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Holley statement of legalization of marijuana

Holley statement of legalization of marijuana


“The New Jersey Legislature has delivered the most progressive legislation in the nation regarding marijuana legalization, incorporating critical components of social justice and social equity that communities of color and others have been demanding for years.

“This is a defining moment in the history of our state, as we finally put an end to a failed ‘War on Drugs’ that has shattered the lives of many, forced into lengthy, senseless incarceration. Families have been destroyed; neighborhoods have suffered for generations.”

“Today, we begin to rebuild. This legislation serves as an opportunity to welcome many back into our community through expungements and the adjudication of minor drug offenses. I applaud my colleagues and Gov. Phil Murphy, who I know will quickly sign this bill for the sake of so many residents of this state.”

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Assembly Committee Passes Quijano, Holley, Timberlake, McKnight, Danielsen & Wimberly, Bill Guiding Regulation of Adult-Use Cannabis in New Jersey

Legislation to Provide for Infrastructure Regulation of Recreational Cannabis Use Acted on After NJ Voters Overwhelmingly Approved Legalization Ballot Question Nov. 3

On November 3, New Jersey voters approved a ballot question, by roughly 67 percent, which asked to amend the State constitution to provide for the legalization of adult-use cannabis in New Jersey. Moving forward on the discussion of the over 200-page legislation to provide the infrastructure for cannabis regulation, the Assembly Federal Relations, and Oversight Reform Committee on Monday held a hearing and voted to advance A-21 that aims to set new, unprecedented guidelines in the state for the possession, personal use, and sale of cannabis.

The bill’s sponsors, Assembly Democrats Annette Quijano, Jamel Holley, Britnee N. Timberlake, Angela McKnight, Joseph Danielsen, and Benjie Wimberly issued the following statements on its advancement in the Legislature:

“This is the first step toward the long-overdue need to end cannabis prohibition,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union). “So much time, effort, and thought have gone into this bill and although it is not perfect, today is the first conversation for what I believe will produce a stronger piece of legislation with a focused eye toward social justice and equity. Once the legislation is enacted, it will be the beginning of a new era of economic opportunity, social justice for marijuana possession, and hope for a better future for thousands of New Jersey residents.”

“With legalization comes an unprecedented opportunity for residents to clean the slate with expungement provisions and for communities to grow their economic base with businesses,” said Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Union). “A key component of cannabis legalization is addressing social justice concerns. The fact that Black New Jerseyans are 3 or 4 times more likely to be arrested on cannabis charges has contributed to the disenfranchisement of black communities. We have the opportunity here to also right the wrongs in our society in regards to past criminal possession of cannabis. No matter where you stand in the legalized marijuana debate, there has been a clear understanding that minorities within our urban communities have been hit hardest in the so-called War on Drugs. During this entire campaign for legalization, there has been one united vocal stance: There was harm done in the past and it must be corrected.”

“Today is a great day in New Jersey as we begin this discussion. This legislation includes real, enterprising opportunities for New Jersey communities that have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition, along with more defined employment opportunities and a commission that requires diversity,” said Assemblywoman Timberlake (D-Essex). “This will be a clear revenue generator for the State, and the social justice and diversity portion in the legislation remains imperative.”

“Undoubtedly, this is the largest regulatory undertaking the state has considered since the Casino Control Commission,” said Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Hudson). “Remaining at status quo meant continued disparity in arrests for African Americans and teens for amounts now to be considered personal use.  We are moving the state in a direction more compassionate for cannabis and in line with what is happening across the country in regards to legalization. Most importantly, NJ voters want it.”

“This legislation has been a long time coming in our State. My committee is proud to have initiated the conversation on this issue important to our communities and mandated by New Jersey voters, “ said Assemblyman Danielsen (D-Somerset, Middlesex, who chairs the Assembly Federal Relations and Oversight Reform Committee led the discussion on the bill in today’s hearing. “Nearly 50 witnesses testified today in committee. Their input was welcomed and, as we move forward to get this bill to where it must be to help all communities, we will continue to listen and incorporate ideas. Social justice for black and brown communities, which have been generationally impacted by cannabis prohibition, and equity in business are priorities in this legislation. We cannot fairly, or effectively provide regulation without ensuring these communities stay at the forefront of the conversation.”

