The Cannabis Republic of Uruguay

2014 ,    »  -   54 Comments
Ratings: 8.88/10 from 100 users.

Last year Colorado became the first state in the US to legalize recreational marijuana, but in Uruguay the government is getting ready to legalize and regulate weed across the country. So, VICE went there to figure out how they're going to pull this off. Is it going to be a smoker's paradise or rather overly regulated cash crop for the government?

In December 2013 Uruguay's Congress passed a law that regulated the cultivation, sale and consumption of marijuana. It was a watershed moment in the history of pot prohibition. The first entire country decided to eradicate the brutal legacy of the war on drugs and open up the potential of a new legitimate economy.

But weed isn't entirely legal yet. From December until April this year the government has been debating and writing the specifics of the regulations which will likely be set in stone in late April and then take effect this fall. It turns out the devil is in the details and the law poses more questions than an answers. About individual liberty, the prospects of a commercial weed boom and more.

The great Uruguayan experiment, brought forward by the country's progressive president, has stirred up a heated debate from both sides of the anti-prohibition isle. Alicia Castilla and Daniel Vidart are long time weed advocates and academics. Alicia was just released from prison where she spent three months locked up on marijuana charges. She was one of the last people to be put away for pot. VICE visited them in their home just outside the country's capital.

Alicia has been consuming cannabis for the last 50 years. She thinks this is a repressive law that legalizes the stigma that already exists towards the consumer. The state shouldn't register people and it shouldn't regulate them either. The state shouldn't determine how much can people smoke and no one should be restricted to smoke only government's marijuana.

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54 Comments / User Reviews

  1. dmxi

    it's been done before :HOLLAND!take some ad-vice (pun,eh?) in 'dutch' & bob's yer uncle!

  2. ~Oliver B Koslik Esq

    I'm sorry 'dutch' is a pun as well, correct?. Dutch, being the language spoken in holland; but as well "dutchy" is a joint.

    With all do respect, and as a great admirer of punnery.
    (I totally got yours)
    May I rephrase as:

    "Holland has done it before!
    Free Dutchy addvice for the tokin!"

    +1 dmxi!

  3. pixman55

    why did they not edit out the reporter saying he was smoking a joint with the president of Columbia at the End...when the president then says Uruguay he should have edited that segment and re recorded it to use at the end. A great Doco though .

  4. dmxi

    "...pass the dutchy to ya left hand side!" like a 'youth band' proclaimed in the early 80ies...greetings from a 'netherlands' bordering citizen!

  5. Nightfly

    No, it hasn't been done before. The Dutch policy in regards to marijuana is absolutely terrible. Only the sale in specialized shops is tolerated, the cultivating and the shops buying their product is illegal.

    So, you have the Government saying that it's perfectly fine to buy weed, but the shops aren't allowed to buy any product to sell to the consumer. This results in nobody really knowing what exactly they are buying. Luckily there are coffeeshops who always sell top notch ganja. But, the Dutch policy is absolutely horrible, it's worse than it being completely illegal.

    I did enjoy the pun though!

  6. Guest

    Interesting comment!

  7. Lowball

    From Canada:
    I have no idea why the USA has lumped marijuana into a Class 1 drug equal to heroin and cocaine. Ever since that ridiculous documentary "Reefer Madness" the US government and law enforcement agencies have been absolutely paranoid about weed and all things hemp. All the scientific data supporting cannibas as a harmless product has meant nothing. Canada will eventually decriminalize pot and come to its senses, especially the use of marijuana as a medicinal product. Glad to see some states in the US legalizing marijuana as well. Long overdue.

  8. ~Oliver B Koslik Esq

    Hi Lowball!

    Great comment!
    I see the schedule 1 classification of cannabis more of a sociological indoctrination, more than a political or legal one.

    I can expand on this idea, if you're interested.


  9. Vlatko

    Absolutely correct. Weed is not legal in Netherlands per se. It's the most common misconception. There's just "policy of tolerance" when it comes to weed - Gedoogbeleid.

  10. TheDanishViking

    Pepe seems to be probably the nicest politician in the world. Really cool old timer:-)

  11. Nightfly

    Wasn't it either the tobacco or (and) fuel industries that started a campaign against marijuana? They bombed the public with so much negative, false information about marijuana that the majority started believing it.

