Marihuana and crime

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Author: James C. MUNCH Ph. D.
Pages: 15 to 22
Creation Date: 1966/01/01

Marihuana and crime *

James C. MUNCH Ph. D. Member, Advisory Committee, U.S. Bureau of Narcotics.

Study of the literature on Cannabis sativa indicates differences of opinion among various authors, largely due to improper conclusions from inadequate evidence. This confusion was evident a score and eight years ago today when the testimony before the Seventy-fifth Congress led to the enactment of "The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 ", which became effective 1 October of that year. My personal interest in marihuana, the present designation in the United States for Cannabis sativa, antedates this Act, since I had been invited by Commissioner Anslinger to participate in a series of conferences held by the Bureau of Narcotics. I had undertaken some pharmacological and chemical studies in an effort to determine and detect the product in drug preparations, as well as in animals and man, and had the privilege of joining Commissioner Anslinger in testimony before one of the Congressional Committees which drafted this Act. I have followed this further in recent years, not only in the publications of the Bulletin of Narcotics, but in the world literature in general. Additional information has tended to clarify many misconceptions.

Scientifically it seems desirable to define our terms. "The term " Marihuana" means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant..." [The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, Section l( b)]. Webster's Dictionary ( [ 26] ) carries a number of definitions on crime, of which the most pertinent would appear to be "2. An omission of a duty commanded, or the commission of an act forbidden, by a public law." The term crime is hardly a technical term at common law, but is essentially defined in many of the penal codes in the United States as "an act or omission forbidden by law and punishable unpon conviction by ( [ 1] ) death; or ( [ 2] ) imprisonment; or ( [ 3] ) fine; or ( [ 4] ) removal from office; or ( [ 5] ) disqualification to hold or enjoy any office of trust, honor or profit under the State; or ( [ 6] ) other penal discipline."

_____________

* Based on a speech before International Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association, 1 October, 1965, Fontainebleau Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida.

Much of the confusion regarding the effects produced by marihuana has been the result of petty quibbles regarding the causation of "addiction" or "habituation" This situation has been clarified by the WHO Expert Committee on Addiction-Producing Drugs, in their thirteenth report No. 273 in 1964 by suggesting replacement of both terms by:

" Dependence ... defined as a state arising from repeating administration of a drug on a periodic or continuous basis. Its characteristics will vary with the agent involved and this must be made clear by designating the particular type of drug dependence in each specific case."

By making this distinction the consensus of opinion is that the use of marihuana, whether taken by mouth or more commonly smoked, does produce" drug dependence" ( [ 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 12, 13, 18, 19, 22, 24, 25, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32, 33] ). This meets the objections that have been proposed by psychiatrists, among others, that it does not produce addiction similar to that resulting from use of opium and its derivatives ( [ 15] , [ 16] , [ 23] ).

Based upon personal observations, and discussions with representatives of the bureaux of narcotics in Canada, United States, Mexico, Great Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Holland, West Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Turkey and India, I have prepared a summary of the pharmacology of marihuana (Table I). The conclusions from the available evidence are my personal responsibility and are not necessarily the opinions of the responsible officials in these bureaux.

Available information suggests that different races of people vary in their susceptibility to marihuana, as to all other drugs. It would appear that detailed studies among certain classes of individuals indicate that marihuana may be directly associated with various crimes, whether as a result of a primary cause, or of liberation of inhibitions ( [ 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 30, 33] ). Some evidence is presented that individuals may have criminal tendencies prior to the use of marihuana, which are exaggerated after continued use ( [ 10] ). It has also been suggested that many users, dissatisfied with the responses obtained after using marihuana, discontinue it, and start using heroin, morphine or cocaine (4, [ 11] , [ 13] , [ 22] , [ 24] , [ 27] , [ 29] ); [denied in some reports ( [ 23] )]. In his outstanding text Walton ( [ 24] ) ascertained that 44 per cent of 58 heroin addicts in New Orleans began their drug career by smoking marihuana.

A number of reports have indicated some connection between various crimes and the use of marihuana ( [ 6] , [ 9] , [ 10] , [ 12] , [ 22] ). The Chopras ( [ 6] ) made a study of 1,500 cases, of whom 600 in a mental hospital had been using cannabis. A substantial proportion were also arrested for crime. Fossicr ( [ 9] ) reported that 125 of 450 prisoners in New Orleans at ages between 18 and 31 were marihuana addicts. Since one-fourth of the total prisoners arrested were addicted to marihuana, he reached the conclusion that "marihuana is a real menace to the community." Similar observations were reported by Lambo ( [ 12] ), among others.

