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Weekly: This Week in History

March 18, 1839: Lin Tse-Hsu, the imperial Chinese commissioner in charge of suppressing the opium traffic, orders all foreign traders to surrender their opium. In response, the British send expeditionary warships to the coast of China, initiating the First Opium War.

March 14, 1937: Setting a judicial precedent important to drug policy, the US Supreme Court rules that machine guns can be controlled by first taxing them, then using the tax act to prohibit them. One month later Harry Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, introduces the Marijuana Tax Act to Congress.

March 12, 1998: Canada legalizes hemp production and sets a limit of 0.3% THC content that may be present in the plants and requires that all seeds be certified for THC content.

March 12, 1998: The mayors of San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Cruz and West Hollywood write letters to President Clinton asking him to keep the cannabis buyers' clubs open. They tell the president: "If the centers are shut down, many of these individuals will be compelled to search back alleys and street corners for their medicine," and ask him to "implement a moratorium on enforcement of federal drug laws that interfere with the daily operation of the dispensaries."

March 17, 1999: A report by the Institute of Medicine for the Office of National Drug Control Policy states that "there is no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs" and "scientific data indicate the potential therapeutic values of cannabinoid drugs for pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation."

March 16, 2000: Patrick Dorismond, an unarmed security guard, is shot and killed by undercover New York City police officers who had unsuccessfully tried to sell him marijuana in a "buy-and-bust" operation. [The shooting was the third time in 13 months that New York City police officers dressed in plainclothes shot and killed an unarmed black man. Under Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, marijuana arrests rose from 720 in 1992, to 59,945 in the first eleven months of 2000.]

Weekly: This Week in History

March 3, 1905: The first Congressional anti-drug law is passed when the US colonial government prohibits opium in the Philippines.

March 1, 1915: The Harrison Narcotics Act goes into legal effect, beginning federal prohibition of drugs.

March 4, 1992: George Bush's White House has bureaucrats terminate the federal government's Compassionate Investigational New Drug (IND) medical marijuana program, barring even approved patients from receiving marijuana and allowing only a small handful already receiving it to continue.

February 26, 1995: Former mayor of San Francisco Frank Jordan is quoted in the Los Angeles Times, saying, "I have no problem whatsoever with the use of marijuana for medical purposes. I am sensitive and compassionate to people who have legitimate needs. We should bend the law and do what's right."

February 28, 1995: In compliance with the 1994 Crime Act, the US Sentencing Commission issues a report on the current federal structure of differing penalties on powder cocaine and crack cocaine, recommending that Congress "revisit" penalties enacted for those offenses.

February 29, 1996: In his State of the Union address, President Clinton nominates Army General Barry McCaffrey, a veteran of Vietnam and Desert Storm, as director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. McCaffrey had been head of the US Southern Command (SouthCom) which provides military backup for US policy in Latin America -- a policy long linked with chronically ineffective and corrupt drug enforcement.

February 28, 1998: President Clinton recertifies Mexico as a fully cooperating ally in the struggle against drug smuggling despite a letter from 40 US senators urging Clinton to deny certification.

February 27, 1999: Conservative William F. Buckley, Jr. is quoted in the New York Post: "Even if one takes every reefer madness allegation of the prohibitionists at face value, prohibition has done far more harm to far more people than marijuana ever could."

March 1, 1999: The advice columnist Abigail Van Buren in her popular column "Dear Abby" says: "I agree that marijuana laws are overdue for an overhaul. I also favor the medical use of marijuana -- if it's prescribed by a physician. I cannot understand why the federal government should interfere with the doctor-patient relationship, nor why it would ignore the will of the majority of voters who have legally approved such legislation."

February 28, 2000: UPI reports that Spanish researchers said the chemical in marijuana that produces a "high" shows promise as a weapon against deadly brain tumors. A research team from Complutense University and Autonoma University in Madrid found that one of marijuana's active ingredients, THC, killed tumor cells in advanced cases of glioma, a quick-killing cancer for which there is currently no effective treatment.

March 1, 2004: The State Department releases its annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) revealing that Afghanistan produced a larger poppy crop in 2003 than ever before. Some 61,000 hectares of land were cultivated with poppy in 2003 -- up almost twofold from about 31,000 hectares in 2002.