“New Jersey voters on November 3rd issued the Legislature a mandate: to provide the infrastructure for the legalization of cannabis in New Jersey. Today, we have acted on that directive by presenting legislation for discussion with fellow legislation and statewide stakeholders,” said Assemblyman Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). “The War on Drugs in many ways became a war on particular communities, incarcerating millions of black and brown people and affecting families irreparably for decades. This legislation also aims to correct the economic and social justice disparities surrounding cannabis use. This hearing marks the first step toward a greater goal.”


A full copy of the legislation can be found here. Here are several key points of the bill:

  • Personal Rights – Legalizing the consumption, transportation, and possession of cannabis for personal use by persons age 21 and older of up to one ounce. Public consumption would remain unlawful.
  • Encourages Safer Communities, Lessens Impact of the Black Market, Dealers- Specific provisions are included in the bill for sale, purchase, deterring products from getting into the hands of young people, and on operations and sanitation that will keep residents informed of the contents of the product.
  • Reduces burden on the court system- The state would significantly reduce the cost that is approximately $127 million per year to enforce current marijuana possession offenses.
  • Creates Jobs, Economic Driver- Legalization and authorizing the taxation of cannabis sales would generate hundreds of millions of dollars to reinvest in New Jersey communities creating jobs for New Jersey residents.
  • Opens the job market to more residents- By setting providing expungement relief and providing a clean slate for residents with minor cannabis offenses, they can qualify for more jobs that offer stable employment with competitive salaries.
  • Promotes Social Equity- Creating an Office of Minority, Disabled Veterans, and Women Business Development to promote diversity in the marketplace ensuring women, minorities, and NJ veterans a seat at the table.
  • Impact Zones – Impact Zones are select priority municipalities for the Cannabis Regulatory Commission to issue licenses to residents in the Zones. There is established a 25% set-aside for applicants residing in these zones which were established based on four criteria: population size; marijuana arrests; crime index; and rate of unemployment.


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New Jersey Lawmaker Calls for Immediate Suspension of All Minor Marijuana Arrests

New Jersey Lawmaker Calls for Immediate Suspension of All Minor Marijuana Arrests

Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-20th Dist.) is calling for a suspension of all marijuana arrests for petty possession as the state is expected to pass a ballot question legalizing recreational marijuana. Credits: TAPinto File Photo

ELIZABETH, NJ – With strong statewide expectation that voters will approve a ballot question tonight that legalizes recreational marijuana, Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-20th Dist.) is calling today for a suspension of all marijuana arrests for petty possession.

Moreover, Holley said, all current cases for marijuana possession should be dismissed in municipal courts, freeing up any backlog in cases. One particular case, he noted, is taking place in Beach Haven, where the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office has argued favorably before an appellate court to reinstate dismissed municipal court charges against two college students arrested for smoking pot in the beach last August.

“It is more obvious than ever that New Jerseyans want our lawmakers to focus on serious crimes that affect the safety and welfare of the people,” Holley said. “As we will quickly see at the ballot box, there is no patience anymore for prosecuting people caught smoking and possessing marijuana. It will be a legal, regulated recreational drug, similar to a glass of wine. There is no longer a need for our courts to deal with such petty offenses.”


Holley said legislation needs to be quickly drafted and approved that will modify the state’s marijuana laws, with the expectation of tonight’s vote. While the legislative process can take weeks to move from introduction to being finalized, it is important that local law enforcement recognize the mandate of voters and refrain from charges, all of which will likely be dismissed.

Moreover, Holley is calling for the passage of swift legislation – of which he would sponsor – that will jumpstart the cannabis industry while making it easier for New Jersey-based residents to own and operate a cannabis business.