    Why do people think weed makes you stupid? Because "scientists" put an oxygen mask on a monkey and pumped a ton of weed in there, depriving the monkey of oxygen. Oh look, brain damage, must be the weed! If I remember correctly, this also can be seen in "Reefer Madness" (Hey, I watched it baked out of my mind!)

    The major industries are set to lose such a giant amount of money once hemp (this includes marijuana for the ones that don't know) becomes legal. The wood industry would be gone completely at some point. We (as humans) would never have to cut a single tree, ever again. Instead a shameful waste of nature will be replaced by a crop that grows quicker, you can grow more of it on a smaller space, the end product is of a better material compared to wood, etc.

    Money is the only reason for it being illegal.

  12. Nightfly

    I'm always very surprised how so many people think "het gedoogbeleid" is such a good thing. People are trying to run a business, one which the Government approves and when they get their product they (potentially) get arrested.

    Sure, it's great that we can just go and get weed (at least when you know where the good stuff is) but the policy itself is absolutely terrible, it makes no sense whatsoever.

    We're allowed to have a couple of plants ourselves. If one person complains about smell, the police will come and take the plants away. If you have the slightest hint of professional equipment they will tear up your entire house. (This was also shown on a Dutch short documentary).

    No, The Netherlands really isn't the "stoner utopia" it's always been made out to be. Especially now with the stone age prick Opstelten it's bad...

  13. Fabien L'Amour

    The ending when he says he is smoking a joint with the president of Columbia is absolutely hilarious!

  14. MickeySpillane

    I suspect the plant limitation may be a way to allow the cartels to get used to the idea, without feeling the need to go out and kill people.

  15. Rose

    Im Jamaican. ( I hope that gives me some credibility to speak on the topic:) Weed is NOT harmless. All the males in my family smoke and so do many of my friends and people who I interact with daily. Trust me, its not a harmless herb

  16. Rose

    One joint and his memory was f$$#@! up! That's one reason not to smoke weed lol

  17. Fabien L'Amour

    Reminded me of a guy I know. I said man you smoke a lot, he cracked a big smile and said "not that much" but one of his teeth was brown. :)

  18. John Doherty

    Hardly smoking a joint WITH Pepe. More like Pepe tolerating his smoking a "j". How shallow to end an otherwise good documentary

  19. dmxi

    well ,considering the laws to neighbouring countries (NL,of course;i reside in germany at the moment) it seems to be a 'haven' & the factual status you describe seems like nit-picking from my vantage point,if you get my drift....but in end-effect you're right!

  20. Nightfly

    Well, the weed is expensive, the quality is crap if you don't know where to go. And compared to the weed in the US, the strains here are s*it.

    Even if I lived in a country where I wouldn't be allowed to smoke weed, the Dutch policy is absolute lunacy! They regulated the front door, but forgot the back door. It is an absolute hypocritical policy and I really can't understand how it seems like heaven to you. Coffeeshop owners get arrested for buying product they need for their LEGAL business.

    Yes, it's great that I can go to a coffeeshop and buy 5 grams of weed. But it would be much nicer if I knew where that weed came from, the percentage of THC vs CBD etc.

    I know that Germany is pretty much hell for a pothead, so I guess I can sort of understand how it seems like heaven to you. But this policy really isn't working at all. In fact, we are slowly starting to go into the direction of making it completely illegal, even though over 60% want it completely legalized. But, we have Ivo Opstelten who is an old fart who has absolutely no idea what he is talking about. He still believes it leads to harder drugs, and at the same time he's almost an alcoholic.

  21. Nightfly

    It would be much easier to "trust" you if you actually came with factual examples of why weed isn't harmless.

    I know it isn't harmless, but it is with responsible use. I know people who have been smoking daily for more than 20 years. They have a good job, a wonderful family and an overall great life. They use it responsibly, that is THE key. Many people in Jamaica do not use it responsibly, I have seen this with my own eyes. I finished my fatty and after 4 hours when it wears off I don't want a new joint right away. The Jamaican people I was with just kept on lighting up like they were smoking cigarettes, and I saw this all around me. That is exactly how you get problems, and that is exactly how you give cannabis a bad name. Which is what I do not understand, because even Rastafarian's do it.