Among the more detailed investigations of the relationship between marihuana and crime is the work by Professor C. G. Gardikas ( [ 10] ), Head of the Greek Criminal Service in Athens. His Service surveyed 374 individuals during the period between 1919 and 1950, who were either sentenced or arrested for using hashish publicly. The individuals were divided into three categories: Group (A) included 117 individuals who had neither been sentenced nor arrested for a crime prior to this arrest, and who subsequently were repeatedly sentenced for violent crimes. Group (B) included 53 individuals who had neither been sentenced nor arrested prior to the use of marihuana, and who were subsequently arrested for dishonesty or vagrancy. These groups were combined in the accompanying table 2, showing that the 170 persons received a total of 1247 sentences after the use of marihuana. Of these, 697 sentences were imposed, of which 162 were for violent crimes, 333 for dishonesty, and 137 for vagrancy. By contrast, Group (C) included a total of 204 persons who had been arrested for various crimes previously; and who were re-arrested or resentenced later for intoxication after using marihuana. This permitted contrast of the criminal behavior of these 204 individuals, as shown in the second and third columns of table 2. It is noted that the total number of sentences increased from 758 to 1,674; violent crimes increased from 142 sentences to 236; dishonesty from 398 to 517; and vagrancy from 37 to 139. Among these 204 persons were 22 on whom more specific records were obtained. The total number of their sentences increased from 91 to 331. Sentences for violent crimes increased from 6 to 70; dishonesty almost doubled; and vagrancy increased about four times. Gardikas pointed out that it was difficult to stipulate how much of the criminality was due to psychic constitutional inferiority, but the figures definitely indicate increase in the number of sentences following smoking of marihuana.

Through the kindness of Commissioners Anslinger and Giordano of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics, an opportunity was afforded to review various authenticated Case Reports in the files of the Bureau as typical of the relationships of various crimes committed by individuals after use and while under the influence of marihuana (usually smoked). As representative, table 3 reports details on 69 such cases. This objective evidence supports published statements of the association between the use of marihuana and various types of crime.

The most recent information received from the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs dealing with illicit traffic in Brazil (33) summarizes the situation well. During the four-year period from 1961 to 1964 nearly ten tons of drug in the illicit traffic were seized. The report states: "The addict is soon a useless and harmful member of society. His anti-social behavior is a common phenomenon. There were cases of addicts beating up their parents, attacking younger brothers and sisters ... killing those they loved best ... they will not work but turn to petty thieving and robbery to keep themselves alive ..." Investigations by two experts confirmed a connection between homicide or robbery and the use of marihuana.

Summary

Literature surveys and personal contacts have clearly demonstrated the association between the use of marihuana and the commission of various crimes.

NOTE

Since the above was written, two important contributions have appeared:

  1. The United Nations Secretariat has published under the title "The question of Cannabis" a 250-page bibliography dealing with cannabis, which was presented to the twentieth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs under the document symbol E/CN.7/ 479, 15 September 1965. Dr. Nathan B. Eddy, Consultant on Narcotics, Department of Health, Education and Welfare, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.A., prepared a very helpful Index to the more than 1800 entries.

  2. A Study Group on Hashish met in London on 21 October 1964, in which 26 members participated. Its proceedings were published by CIBA Foundation, under title of "Hashish - its chemistry and pharmacology ", in 1965. The discussions amplify the informa tion in table 1 on the pharmacology of this drug. They confirm a drug dependence and relationship of usage of cannabis to various crimes. The chief of the laboratory of the Division of Narcotic Drugs of the United Nations, confirmed the need for identifying cannabis users by testing of biological fluids such as urine or blood. Such a test is still desirable, but some progress has been reported in thin-layer chromatography.