Weekly: This Week in History

February 23, 1887: The 49th Congress of the United States enacts legislation that provides a misdemeanor fine of between $50 and $500 ($1,100-$11,000 in today's dollars) for any US or Chinese citizen found guilty of violating the ban on opium.

February 21, 1971: The United States joins with other countries in signing the international Convention on Psychotropic Substances, in Vienna, Austria.

February 20, 1997: CNN reports that a prestigious panel of experts convened by the National Institutes of Health said there is promising evidence that smoking marijuana may ease the suffering of some seriously ill patients.

February 25, 1997: President Bill Clinton proposes spending $175 million for a national television blitz targeting drug use by America's youth. Matching funds from the private sector would be sought. Clinton says, "If a child does watch television -- and what child doesn't -- he or she should not be able to escape these messages."

February 22, 2000: Due to drug-related violence, the US State Department issues a traveler's advisory warning for Tijuana, Mexico City, and Ciudad Juárez, which are labeled as "dangerous." Juárez Mayor Gustavo Elizondo protests to US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

February 24, 2000: Members of the Belgian Parliament make a proposal to modify their laws in order to partially decriminalize the possession of cannabis and its derivatives. Simple marijuana possession is effectively decriminalized three years later.

February 21, 2001: The New York Times reports that a recent study released at a World Health Organization meeting found that American teens are more likely to smoke marijuana and use other illicit drugs than their European counterparts. While they are more likely to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol, only 17 percent of European 10th graders reported marijuana use, compared to 41 percent of American 10th graders. The study is interesting considering the US implements a zero-tolerance approach while many European countries tend to employ harm-reduction strategies and are generally more tolerant.

February 19, 2004: Veterans and medical marijuana activists in San Francisco hold a protest/rally in front of San Francisco's Veterans Administration Outpatient Clinic and ask doctors working for the Veteran's Administration to help provide better access to medical marijuana.

Weekly: This Week in History

February 14, 1929: St. Valentine's Day Massacre symbolizes the mob violence of the Prohibition era.

February 12, 1961: In the first televised challenge to marijuana prohibition, Beat poet Allen Ginsberg uses an appearance on the John Crosby show to argue for the harmlessness of marijuana. By the end of the program, Crosby and guests author Norman Mailer and anthropologist Ashley Montagu all joined Ginsberg in agreeing the current laws were too extreme.

February 16, 1982: During a speech in Miami, Florida, George H. W. Bush promises to use sophisticated military aircraft to track the airplanes used by drug smugglers. By June, airborne surveillance time is running a mere 40 hours per month, not the 360 hours promised by Bush, prompting Rep. Glenn English to call hearings on the topic. By October, the General Accounting Office issues an opinion in which it finds "it is doubtful whether the [South Florida] task force can have any substantial long-term impact on drug availability."

February 14, 1995: The US House of Representatives approves several drug-related bills, including H.R. 728, a bill that replaces the police ($8.8 billion), prevention ($4 billion), and drug courts ($1 billion) provisions of the 1994 Crime Act with a $10 billion block grant program.

February 14, 1996: Fairfax Police Chief Jim Anderson becomes one of the latest officials to speak out in favor of California's medical marijuana initiative when he says, "I believe there is adequate unbiased and scientific evidence that marijuana does have medicinal benefit."

February 17, 1997: Legislation to repeal an 18 year-old state law permitting physicians to prescribe marijuana for patients suffering from cancer or glaucoma is voted down by a Virginia Senate committee in a 9-6 vote.

February 18, 1999: Dr. Frank Fisher, a pain doctor from Northern California, is arrested and charged with five counts of murder. After about six years of legal wrangling and having more charges levied against him, he is determined to be completely innocent.

February 18, 2000: President Clinton signs the "Hillary J. Farias and Samantha Reid Date-Rape Drug Prohibition Act of 2000," categorizing GHB as a Schedule I drug.

February 12, 2002: The same day that President George W. Bush issues his National Drug Control Strategy, DEA agents raid the Harm Reduction Center, a medical marijuana club in San Francisco.