  22. Rose

    I did say all the males in my immediate family smoke it. I and everyone else have been on the receiving end of my "herbed" up brothers and when they were "sober" . I have friends who even without telling me, I knew when they have been smoking because of the aggression. I know enough Jamaicans who would love to stop but cant so much for that nonsense about it not being addictive

  23. Nightfly

    Yes, you did. And what does that clarify? Nothing. How much do they smoke? And I have never in my life seen anyone get aggressive from cannabis. It's chemically impossible to get aggressive from cannabis, the cannabinoids do NOT send any "aggressive" signals to your brain, quite the opposite actually.

    Also, cannabis isn't physically addictive. Everyone who claims to be addicted to cannabis, simply doesn't have the mental strength to quit. They got themselves into that situation in the first place, because of their lack of mental strength. Instead of actually using cannabis responsible, I'm almost sure they toked up every day and then the point comes where your brain stops producing it's own cannabinoid. Cannabinoids in your brain give you the "happy" feeling to put it simple. When they stop smoking, they feel crabby and are easily annoyed because there are no cannabinoids. That causes the individual to feel like they need cannabis, but they really don't. It takes about two weeks for your brain to produce it's own cannabinoids again. It causes weird dreams (you fall into your REM sleep again, doesn't happen when stoned), night sweats and a bad temper, that's it, just for a messily two weeks.

    You may actually want to do some research on this topic before spouting off your blatant nonsense based on experiences in your own small world.

  24. Rose

    Youre coming across pretty aggressive, unnecessarily so. Maybe there is some truth to my arguments after all. Not sure why youre being so rude and trying to insult me when all Ive done is written about MY experiences in my " little world." .Maybe you have smoked too much? Did I claim to have scientific knowledge? No, I havent written the thousands of articles that you have and haven't conducted the countless studies that you have, because Im assuming you have, right?.
    I think Ill have a glass of wine, pass on the weed, and try and have a meaningful discussion with my neighbour. He's a non smoker and usually ahs something profound to say, something Ive yet to read or hear today. Please enjoy the rest of your evening

  25. Nightfly

    Aggressive? Rude? I am merely pointing out facts. It is a fact that you are making false claims, on a topic you haven't done any research on. Personal experiences don't mean anything. For all you know the people who get aggressive were drunk too, or had something else. Cannabis simply cannot make you aggressive, it doesn't work like that. I did not mean to come off rude or aggressive at all. Your "maybe you have smoked too much" is you getting defensive by getting personal, so you're being a hypocrite.

    I never asked you for scientific knowledge. I asked you very simple questions like how much do they smoke? Yes, I have done my research on this topic for many years, and I smoke maybe one, two joints a week on average. Sometimes I don't smoke for months when I'm out of the country for work, I have absolutely zero issues with it, I don't even miss it.

    You just said you are going to drink a glass of wine. Wine, which contains alcohol. Alcohol, which is a highly addictive hard drug, and is proven to make people highly aggressive. It's known to have put people into a coma, it's known to have killed people.

    I have proven your claims to be dead wrong by providing you with facts that you can easily check yourself. Instead of debating my facts, or admitting you are wrong, you completely avoid it and try to make it look like I'm the bad guy. You are simply someone who isn't willing to face the truth about cannabis because you apply your personal experiences on every single person that smokes, or wants to smoke. And your personal experiences can't even have been caused by weed, because it's physically impossible. There is just no way around that, our brain simply doesn't function that way.

    Now, you go do some research and then come back here when you actually know what you are talking about. By the way, alcohol kills braincells in an adult brain, cannabis doesn't.

  26. Rose

    I watched the documentary. I found it mildly entertaining. I live in a country that produces a lot of weed and I know a lot of people who smoke. Based on all that, I decided to post a simple, respectful, paragraph in response to someone other than you. I wasn't debating your "facts' as I had even read them when I posted. Apparently I didn't get the memo that these fora are reserved for the exclusive use of experts in cannabis. Ive apparently overstepped my boundary in posting MY PERSONAL experiences and observations about a large sample of MY population. ( but then again my world is quite small so maybe I shouldn't have relied on that sample. I do sincerely apologize ) Im a non smoker, and spouse and children are too so Im really not interested in the topic or your opinions of me beyond that. Im wishing you a great night, again.