Holley said it is vital that this industry benefit the “mom and pops” in towns across the state, as opposed to large, out-of-state conglomerates who will profit from the business, yet give proportionately little back to the state. He points to a recent Rutgers-Eagleton poll, which reports that 64% of New Jerseyans would support a marijuana dispensary in their town.

Holley anticipates a full roll-out of thousands of dispensaries in the state, with tax benefits and other incentives offered to minority, veteran and women owners.  That would be compared with the current number of 2,774 pharmacies, 1,800 liquor stores and 7,500 bars/restaurants in the state.

According to cannabis industry leaders, New Jersey has the potential to create a cannabis industry that will generate an annual $6 billion economic impact (direct sales, taxes, ancillary market, and multiplier effect) on an economy in desperate need of jobs and the businesses that creates them.


“We need to focus on how responsibly and quickly we can grow the cannabis industry and the potential annual economic impact it can bring New Jersey,” Holley said. “Considering that voters will be approving legalization, and considering we are living through an economic crisis of historic proportions, it is in the best of interests of New Jersey residents to create a large, responsible, robust, and inclusive industry as quickly as possible.”

It all begins, the assemblyman said, by ordering law enforcement officials to stop arresting residents for marijuana possession, and clearing the courts of such cases.

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Wimberly, Johnson & Holley Bill to Ensure Diversity Among NJ Law Enforcement Now Law

To ensure law enforcement agencies reflect the diversity of the communities they serve, legislation requiring all law enforcement agencies in New Jersey to establish minority recruitment and selection programs was signed into law on Monday.

The law (formerly bill A-2394) will further require annual reporting on recruitment, retention and promotion of officers providing information specific to age, gender, race and ethnicity. This information will be published in a yearly report and made available online by the Attorney General.

Sponsors of the bill, Assembly Democrats Benjie E. Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic), Gordon M. Johnson (D-Bergen) and Jamel C. Holley (D-Union), issued the following joint statement:

“The Black community in America is in pain and reeling in the wake of senseless police-perpetrated violence. A breakdown of trust between communities of color and police in America is evident.

“We must start with being intentional about the way our law enforcement agencies mirror the evolving racial diversity of the communities they protect and serve. Being more deliberate in hiring minorities will make our police departments more inclusive and ultimately translate into better relationships with communities.

“It all comes down to breaking cycles of bias. In building the mechanisms to tackle underrepresentation and keep agencies accountable to greater diversity, we have an opportunity to do just that.”

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Karabinchak, Holley ‘Safe Stop’ Bill to Educate Drivers on Rights and Responsibilities When Stopped by Police Passes Full Assembly

Many new drivers are unaware of their rights and proper protocol when being pulled over by a police officer. To help educate residents to that extent, a bill encouraged by national dialogue on incidents occurring during routine law enforcement stops was approved by the full Assembly, 78-0.

“Teaching drivers their rights as wells as how to safely interact with police during a stop must be a part of the driver curriculum. Surprisingly, the New Jersey Driver’s Manual currently does not include any language referencing what to do if stopped for a traffic violation,” said Karabinchak (D-Middlesex). “We are a diverse state comprised of many cultural backgrounds. Many new drivers may have their own perceptions of the police and do not know what a police stop entails. This bill aims to correct that discrepancy with a visual aid and tutorial of a standard police stop. An equally prepared driver and officer will make for more ‘safe stops’.”

The legislation (A-3871) — sponsored by Assembly Democrats Robert Karabinchak and Jamel Holley—would require a potential driver to watch a video, created by the Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) and the Attorney General, before they take a written examination for a validated permit.  The video will explain the rights and responsibilities of a driver stopped by a law enforcement officer.

“Over the years, police-involved shootings of unarmed people of color have made national news time and time again. These particular incidents have fueled conversations on how we can better prepare our communities for interactions with police,” said Holley (D-Union). “The one way we can, in conjunction with the policies many police departments have already put into place, is to help drivers understand their rights and what to expect as the driver of the vehicle if they are ever pulled over. At the end of the day, we want to make sure the members of our community and our police officers get home safely.”