February 15, 2002: The ImpacTeen Illicit Drug Team releases a report entitled "Illicit Drug Policies: Selected Laws from the 50 States." The report says that state statutory drug laws vary significantly across the United States, contradicting a commonly-held assumption that state drug policies follow federal drug policy. For instance, depending on the state, a first time offender may be subject to anywhere from one year to lifetime imprisonment and $5,000 to $1 million in fines for the sale of one ecstasy pill. The report also shows that, as of January 1, 2000, 24 states and the District of Columbia enacted legislation allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes, despite the federal government's objections.

February 14, 2004: The Daytona Beach News Journal reports that Volusia County sheriff's investigators seized bricks of marijuana during several drug busts that were, in fact, bricks they had already seized before. As it turned out, half a million dollars' worth of drugs was stolen from their evidence compound by a former evidence manager. How many times it may have happened prior wasn't known.

Weekly: This Week in History

February 9, 1909: Congress passes the Opium Exclusion Act.

February 8, 1914: In an example of the role of racial prejudice in the genesis of US drug laws, The New York Times publishes an article entitled "Negro Cocaine 'Fiends' New Southern Menace."

February 7, 1968: In a move likely spurred on by the Nixon campaign's "law and order" rhetoric, President Lyndon Johnson creates the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD) by combining the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) with the Bureau of Drug Abuse Control. By 1972, the BNDD is 1,361 agents strong.

February 11, 1982: Attorney General William French Smith grants an exemption sparing the CIA from a legal requirement to report on drug smuggling by agency assets. The exemption had been secretly engineered by CIA Director William J. Casey according to a letter placed into the Congressional Record by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) on May 7, 1998, which establishes that Casey foresaw the legal dilemma which the CIA would encounter should federal law require it to report on illicit narcotics smuggling by its agents.

February 7, 1985: Enrique Camarena, an aggressive DEA agent stationed in Mexico who discovered that drug traffickers there were operating under the protection of Mexican police officials, is kidnapped outside of his office in Guadalajara. His body is found several weeks later bearing marks of brutal torture.

February 5, 1988: A federal grand jury in Miami issues an indictment against Panamanian General Manuel Noriega for drug trafficking. Noriega had allowed the Medellin cartel to launder money and build cocaine laboratories in Panama.

February 11, 1988: The international heroin seizure record is set -- 2,816 pounds in Bangkok, Thailand.

February 10, 1998: The United Kingdom House of Lords announces an investigation into the recreational and medical use of marijuana to be conducted by the Lords Select Committee. Announcement of the inquiry follows a campaign by the UK's Independent to decriminalize marijuana, a report from the British Medical Association urging Ministers to consider allowing the medical use of cannabinoids, and a plea from Lord Chief Justice Lord Bingham of Cornhill, who says marijuana decriminalization deserves "detached, objective, [and] independent consideration."

February 11, 1999: Researchers in Boston, Massachusetts, announce they found no link between marijuana use by pregnant mothers and miscarriages. The study does document a strong link between tobacco consumption and miscarriages, and also shows an increased risk of miscarriage by mothers who use cocaine.

February 9, 2000: Deborah Lynn Quinn, born with no arms or legs, is sentenced to one year in an Arizona prison for marijuana possession and violating probation on a previous drug offense, the attempted sale of four grams of marijuana to a police informant for $20. Quinn requires around the clock care for feeding, bathing, and hygiene.

February 7, 2001: After a contentious confirmation process, new Attorney General John Ashcroft declares, "I want to escalate the war on drugs. I want to renew it. I want to refresh it, re-launch it, if you will." He said this despite the fact that under President Clinton's two terms in office the number of jail sentences nationwide for marijuana offenders was 800% higher than under the Reagan and Bush administrations combined.

February 11, 2001: President Jorge Battle of Uruguay becomes the first head of state in Latin America to call for drug legalization.

February 10, 2003: South Dakota's HB 1153 passes the state's House of Representatives. The bill revises the current penalties for marijuana distribution to include "intent to distribute."

February 6, 2004: The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejects the DEA's ban on hemp foods.