  27. Nightfly

    I am simply disputing your personal experiences with facts, showing you that you are misinterpreting your experiences. I never once got disrespectful, aggressive or anything else. You however, did. So once again, you are a hypocrite. Weed is not to blame. The person is when it comes to chemical dependency, and something else (another substance perhaps) is when it comes to aggressiveness.

    You are being very ignorant. You don't need to be an expert, I'm not (even though I live in Holland). But you can at least know a little bit on the topic at hand. And then if you decide to post when you don't, don't get your panties in a twist when somebody proofs your claims to be false with facts. It is a fact that your personal experiences cannot be blamed on weed, don't you agree? You don't have a large sample of anything. Your world is very small compared to the actual world, just as mine is. Did you test their blood for other drug? Because again, it is absolutely, completely impossible for cannabis to make anyone aggressive. There is simply no disputing that.

    If you are not interested in the topic, don't post here in the first place. You placed your opinion on something you clearly don't know anything about, and you get defensive when I point out that you're dead wrong. Instead of accepting it, you get defensive which only goes to show that you know you're wrong.

  28. Nightfly

    @Rose Yes, because cannabis, just like alcohol, affects your brain. The cannabinoids cause the signals to and from your brain to slow down, so it doesn't actually make you stupid. This effect wears off with cannabis once you're not stoned anymore, whereas alcohol permanently kills braincells in an adult brain. So in fact, cannabis may make you "stupid" for a few hours, alcohol makes you stupid permanently.

    @fabienlamour:disqus Cannabis doesn't cause brown teeth. Tobacco and alcohol do cause bad teeth.

    I love it when uneducated people like the two of you come here and say such nonsense that I can debate the two of you while being baked out of my mind. Cannabis makes you stupid? I think not. If it did, then the cannabinoids already present in our brain would make us stupid also.

  29. Fabien L'Amour

    lol The magic cannabis smoke that doesn't stain. Did I say his teeth was bad?

  30. Nightfly

    Yes, you did. Brown teeth mean bad teeth. No, cannabis smoke doesn't make your teeth brown. It can leave a brown residue when you smoke it in combination with tobacco, but guess what causes that? Exactly, not weed.

    Also, even if cannabis was the cause then the person you spoke to doesn't brush his teeth. Because even when someone smokes over a pack of cigarettes a day and brushes their teeth, their teeth won't turn brown.

    It's easy huh, pointing the finger and blaming cannabis without actually knowing what you're talking about? Did you realize that that's one of the definitions of stupidity?

  31. Fabien L'Amour

    That guy didn't smoke and I know for a fact he smoked his joints exactly where that teeth was. I am amazed you are telling me you know what I saw and know better than me a friend I have known for 25 years.

    I never said he was stupid, I only remembered the event. He is actually very intelligent. I have no idea what you smoked but you are quite aggressive for someone who smoked cannabis.

  32. Nightfly

    He didn't smoke? But he smoked his joint where that teeth was? Then the brown residue (usually black) is THC residue, it's just something sticky that can be easily removed and even eaten to get a nice buzz. If his teeth is actually brown, cannabis simply cannot be the cause of it. I am not telling you what I saw, I am telling you what you saw simply cannot have been caused by smoking cannabis. It doesn't contain anything that makes your teeth brown. Cannabis smoke doesn't make the wallpaper in your living room brown either.

    I am not at all being aggressive. I am calmly having a discussion with you, not calling you any names, not being disrespectful or anything like that. Perhaps you are reading my messages with an aggressive tone? Which would be hilariously ironic.

    The "stupid" statement wasn't directed at you, but was a general statement.

  33. Fabien L'Amour

    ok, I probably misunderstood that : "I love it when uneducated people like the two of you come here and say such nonsense"

  34. Nightfly

    Well, if you took that as aggressive or whatever, then there must be some truth to it. I know there is, since nothing the two of you have said is factually correct. In fact, it can be classified as complete hogwash. Hence, why I am calling you uneducated (on this matter, that is). Nothing aggressive or disrespectful about it, I am simply calling you out on your b-s.

  35. Fabien L'Amour

    Nothing the two of you have said is factually correct.

    1) Rose said : "One joint and his memory was f$$#@! up! That's one reason not to smoke weed lol" Was his memory not f--ked up? Did she say it would last forever?