TABLE 1

Pharmacology of marihuana

1. External
7. Eyes
Yellow stain smoker's fingers. Cold extremities. Hypersensitivity sensation of ants running over skin.
Mydriasis (marked dilation). Blood shot conjunctivae (often diagnostic). Tears.
2. Gastrointestinal tract
8. Glands
No effect on taste. Increase thirst and appetite. Large doses: Nausea, emesis, diarrhea or constipation.
Diuretic. Alleged aphrodisiac.
3. Nervous system
9. Toxicity
Hallucinations, delirium, alternate laughing and crying. Chronic exposure produces brain lesions.
Reported oral lethal dose to man: charas 2 grams/kg.; ganja 8 grams/kg.; bhang (powdered dried leaves) 10 grams/kg. (approximately 1 teaspoon per pound). More toxic when smoke inhaled.
4. Circulation
10. Antidotes
Small doses tachycardia (increasing with dose to rate of 120 per minute or more). Blood pressure unchanged or slight fall. Hypoglycemia (decrease in blood sugar). Slight anemia with chronic use. Death by cardiac failure some individuals after 100 to 200 times therapeutic dose.
Acid drinks, coffee, or caffeine; emetic.
5. Respiration
11. Elimination
Rate usually decreased. Coughing after smoking. Death may follow respiratory failure some individuals.
Not detected chemically in urine.
6. Muscular system
12. Drug dependence
Incoordination with therapeutic dose. Larger doses produce spasm of contracting muscles.
Definitely established. Question under old definition addiction.

TABLE 2

Relation between hashish and crime in Greece (10)

   

Group C

 

Groups A+B

Before

After

Before

After

No. Persons
170 204 204 22 22
No. Sentences
1 247 758 1 674 91 331
Violent ( a)
162 142 236 6 70
Dishonesty ( b)
333 398 517 59 98
Illegal Possession Arms ( c)
65 45 71 4 14
Vagrancy ( d)
137 37 139 12 50
Total Sentences ( a)+( b)+( c)+( d)
697 622 963 81 232

TABLE 3

Cases of crimes in the United States after use, and under influence, of marihuana

Year

Place of offence

Sex

Age

Details

Outcome

Assault and Battery:
1938
Chicago
M
 
Broke nose J. N. by striking with gallon clay jug and pulled knife. Police officer then destroyed growing crop nearby.
Arrested
1937
Chicago
M
24
Attacked woman.
Arrested
1940
Boston
M
 
Assaulted woman; held up auto co.; beat woman stole $3 and jewelry; beat Miss C. stole $75; negro shot Sgt. Cullinen, fled thru back alley; trapped by Sgt. Cannon, so shot self in head, blinded. This started concerted drive Boston vs. marihuana; several major violators arrested.
Hospitalized, arrested
1937  
M
 
Assaulted police officers with dangerous weapon while under influence of marihuana.
Arrested
1935
New Orleans, La.
M
 
Violently attacked officers with knife and revolver while being arrested for possession of marihuana.
Arrested
1953  
M
 
First violator Marihuana Tax Act for illegal possession, penitentiary W. Va. 10 years; released; felonious attack with hatchet.
Re-arrested
1944
Houston, Texas
F
 
Slashed Miss M. Jolly, 18, in quarrel over sales and boys; 3 girls and 6 boys in gang smoked marihuana to get "hopped up" before committing various crimes.
Arrested
1935  
M
30
Assaulted 10-year old girl; admitted being under influence marihuana, so "crazy"; convicted in court trial.
Hanged
1936
San Antonio, Texas
F
 
Two young women arrested for possession marihuana violently attacked Officer C. Cullen.
Arrested
1939
Modesta, California
M
 
Assaulted a housewife.
Sentenced, 50 years
1939  
M
 
Threw glass at bartender while smoking marihuana just bought from peddler.
Arrested
1939  
M
39
Assaulted and shot another man in controversy while both smoking marihuana.
Convicted
Bigamy:
1938  
M
22
After smoking 2 marihuana cigarettes, married waitress, altho already married and with 3-year old child. Everything went blank, and he had no control.
Arrested
Burglary:
1938
Winona, Minn.
M
 
Smoked marihuana for years; held up 3 taxi-cabs.
Sentenced, 10 years
1953  
M
 
Attempted robbery diner; has 16 marihuana cigarettes plus one butt; admitted being confirmed user.
Arrested
Murder:
1921  
M
30
Beat to death with a rock T. Bernhardt, boy, 14, while herding cattle in pasture; accused boy of polluting his water supply. Boy's head crushed, one eye gouged out, and missing. Arrested several hours later, he screamed and tore jail furnishings. Smoking marihuana at time; claimed insane; found to be sane.
Hanged
1944  
M
39
Murdered Ga. Castenada, 29; mutilated her hips and head with razor blades, then castrated self; had been smoking marihuana for an hour before attack.
Arrested, hospital, jail
1948  
M
 
Murdered widow, 60 years old, with accomplice, to obtain money to buy more marihuana for both; confessed attacking and robbing 16 other women
Arrested
1937
Ohio
M
 
First degree murder, blamed on smoking marihuana.
Arrested
1964
Houston, Texas
M
45
Negro shot and killed E. Sampson, Negro, in argument over dice game. Both were marihuana users.
 