Weekly: This Week in History

February 1, 1909: The International Opium Commission convenes in Shanghai. Heading the US delegation are Dr. Hamilton Wright and Episcopal Bishop Henry Brent, who both try to convince the international delegation of the immoral and evil effects of opium.

January 31, 1945: A New York Times article reports an increase in marijuana trafficking and mentions that an official at the Treasury Department says that traffic in some instances reaches "the proportion of well-financed national and international conspirators." One of the New York gangs which came under investigation was the "107th Street Mob," formerly headed by the notorious mobster "Lucky" Luciano.

February 3, 1987: Carlos Lehder is captured by the Colombian National Police at a safe house owned by Pablo Escobar in the mountains outside of Medellin. He is extradited to the US the next day. On May 19, 1988 Lehder is convicted of drug smuggling and sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus an additional 135 years.

February 4, 1994: An unpublished US Department of Justice report indicates that over one-third of the drug felons in federal prisons are low-level nonviolent offenders.

January 30, 1997: New England Journal of Medicine editor Dr. Jerome Kassirer opines in favor of doctors being allowed to prescribe marijuana for medical purposes, calling the threat of government sanctions "misguided, heavy-handed and inhumane."

January 29, 1998: Judge Nancy Gertner, a district judge in Boston, criticizes the drug war for spending too much federal funds while depriving Americans of liberty at a forum organized by the Voluntary Committee of Lawyers.

February 4, 2003: Jurors who had convicted Ed Rosenthal on federal marijuana cultivation charges hold a press conference, saying they were deceived by the withholding of information about Rosenthal's involvement in medical marijuana, that they would not have convicted him had they known, and calling for a new trial.

February 4, 2003: The New York Times publishes an editorial defending Ed Rosenthal and medical marijuana. It says, in part: "The Bush administration's war on medical marijuana is not only misguided but mean-spirited. Doctors have long recognized marijuana's value in reducing pain and aiding in the treatment of cancer and AIDS, among other diseases. A recent poll found that 80 percent of Americans support legalized medical marijuana. The reasons the government gives for objecting to it do not outweigh the good it does. And given the lack of success of the war on drugs in recent years, there must be better places to direct law enforcement resources."

February 2, 2004: A congressional budget rider known as the "Istook Amendment," after its sponsor, US Rep. James Istook (R-OK), takes effect. The law penalizes any transit system that accepts advertising "promot[ing] the legalization or medical use" of illegal drugs such as marijuana by cutting off all federal financial assistance, which often amounts to millions of dollars. Four months later US District Court Judge Paul Friedman rules that Istook's law violates the First Amendment by infringing on free speech rights, and is thus unconstitutional.

Weekly: This Week in History

January 11, 1906: LSD inventor Dr. Albert Hofmann is born.

January 9, 1923: US Labor Secretary Davis endorses the idea of a national campaign against the peril of habit-forming drugs.

January 11, 1923: The New York Times publishes the article "Marihuana Is Newest Drug," and claims the State of New York has 50,000 drug addicts.

January 12, 1929: The Porter Narcotic Farm Act is passed, establishing the first two narcotics hospitals for addicts in federal prisons in response to addicts' crowding.

January 14, 1937: A private federal cannabis conference takes place in room 81 of the Treasury Building in Washington, DC, leading to enactment of federal marijuana prohibition later that year.

January 8, 1990: General Manuel Noriega is convicted on eight counts of drug trafficking, money laundering, and racketeering, and sentenced to 40 years in Federal prison.

January 9, 1996: DEA agents in Miami arrest Jorge Luis Cabrera, a 1995 $20,000 donor to the Democratic Party who was invited to a Christmas party that year by Hillary Rodham Clinton. He is busted along with four partners in possession of 6,000 pounds of cocaine.

January 8, 1998: Rep. Bobby Moak's (R-Lincoln County) Mississippi House Bill 196 proposes "The removal of a body part in lieu of other sentences imposed by the court for violations of the Controlled Substances Law." Moak tells reporters that he introduced the legislation because he felt the state wasn't doing enough to combat drug use. Provisions in the bill mandate that the convicted person and the court "must agree on which body part shall be removed."