    2) I said : "he cracked a big smile and said "not that much" but one of his teeth was brown." Did I not see a brown teeth? I was merely showing that he forgot how much he smoked on that day because he was too baked to remember he smoked enough to stain that teeth.

    Chill with your hogwash, b-s and not factually correctness. None of us made a definitive statement on cannabis long term effects just mere observations of 2 events.

  36. Nightfly

    1) No, his memory wasn't f*cked up. Cannabis doesn't f*ck up your memory, it slows the signals that your brain receive down which in turn affects your short-term memory. Colombia/Uruguay, honest mistake. Doesn't mean his memory is f*cked up, not at all.

    2) Yes, you did say that and that brown tooth cannot have been caused by cannabis, that is simply impossible. Cannabis smoke is clean, there is no tar, nicotine or anything else that can cause any kind of brown staining. There is a reason that cigarettes smoke stains your wallpaper and cannabis smoke does not. Also, one exact tooth was stained? That's odd...

    I am chill, learn how to read with some nuance on the internet. I am simply calling the two of you out for spouting absolute nonsense on a topic you know nothing about. Your observation was false, fact. Deal with it.

  37. Fabien L'Amour

    I edited marijuana to marijuana smoke so you stop playing with words. I didn't think you would lower yourself to such a trick since we've been talking about smoking since the beginning but I was wrong.

  38. Nightfly

    Let them test it with the vapor (smoke) from a vaporizer, then come back to me. It's the BURNING process that causes the harmful effects, which can't even be noticed with cannabis users who smoke joints. You can't blame cannabis that the burning process is harmful. There are many other ways to consume cannabis, so in the grand scheme of things this means absolutely nothing, even IF you were right.

    The "study" you linked contained research results from over 20 years ago. Have you even read it yourself? And the "smoke "smoke... I mean, really? Bye credibility.

    Point is, smoking cannabis doesn't make your teeth brown, let alone one very specific tooth. Smoking cannabis isn't more harmful compared to smoking tobacco. In fact, it's proven to not be harmful at all as you can read in the research that includes LINKS to ALL the sources.

    You were dead wrong in your original message. We have veered way off track here. We have a different opinion on this, I will leave it at that.

  39. Nightfly

    Yes, we were talking about the smoke. There is no tar in there with cannabis. There has to be tar present in the substance that is burning for tar to be present in the smoke. The burning process doesn't magically create tar.

    And yes, we were talking about smoking also, that means not just the smoke. It's nice that you're trying to accuse me of things, but at least be right about it, this is just sad.

  40. Fabien L'Amour

    There is no expiration date on peer-reviewed research.

  41. Nightfly

    On the research itself, no. That's why I specifically said RESULTS. Now you are doing what you accused me of doing.

    We're done.

  42. Fabien L'Amour

    You are good at twisting words, the marijuana companies should hire you as a lawyer when scientific proof becomes evident that the smoke from cannabis is as harmful as any smoke in 20 years. When they start to get sued by users like the tobacco industry got sued after promoting for years their product was perfectly fine, an expert like you will be useful in delaying the claims for a few years.

  43. Fabien L'Amour

    Vapor is not smoke word twister.

  44. Nightfly

    A vaporizer burns the weed at an optimal temperature. Because of the vaporizer, you don't inhale the harmful substances. But, you can twist and turn it all you want, vapor is smoke.

    Also, has it become too difficult for you to respond to the points I am making? Instead you keep accusing me of twisting words, while you are the one who did it in one of your earlier messages. So, stop being a hypocrite, and while you're doing that it may be smart to quit being so ignorant also.

  45. Fabien L'Amour

    A vaporizer heats, it doesn't burn.

    "A vaporizer is a device used to extract and inhale active ingredients
    of plant material. Vaporization is the process of gently heating plant
    matter to the point of extracting and releasing the active ingredients
    into a vapor form. Vaporization is an alternative to smoking, where no
    combustion occurs and with no smoke evident."

    It's not getting difficult to identify the difference between vapor and smoke.

    Vapor is when a substance comes in its gaseous phase, at temperature which is lower than its critical point.

    Smoke is the collection of airborne solid, liquid and gases, which are emitted as a result of combustion. Smoke is by product of fire.