1948  
M
 
Negro, smoked marihuana before going out to com- mit various crimes including murder Mrs. I. Koogle. " Poor man's poison. "
Electrocuted
1949
Cleveland, Ohio
M
 
Negro, long criminal record Kentucky, narcotics and manslaughter, murdered barracks mate J. MacElroth at marihuana-cocaine party.
Arrested
1953  
M
 
Negro, shot and killed while attempting holdup grocer in Harlem; plea guilty.
Arrested
?
La Jolla, California
M
16
Paroled juvenile delinquent, under influence smok- ing marihuana, murdered Mrs. I. KacKeown, 67, grandmother, inflicting 35 knife wounds. She called him marihuana user and threatened to call police.
Arrested
1964
Houston, Texas
M
 
Negro, stabbed negro A. Grimes, 30, to death; motive marihuana used.
Arrested unknown;
1936  
M
 
Charged with murder; offered defense he was under influence marihuana at time.
Arrested
1940
Del Rio, Texas
M
30
Shot and murdered his 34-year old sweetheart, A. Antonia, also M. Gomez, nurse. Then inflicted stab wounds his throat, stomach, intestines, heart, genitalia. He had previously committed rape on 12- year old girl, and was free on bail awaiting new trial.
Death
1950
Fresno, California
M
26
Took 17-mo. old J. Yanez from auto, spanked her for crying, shoved her face into mud 200 feet from car; suffocated. Didn't know what happened until blood spots found on shoes and clothes next morning. Blamed marihuana and whisky. His counsel stated: " The real criminal in this case is marihuana "
Executed in gas chamber
1960
Seattle, Washington
M
 
Negro killed wife, then committed suicide. 76 more marihuana cigarettes found in his service station.
Suicide
1933
Tampa, Florida
M
 
Murdered his father, mother, sister and two brothers with an ax, while under influence of marihuana. Didn't know of all this until next morning.
Arrested
?
 
M
 
Smoked his first 2 marihuana cigarettes; jumped 18 feet from hotel window onto adjacent garage roof barefooted, burst into Mr. K.'s room, said " God told me to kill this man ", and beat him to death with fists. Then screaming he was Hitler, jumped thru window 30 feet to pavement, breaking ribs and legs. No recollection in court.
Sentenced, 20 years
1964
Mexico City, Mexico
M
 
Murdered N. Najera in penitentiary by striking on head repeatedly with ax. Argument over who would control marihuana traffic in the penitentiary.
Death
1939
Seattle, Washington
M
26
Negro, crazed by smoking marihuana, attacked a Greek railroad pensioner, J. Karakinikas, 74 years with his bare fists; death. Plea guilty. Smoked 2 marihuana cigarettes at time.
Sentenced, 10 to 20
1943
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
M
27
Hotel bellboy shot and killed elderly guard J. S.. Federal Building; bit 1 of 3 sailors on street. struck small boy; when guard called, took away his gun and killed guard; off singing down hall. other fight, subdued, taken to jail; amnesia next morning. Previously quiet, well-behaved.
Sentenced 10 years
1937
New York
M
39
While both smoking marihuana cigarettes, shot and killed room-mate G. Senical, who wanted to borrow 20 to buy heroin. Put body in trunk, to get rid of it. Arrested that night, had 20 marihuana cigarettes; had been selling in Miami restaurant before crime. Previous criminal record. " I was fearless after smoking marihuana cigarettes but would not have done this without marihuana. "
Arrested
1933
Wichita, Kansas
M
 
Killed in fight over marihuana.
Dead
1936
Wilmington, Delaware
M
 
Killed J. Rhodes while under influence marihuana.
Arrested
1948
New York
M
36
Puerto Rican choked and stabbed Mrs. V. Lotito, hile under influence marihuana. A frequent user, he was married without his knowledge while under influence. He was violent, desperate criminal and habitual user.
Arrested
1954
Chicago
M
27
Shot and killed G. Booris, 69, in lunchroom in Cam- den, N. J. during holdup for $21; then with R. Joaquin, also under influence, F. Crus threatened to shoot him.
Arrested
1937  
F
25
Shot and killed bus driver while under influence, to rob him of about $5; jury trial with her accomplice, both guilty.
Life imprisonment
1955
Albuquerque, New Mexico
M
 
killed him at same time. I. escaped but caught; tried, guilty.
Life imprisonment
1964
Houston, Texas
M
 
