
Secondly, I think people should be allowed to put what they like into their own bodies, as long as they accept responsibility for the consequences thereof. Violent crime is quite rightly outlawed, but people who smoke a joint or inject opioid narcotics without hurting others should be left alone. Drug users as a rule do not commit crimes against others, although the high price of illegal drugs
A very worthwhile read on the subject is an online book by Peter McWilliams, who died after inhaling his own vomit when he was forced by the US federal government to stop using cannabis for control of nausea when terminally ill with cancer:
http://mcwilliams.com/books/books/aint/toc.htm
It is my view that all drug use by adults should be legalised immediately. Note this doesnt condone or normalise drug use, in the same way that legalising other minority acivities such as the Christian religion doesnt condone or normalise it. The same subculture that use drugs will continue to use them if legalised, but will be less inhibited in asking for help if they come to grief. The gangs that control the drug trade will be undercut by large retail traders that will sell high quality low cost product. Selling drugs to children should remain illegal, for the same reasons that sexual contact between adults and children should remain illegal.
Just because you might not use strong mind altering drugs yourself, that is not a reason for stopping other adults from doing so if they want to. That said, drug users just have to accept that there is no such thing as a free lunch, that actions have consequences, and that high-risk activities have associated morbidity and mortality.

Steven
Get rid of all victimless crimes, drug crimes being the case in point. The government has no business in what I or anyone else puts in or does with their own body.

Ollie
I watched the film "Traffic" a little while back. From start to finish in every scene, plot device, character and dialogue, the message was so clear that it felt like it was physically smashing you in the face: Drugs are hell. Anyone that underestimates their danger, their potential to ruin the life of an otherwise healthy human being and the lives of those that love them, is utterly deluded.

Jamcam
It has been said that around 30 per cent of NZers use or have used marijuana. If this is the case and police where doing a proper job; 1/3 of NZers should now have a drug conviction. Obviously this has not and should not happen so we need to come to the realisation that marijuana use may not be ideal, but cannot be prohibited successfully. When marijuana isnt available a replacement is sort by the users and I expect the dealers involved are only too happy to provide one eg P.

Alan Shore
Looking back at the drug problem, it seems clear that prohibition doesnt work. All prohibition of drugs has done is to create an enormous amount of profit for those selling drugs. This profit has led to the widespread corruption of many governments. Taking away the moral issue of drugs; they are bad for you and you should not use them, allows people to treat the problem of addiction for what it is, a health issue. Look at the Netherlands, where cannabis is available legally. Has their crime rate gone up? No. Are the streets full of stoned, dangerous people? No, quite the opposite. Make drugs super cheap, so that addicts can still work and pay for their drugs. This would be much better than having addicts rob and steal to get their drug money. The prisons are filled with 70 per cent of people incarcerated due to drug or alcohol (legal drug) related offenses. This should tell us that prohibition has never worked and doesnt work now. How will we know if the War on Drugs is working? When there are no more drug users? Logic tells us this will never happen. Maybe New Zealand should quit cow towing to the US policies on drugs and do what is best for this country! Legalize drugs for adults and give true, real education so people can avoid the perils of drugs.

Blair Anderson
The Herald has participated in the obfuscation of what the British report really said and why its message may be very important for all New Zealanders.The National Drug Policy (review) is about to be released. NZ has taken some progressive steps in accommodating "herbals" with the "class D" initiative and may look to (if Czar on Drugs, Jim Andertonhas anything to do with the policy) seeing herbals severely restricted if not banned all together.However there is where it all falls apart. We, like the UK ascribed to the ABC classification in the vain hope ("so long as it was seen to be largely effective" - Blake Palmer Committee 1974 ) that criminalisation would eliminate the potential problems. Originally the Misuse of Drugs ACT [1975] was to be named the "Drugs, Prevention of Misuse" Bill, a more aptly named strategy had it been adopted, we could have lead the world in compassionate and restorative drug policy. Instead we inherited the disaster that is America's solution... lock em up, and throw away the key.
Here is an excerpt from the Telegraph(UK)- it makes our NZ Expert Advisoy Committee on Drugs (EACD) look lame indeed, as it does our 'seperate the licit from illicit' national drug strategy. Lets hope next weeks (fingers crossed) NDP strategy is a realistic assessment of all that is wrong with our current pretense for a solution. Yeah Right! (Britains drug policy is not fit for purpose and is failing to cut addiction or drug-related crime, an influential study will conclude today.)