January 12, 2001: Salon.com reports that the nephew of Attorney General-designate John Ashcroft received probation after a felony conviction in state court for growing 60 marijuana plants with intent to distribute the drug in 1992. This is a lenient sentence, given that these charges often trigger much tougher federal penalties and jail time. Ashcroft was the tough-on-drugs Missouri governor at the time.

January 14, 2003: A high profile pain prosecution ends with a whimper when California prosecutors dismiss all remaining charges against Dr. Frank Fisher.

Weekly: This Week in History

December 29, 1988: Judge Mark Polen, in State v. Musika, comments, "There is a pressing need for a more compassionate, humane law which clearly discriminates between the criminal conduct of those who socially abuse chemicals and the legitimate medical needs of seriously ill patients..."

December 30, 1989: Ignoring fhe findings of the agency's own administrative law judge, DEA Director John Lawn orders that cannabis remain on the Schedule I narcotics list, which is reserved for drugs which have no known medical use.

December 28, 1992: ABC Television airs a major special on the drug war in Bolivia which, according to the Bush Administration, is our "best hope" for winning the drug war in South America. ABC concludes decisively that there is no hope and that the war on drug production has already been lost.

December 25, 1994: The Buffalo News reports, "Troubled with three long-term sentences he felt forced to make in recent weeks, US District Judge John T. Curtin says he will stop hearing drug cases in the coming year rather than continue to be part of a system of punishment that 'just isn't working.'" Curtin says he would rather see the federal government spend more money on education, counseling, and drug prevention programs, rather than towards putting people in prison. "You don't even have to think of it in moral terms. In financial terms, it just isn't working," Curtin said.

December 30, 1996: President Clinton approves a plan to combat the new state laws legalizing marijuana for the sick and dying.

December 26, 1997: The San Francisco Chronicle reports that San Francisco Supervisor Gavin Newsom said it is time to treat heroin abuse less as a crime and more like a medical problem. He added that efforts to halt drugs at the border or to "Just Say No" have failed.

December 29, 1997: The New York Times reports that US and Mexican officials said that the United States was providing the Mexican military with extensive covert intelligence support and training for hundreds of its officers to help shape a network of anti-drug troops around the country. The Times points out that "the effort has proceeded despite growing US concern that it may lead to more serious problems of corruption and human rights in one of Mexico's most respected institutions... In fact, a new US intelligence analysis of the military's drug ties will cite evidence of extensive penetration of the officer corps."

December 31, 2000: A Department of Justice report states that state prisons are operating between full capacity and 15% above capacity, while Federal prisons are operating at 31% above capacity.

December 25, 2003: The Philippine Star reports that the campaign to rid the island of drugs by 2010 has resulted in cramming jails and paralyzing the justice system.

December 27, 2004: The Washington Post runs an article about FDA approval of MDMA/cancer anxiety research and the general renewal of research into the therapeutic potential of MDMA and psychedelic compounds.

Weekly: This Week in History

December 24, 1912: Merck patents MDMA. Its psychoactive effects remain unknown for more than 60 years, but the drug eventually becomes popularized under the slang term "ecstasy."

December 20, 1989: The US invades Panama with 24,000 soldiers in Operation Just Cause in order to overthrow dictator Manuel Noriega for drug trafficking, money laundering, and selling information to Cuba.

December 23, 1995: A British Medical Journal editorial entitled "The War on Drugs" states, "The British government's drug strategy for the next three years states baldly 'There will be no legalisation of any currently controlled drugs.' But some legalisation would help."

December 24, 1998: The Times (UK) reports that the Prince of Wales expressed an interest in the effectiveness of cannabis in relieving the pain of diseases such as multiple sclerosis. During his annual visit to the Sue Ryder Home in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, he asked MS patient Karen Drake: "Have you tried taking cannabis? I have heard it's the best thing for it." Drake, 36, said afterwards: "I was surprised but I think I would like at least to try it. Anything that can help relieve the pain can only be for the good."

December 24, 2001: The North Carolina Lexington Dispatch reports the dismissal of 65 criminal cases investigated by three county narcotics officers charged in a federal indictment with conspiracy to distribute drugs. According to a federal affidavit issued in the case, law enforcement officers abused their authority in one or more ways, including writing fake search warrants, planting evidence and fabricating charges, keeping drugs and money seized during arrests, attempting to extort more money from the people arrested, and intimidating suspects and potential witnesses.