The State Troopers Fraternal Association applauds the bill sponsors on taking the initiative in improving police and community relations and public safety with this legislation.

“Assuming control of a motor vehicle is a tremendous responsibility for all drivers but especially new and young drivers. Police officers in the State of New Jersey are among the most highly trained and professional in the nation and continually practice fair enforcement of the State’s traffic laws while ensuring the safety of the public and the police,” said Wayne Blanchard, President of the New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association. “This bill underscores and the importance of educating new and young drivers on the importance of knowing their Rights on a motor vehicle stop but more importantly their safe and respectful interaction with police officers during the course of the motor vehicle stop. This will ensure that the motor vehicle stop ends in a safe and positive manner. Unfortunately, new and young drivers are susceptible to extreme misguidance by the media and other outlets with incorrect information as to what they are entitled to during an encounter with police officers which ultimately results in a breakdown in police and community relations.”

The bill also requires the MVC to expand the written examination to include a question, developed in conjunction with the Attorney General, testing the applicant’s knowledge of the rights and responsibilities of a driver stopped by a law enforcement officer.

It will now go to the Senate for further consideration.

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Holley Introduces Bill to Create State Division on Violence Prevention and Intervention

Advocates Support Legislation to Help County Efforts with Violence Prevention

Legislation establishing a Division on Violence Prevention and Intervention was introduced recently by Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Union).

The bill (A-4563) would create a Division on Violence Prevention and Intervention within the Department of Law and Public Safety. The division would help to ensure that each county provides access to well-coordinated violence prevention resources to residents.

“We can do more to help counties reduce all forms of violence in their communities with access to the right resources,” said Holley (D-Union). “Centralizing these resources in one division with a charge that focuses only on violence reduction and prevention will help.”

Recent reports say New Jersey has seen a surge in fatal shootings this year, 19 percent. Domestic violence cases in New Jersey have been predicted to rise under the restraints of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are all concerned about the recent news of increased shootings in the state. We also need to continue to worry about helping families in domestic violence situations receive the help they need,” continued Holley. “Designating one person to lead the charge to help counties identify their needs and the best programs to assist them is critical to reducing violence throughout the state.”

“Violence in America is a public health crisis. This legislation will establish an ongoing focus on methods to prevent violence. It’s a welcome initiative to improve the quality of life of all New Jersey residents,” said Former Senator Raymond Lesniak for the Lesniak Institute for American Leadership.

“Finally this bill comes at the right time. Violence continues to destroy lives and disrupt communities. Assemblyman Holley’s courageous efforts will help to prevent gun violence, domestic violence, and police brutality such as the incident that led to the death of George Floyd,” said Salaam Ismail, Director National United Youth Council Inc.

Under the bill, the division would be led by a Director of Violence Prevention and Intervention, who would be appointed by the Attorney General. The director is authorized under the bill to apply for and accept on behalf of the State any grants from the Federal Government or agency, or from any foundation, corporation, association or person, for any of the purposes of the division.

The bill would require the county prosecutor in each county to appoint or designate a violence prevention and intervention coordinator, who not an employee of the county prosecutor’s office.

Among the program coordinator’s duties are creating a directory of existing violence prevention services and activities in the county; recommending services to be funded by local governing bodies; and developing a network of volunteers and mentors within the community who can address issues such as youth violence and suicide prevention.

This measure implements one of the recommendations of New Jersey’s independent Study Commission on Violence in its report issued in October 2015.

The legislation is positioned for committee referral and review by the Assembly Speaker.


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Holley Calls for Direct Funding to New Jersey Families for Child Care and Tutoring


TRENTON - When the COVID-19 pandemic rocked New Jersey in mid-March and sent home 1.4 million school children for the rest of the 2019-20 school year, parents were scrambling to provide at-home child care and academic instruction as the economy collapsed.