Karen
I am saddened to see the emotive opinions offered by many people regarding this issue. Of course it's an emotive issue, but focusing on the effects of individual drugs or individual crimes is never going to help. The fact remains that in our society, some drugs are legal and cause great harm, and some drugs are illegal and cause great harm. Prohibition does not work, and simply places the supply of illegal drugs in the hands of those who will exploit the situation. It was seen with alcohol prohibition in the past, and can be seen with illegal drugs today. Ultimately, people need to take responsibility for their own actions, and for that reason it is my opinion that it would be better for these drugs to be legally available. In that situation people can use them in a safe environment, knowing that the drugs are not adulterated by anything the dealer decides to use. If such drugs are legal, there would also be better support systems for those who do become addicted. Yes, people will become addicted and lives will be ruined. That happens today with both legal and illegal drugs, and will continue to happen regardless of changes to the law.

Ruth
People will abuse anything. That doesnt mean everything should be illegal. Drug addicts can shoot peanut butter and mayonnaise if they so desire, but those things should not be illegalized. Human desire for "altered states of mind" needs to be investigated, not the products themselves; the drugs originally started off helping people -- if they became abused. It is the people who should be punished, not the drugs.

Frank Burdett
It would appear a great many of your correspondents want a policy of open slather on drug use in New Zealand. May God, indeed, defend New Zealand, for it is evident that those who hold the reins of power are drunk with power. But the booze-soddened, drug-induced false well-being that is portrayed by this society is the laughing stock of the worlds tourists. New Zealands image is a hazy image because not many citizens remember a New Zealand that was once a country with strong direction and strong values. It would seem that weak-minded individuals who rely on stimulants are the rising scourge. What an image of a once beautiful country and once beautiful people. What have you done? Shame on you. You deserve your politicians! Your choice or is it?

Anon2
I agree. Legalisating drug use would provide far more opportunities for effective management and control, minimise the criminal element, and encourage addicts to seek help. Prohibition is not an effective method of dealing with these substances, some of which are known to have medicinal benefits.

NZ Native
How many of those writers to 'Your Views' on this emotive topic have bothered to take the time to read the full text of this report? A full pdf version this document is available at http://www.tv3.co.nz/Portals/0/Admin/News/PDFs/rsa_drugs_report.pdf
You are obviously not qualified to offer an opinion of any serious consequence until you have read it.

Andrew Atkin
I have long believed that making drugs legal would solve more problems than it would create (and I personally don't use or enjoy drugs). The ideal model, I believe, is to make all drugs legal but distribute the harder drugs within a highly controlled environment. This way we will destroy the blackmarket, which, most importantly, empowers us to keep drugs away from kids (not to mention the other problems that an over-priced black-market creates, such as prostitution and crime etc.). If an informed adult wants to shun rehabilitation opportunities and kill themselves with what ever given substance, then so be it. We should focus our resources towards those who want to help themselves. Also, by distributing the hard drugs within a controlled-environment we can far better identify the people who are functioning as a menace to society and/or their families. It gives us greater power (through superior identification and control) to actively force these cases to "dry out". Again, I believe good management would prove to be much more effective than our oppressive status quo.

Frank Perry
The educated idiots who authored this report should come and live in my suburb where "P" and other drugs are destroying young lives. These people start off on so-called "harmless" drugs and then move on to the hard stuff. A zero tolerance policy is the only answer to this blight on society.

Chris Doherty
Having been addicted to the worlds most widely used drug for the past 26 years, I can safely say I know a thing or two about addiction. What I can definitely say is: the public/Government perception about alcohol and tobacco is financially based. Your Government is happily feeding off your addiction and eventually death (with outrageous taxes) whilst denying you access to health services due to the fact you are addicted. Tobacco my drug of choice, is freely available, relatively affordable if you work, yet is the most destructive devastating most addictive (even more so than heroin and ice) poisonous substance known to mankind. Yet it is legal. Another words I can pay the NZ Govt and Rothmans Tobacco (through the nose I might add) for the privilege of a slow painful death yet it is frowned on if I chose a non-sanctioned drug such as marijuana. Can someone please explain this to me? I am a little stupid and I do not get it.

Kent
P is a scourge on society and should be banned. A P user looses control of themselves and causes pain, misery and bloodshed to others. Very much like a drunk. Cannabis does not and there is no reason for it being illegal. By being illegal, otherwise law abiding, honest people are forced to associate themselves with less than scruples

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