December 18, 2002: 108 members of the European Parliament endorse a letter calling on the United Nations and its member states to establish a "system for the legal control and regulation of the production, sale and consumption of substances which are currently illegal."

December 19, 2003: Albert A. Gore III, 21, is arrested for marijuana possession after being stopped for driving a vehicle without its headlights on.

December 22, 2003: The Annenberg School for Communication (ASC) at the University of Pennsylvania releases a report on the Office of National Drug Control Policy's National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. ASC was contracted by ONDCP to analyze the campaign as a whole and their work on marijuana specifically. ASC found there is little evidence that the tens of millions being spent every year are having any discernible impact on use of or attitudes toward marijuana among the nation's youth.

Weekly: This Week in History

December 17, 1914: Congress passes the Harrison Narcotics Act, initiating federal prohibition of cocaine and opiates.

December 11, 1942: The Opium Poppy Control Act is enacted, making possession of the opium poppy plant or seeds illegal.

December 12, 1981: The report of the Task Force on Cannabis Regulation to the Center for the Study of Drug Policy -- Regulation and Taxation of Cannabis Commerce is issued, reading, "It has been observed that marijuana is one of the largest tax-exempt industries in the country today and regulation would end that exemption."

December 17, 1986: Guillermo Cano Isaza, editor-in-chief of El Espectador (Colombia), is assassinated while driving home from work. Cano frequently wrote in favor of stiffer penalties for drug traffickers. His murder leads to a national outrage comparable to the assassination of Attorney General Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, and a subsequent government crackdown on traffickers.

December 15, 1989: Medellin cartel leader Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha is killed by Colombian police in a raid on his Tolu ranch.

December 16, 1991: The US Supreme Court allows a US Court of Appeals ruling to stand which found that the government's interest in screening out possible drug users outweighed the applicant's constitutional right to privacy. Prior to this decision, only federal employees in occupations related to public safety (e.g. truck and bus drivers) could be tested without cause. The ruling opens the door to across-the-board drug testing for millions of businesses and was a boon to the drug testing industry.

December 12, 1995: Director Lee P. Brown announces his resignation as head of the US Office of National Drug Control Policy.

December 13, 1995: In response to a December 1 rally held outside the offices of Boston radio station WBCN to protest the airplay of the NORML benefit CD Hempilation, the National Writers Union and the Boston Coalition for Freedom of Expression issue statements condemning the actions of rally organizers, the Governor's Alliance Against Drugs (GAAD). Both groups are highly critical of the overall nature of the protest and specifically of the alleged use of state power and finances to help institute the rally. Reports note that protesters arrived in state vehicles, attendees were encouraged to "bring their squad cars," and an individual identified as a Boston liaison to the DEA accompanied Georgette Wilson, Executive Director of the GAAD, as she entered the station. "These sort of actions, when performed [and sponsored] by government agents, are specifically [prohibited] by law," charges Bill Downing, president of NORML's Massachusetts chapter.

December 14, 2001: While signing a new anti-drug bill that expands the Drug-Free Communities Support Program, President George W. Bush makes his first official mention that the Administration would begin leveraging its political successes with the War on Terrorism back into the War on Drugs when he says, "If you quit drugs, you join the fight against terrorism... It's so important for Americans to know that the traffic in drugs finances the work of terror, sustaining terrorists, that terrorists use drug profits to fund their cells to commit acts of murder."

December 13, 2002: A disabled, deaf, wheelchair-bound British charity worker returns home after spending two years in a primitive Indian prison after being found guilty of trafficking drugs even though it was a physical impossibility. Stephen Jakobi, director of Fair Trials Abroad, described the case against him as absurd. "There are things that just scream out to you," he said. "I have never actually been presented with a case where the guy is physically incapable of acting in the manner suggested by police."

December 13, 2004: Hungary's Constitutional Court restricts the use of diversion to drug treatment for some drug offenders, narrowing the scope of reform legislation enacted in 2003. In so doing, it also explicitly rejects an argument that the laws against drug possession are unconstitutional.

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