With Wednesday’s announcement from Gov. Phil Murphy allowing school districts unable to provide a safe learning environment to offer remote learning, many parents are facing the same dilemma: To stay home with their children or go to work.

Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-20thDist.) said New Jersey families cannot afford any more mandated at-home learning and child care. That is why he is proposing legislation this afternoon that would give working families grants for tutoring and child care services, funded through the federal CARES Act, known as the “New Jersey Family Child Care and Tutoring Relief Act.”

If federal aid should fall short, Holley is proposing state tax credits in 2021 to make up the difference. The program would be in place through June 30, 2021, as per the proposed legislation, to be formally introduced by the end of the week.

“Families are crying out for help; this Executive Order for remote learning spells disaster for people who need to return to work and creates an additional burden on all families,” Holley said. “There needs to be financial support that can provide children with quality care and tutoring assistance, serving as a safety net.

When the public schools closed in mid-March, Holley said, New Jersey families met an immediate crisis on two fronts.  Parents needed to stay at home to care for their children. Meanwhile, as school districts scrambled to develop virtual curricula, many children fell through the cracks, unable to learn via remote learning.

“That third-grade student who abruptly was forced into remote learning in March did not learn what he or she needed to learn in third grade,” Holley said. “Now, it is approaching fall, and that student is beginning fourth grade. If he or she couldn’t learn remotely as a third grader, how is he or she going to suddenly learn fourth grade material? That is why our families our desperate for tutorial services. Our kids need to catch up. Keeping them home, without support, creates a long-term psychological and academic problem.”

The proposed bill would:

  • Provide families with financial support to pay for childcare and tutoring service costs for school aged children due to remote learning in the 2020-21 school year. 
  • The state Department of Human Services (DHS) will develop an application for families to submit information. The department shall process applications and distribute grant funds in an efficient and expedient manner. 
  • Grant amounts shall be determined based upon the availability of federal funding. The Division of Taxation in the Department of the Treasury, in consultation with the DHS, shall establish a tax credit against the state tax.

“The state Legislature needs to intervene with this bill, ensuring our families have a fighting chance for success.” Holley added.

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Quijano, Pinkin, Karabinchak & Holley Bill Promoting Increased Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in NJ Passes Full Assembly

In an effort to improve the convenience of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), including electric and hydrogen fuel cell-powered cars, four Assembly Democrats have sponsored legislation that would require New Jersey municipalities to consider the inclusion of fueling and charging infrastructure in their redevelopment projects.

Upon the bill (A-1653) passing the full Assembly Thursday, 70-2-1, sponsors Annette Quijano (D-Union), Nancy Pinkin (D-Middlesex), Robert Karabinchak (D-Middlesex) and Jamel Holley (D-Union) released the following joint statement:


“More people are using zero-emission vehicles now than ever before. This is due in part to the hundreds of dollars ZEV drivers save each year on gas. These vehicles are also better for our planet than gasoline cars because they don’t create byproducts that can harm the environment.

“The Assembly passed quite a few bills last session to encourage the purchase of ZEVs, and we must continue our efforts of finding ways to make these cars more convenient for both current and prospective owners.

“This legislation will encourage municipalities to incorporate charging and refueling stations in their redevelopment plans to increase the number of stations throughout our state. The more places our residents can go to recharge or refuel their ZEV, the more practical and appealing these vehicles will be.”

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Wimberly, Quijano, Holley, Timberlake & McKnight Bill to Set New Regulation for Possession, Personal Use Clears Assembly

Moving to create more equitable laws on the possession and personal use of cannabis and establish expedited and virtual expungements, the full Assembly approved legislation Thursday, 63-10-5, sponsored by Assembly members Benjie Wimberly, Annette Quijano, Jamel Holley, Britnee Timberlake and Angela McKnight.

“This is only one piece of the many parts of change that must be done in the name of social justice for our communities. The War on Drugs in many ways became a war on particular communities, incarcerating millions of people and affecting families irreparably for decades,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). “The action we take now to help our black and brown communities who have been disproportionately affected by current laws surrounding cannabis use is critical to trauma for future generations.”