Stabbed and killed J. Ward, 24, in bar room fight; was marihuana user.
Arrested
Rape:
1964
San Bartolo, Xaucalpan, Mexico
M
 
Attempted to rape woman, stabbed her and was shot by policeman while resisting arrest. Under influence of marihuana cigarette smoke.
Died
1938
St. Joseph, Missouri
M
37
Smoked 2 marihuana cigarettes, then raped his 7-year old daughter.
Death in gas
1953
Camp Gordon, Georgia
M
23
Indecent exposure 6 occasions to girls 10 to 12 years old; each time under influence marihuana; trumpet, musician; smoking marihuana over year.
Arrested
1937
Clarksburg, West Virginia
M
26
Negro arrested charge raping 9-year old girl. True bill by Grand Jury.
Arrested
1937
Corpus Christi, Texas
M
 
Raped his 7-year old daughter.
Death
1939  
M
 
Teenage, attempted rape G. Raloff under influence marihuana and bay rum.
Life imprisonment
1937
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
M
 
Smoked marihuana 12 years. Arrested for raping his 13-year old daughter. Previous criminal record: assault with knife; sale marihuana; assault with knife; vagrancy.
Arrested
1939  
M
40
Raped G. Raloff, while under influence marihuana and bay rum and threatened to kill her children with knife.
Hanged
1960
Portland, Oregon
M
19
Raped 16-year old high school girl; beat, broke jaw, knocked out upper teeth, in wooded area after beatnick party.
Arrested
1939
San Leandro, California
M
20
Arrested after raping 5 women while under influence.
Arrested
1936  
M
 
Raped 10-year old girl, previous arrest for possession marihuana.
Arrested
1940  
M
33
Forced his landlady, Mrs. M. deLisle to smoke marihuana, and frequently raped her.
Arrested
1937  
M
 
and 6 others, M. and F., age 21-23, arrested Detroit, Michigan for rape, theft, grand larceny.
Arrested
1938  
F
28
Prostitute stabbed Mrs. M. O'Shannon for not co-operating Lesbian activities.
Arrested
1939
California
M
20
Raped 7-year old girl.
Life, San Quentin, no parole
Reckless Driving:
1939
So. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
M
 
Drank brandy and smoked 2 marihuana cigarettes; arrested for reckless driving, speeding, injuring 4 persons before driving into a ditch. Mind blank at time of arrest.
Arrested
1936
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
M
 
Arrested for driving auto in reckless fashion; also possession marihuana.
Arrested
Robbery:
1950  
M
 
Robbed A. Litz in Weinberg Bakery of $5; resisted arrest; possession marihuana.
Arrested
1940  
M
 
Stole gun from employer, held up, shot salesman stomach for not following instructions; attempted rape clerk; stole $75; Police tracked him down, so he shot himself.
Death
1953
Los Angeles, California
M
18
Armed robbery M. Friedman, gun not loaded as afraid might hurt somebody; previous record stole money to buy heroin; had started smoking marihuana in Hollywood high school; 3 years reformatory; got worse.
Arrested
1957
Cincinnati, Ohio
M
28
Negro waiter, with C. J. 30; S. R. and G. G. all smoked marihuana cigarettes over 2 years; 5 counts armed robbery Cincinnati grocery stores.
Arrested
1940  
M
21
Auto theft, after 9 thefts with armed robbery; robbed and shot druggist.
Sentenced, 25 years
?
 
M
 
With another Negro, M. G. arrested after committing 7 robberies under influence marihuana.
Arrested
1936
Pittsburgh
M
 
Robbery and possession marihuana.
Arrested
1953
Bluefield, West Virginia
M
40
Attempted armed robbery Mrs. H. Poole; after seeing newspaper account, vaguely remembered it.
Arrested
1937
Cleveland, Ohio
M
 
With R. B. robbery and assault; guilty.
Arrested
1937  
M
 
7 men, all under 20, terrorized and robbed Central Ohio area. 38 stickups in 2 months while under influence marihuana.
Arrested

References

001

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002

Benabud, A. "Psycho-pathological aspects of the Cannabis situation in Morocco: Statistical data for 1956" Bull. Narcotics, 9 : 1-16 October, 1957.

003

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004

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005

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006

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007

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008

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009

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010

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011

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012

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013

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014

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015

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016

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017

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018

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019

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020

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021

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022

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023

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024

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025

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026

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027

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028

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029

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030

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031

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032

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033

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