  46. Fabien L'Amour

    I never once mentioned cancer. If you think smoke is only dangerous because it can give you cancer, you are seriously mistaken.

  47. Nightfly

    No, you mentioned tar, which almost everyone believed was the main cause of lung cancer with smokers. Turns out, it isn't. You were talking specifically about tar, so there you go.

    Weather or not it's actually a burning process, doesn't matter. Not the point of this discussion. What matter is that you can SMOKE cannabis (the vaporizer does fill up with "smoke" and the weed is completely charred) without it being harmful in any way. Even consuming cannabis via a joint doesn't cause any illnesses, unlike smoking cigarettes.

    I am done discussing with you. Every time you're stuck in the discussion you raise up a new point you want to discuss. You can't stick with the original subject at hand. Every time I counter a point you make, you raise a new subject, that's very telling of the kind of person you are (are pretending to be) on here.

    I wish you a nice life.

  48. Fabien L'Amour

    If you say so, it started with you saying cannabis smoking can't stain a teeth, you argued it can't because there is not tar in cannabis smoke. I proved you wrong then you switched to all kinds of different topics with more wrong information, I only corrected your false statements. I have no wish to discuss with you anymore either but when you bring up false information and twist the truth, I can't let you off the hook with nonsense.

  49. Nightfly

    My point was that the smoke itself doesn't stain. There is a reason why cannabis smoke doesn't cause the wallpaper to turn brown, which does happen when smoking cigarettes.

    When I smoke a joint (just weed) there's "stuff" on the roach, but it doesn't come anywhere near my teeth. Mix it with tobacco and it leaves a sticky residue which sometimes leaks through the joint, and leaves a brown stain on your lips.

    We kind of agree, only we define a few things a little differently. Which is what lead to this kind of pointless discussion. Apparently there are active compounds in cannabis the negate the negative effects that the burning process has. That's why there are no documented cases of (for example) lung cancer being caused by smoking joints.

  50. Fabien L'Amour

    From the research you quoted, Dr Tashkin concluded, “It’s possible that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in
    marijuana smoke may encourage apoptosis, or programmed cell death,
    causing cells to die off before they have a chance to undergo malignant

    It might be good to kill cancerous cells but more research is needed to see if it only kills cancerous cells before stating it's perfectly innocuous on healthy cells. In any case, it would be preferable to administer pure THC instead of Cannabis smoke with Hydrogen cyanide, ammonia, aromatic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide.

  51. Nightfly

    That's why nobody (or at least people in the know) claims that smoking cannabis is healthy. But, a lot of people think that smoking cannabis is 20x as unhealthy as smoking cigarettes, that is of course complete bogus.

    THC doesn't do anything to healthy cells, because they don't have the receptors needed. Cancerous cells do, and that's why the THC attacks them because that's what they are told to do. They've already done quite extensive research on that (I'm a former Leukemia (ALL) patient).

    EDIT: Don't forget about Cannabidiol (CBD) where most of the medical properties of the cannabis plant lies. It's actually the opposite of THC, it doesn't get you stoned. It actually counters the effect of THC. You can give it to kids without having to worry that they get stoned.

  52. Fabien L'Amour

    I'd be interested in those research papers if you have access to them. I've seen THC inhalation used experimentally in a documentary (forgot which country, maybe Switzerland) in a cancer ward.

  53. chilloutbro

    @nightfly everyones just chilling and you have to write a novel cos a few people said some things you didn't agree with. People like yourself who smoke weed are frequently in denial about how weed could be AT ALL harmful to them, its quite amussing

  54. Califdude

    I found it impossible to read the comments from Rose without adding in a Rastafarian accent. But seriously pot is not the evil nor the Savior it has been purported to be. How can society condone alcohol whilst condemning pot when, by every measure, pot is a billion times less harmful? I just dont trust any government to dictate what's best for me. Over 90% of all heroin users start off by taking doctor prescribed opiate pain medication. Are we now supposed to outlaw pain medication? No we won't because that would be cruel, yet that is what India has done and the pain and suffering that their citizens experience hurts a person's soul. What I am getting at is people are unaware of the pain and suffering they themselves cause when they try to force their views as being sacrosanct. Pot is not for everybody and that is fine with me. Live your own life without hurting others, a basic right and responsibility.

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