“There have been far too many people, especially those from Black and Hispanic communities, who have been negatively impacted by the criminalization of cannabis,” said Quijano (D-Union). “There have been long term impacts on the lives of all people in this state, but considerably those of color. This legislation is the product of taking a hard look at our current laws, listening to the will of the majority of New Jerseyans and taking a common-sense approach to cannabis offenses.”

The bill (A-1897) provides for certain criminal and civil justice reforms, particularly with respect to legal consequences associated with certain cannabis offenses as well as broadening awareness of available expungement relief.

“Black New Jerseyans are up to four times more likely to be arrested on cannabis charges than White people. It is a sad fact, a further painful reminder that so people in our communities have been disenfranchised for far too long,” said Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Union). “There have always been glaring social justice concerns and obvious inequity in the high number of arrests of minority residents. Now, finally, is the time for it to stop.”

New Jersey law enforcement officers made over 24,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, more than in the previous 20 years – approximately one every 22 minutes. African Americans are nearly three times more likely to be arrested for cannabis passion than white New Jerseyans, despite similar usage rates with white counterparts. Cannabis possession arrests also constituted three out of five drug arrests in 2012.

The state spends approximately $127 million per year on cannabis possession enforcement costs.

“It’s time for the change we seek,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “New Jersey residents are not happy with the status quo and we need to move in a direction of compassion for the communities that have long been targeted by current regulatory criteria. The call for action, for social justice reform, is resounding throughout our nation. And it begins with legislation such as this.”

“Decriminalization and expungement for those who have been disproportionately incarcerated for marijuana offenses is well overdue in New Jersey and many other states throughout this nation,” said Timberlake (D-Essex). “A criminal marijuana charge has a detrimental effect on an individual’s opportunity to access higher education, obtain gainful employment, receive housing support, and address child custody issues.  Not all communities are impacted equally by marijuana enforcement, measures to reduce the collateral consequences of criminal records are ones of racial, social, and economic justice. This legislation is about social justice for a people who have endured the inequities in the law for generations.”

The bill would regrade the unlawful distribution of, or possessing or having under control with intent to distribute, less than five pounds of marijuana or less than one pound of hashish.

Under current law, distribution of less than five pounds, but at least one ounce or more, of marijuana, or distribution of less than one pound, but at least five grams or more, of hashish, is punishable as a crime of the third degree; this crime can be punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to five years, a fine of up to $25,000, or both.  Distribution of any smaller amounts, that is, less than one ounce of marijuana or less than five grams of hashish, is punishable as a crime of the fourth degree; this crime can be punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 18 months, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.


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As cities throughout the state move to recognize Juneteenth as a day of remembrance and reflection in their communities, Assembly Democrats Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, Jamel Holley, and Benjie Wimberly sponsor legislation to have the historical commemoration designated as a state and public holiday in New Jersey.

The bill (A-4315) would designate the third Friday in June in each year as Juneteenth Day, which commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas to inform enslaved Africans of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and their freedom.  The announcement from General Granger led to celebration and jubilation, which has continued each year in various forms throughout the United States for over 150 years.

The sponsors—Assemblywoman Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon), and Assemblymen Holley (D-Union) and Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic)— issued the following statement on the legislation:

“We’re at another set of crossroads in this country’s history—just as we were in 1863— where we can decide to move humanity forward by once again acknowledging the wrongs committed against African Americans and taking bold action to correct them.

    “A visual illustration of the impact of centuries of systematic and institutionalized racism has our country reeling over the question, “Why?” Why does this continue to persist in our communities today?

    “Juneteenth was a defining moment in American History, claiming the beginning of African American independence in this country. It is time for the commemoration of a pivotal moment in history to become an official state holiday, underscoring its importance to our communities and giving time for reflection on how far we have come and have to go to achieve equality and justice for all.”

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