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oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of October 3rd, 2010

We lead this week's report with the extraordinary news of the decriminalization of marijuana in California.
Mark Weiss Charles Shaw
3 October 2010

Marijuana Decriminalized in California as Governor Schwarzenegger acknowledges Fiscal Reality

In a landmark move of common sense, Governor Schwarzenegger signaled his agreement with Jeffrey Miron’s assessment of the economic unsustainability of criminalization as a "no brainer".  In defense of his decision, Governor Schwarzenegger was quick to dispel any indication that the move hinted at a softened stance on Proposition 19, saying that he opposed decriminalization for personal use:

“In this time of drastic budget cuts, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement, and the courts cannot afford to expend limited resources prosecuting a crime that carries the same punishment as a traffic ticket." 

The move was welcomed by California NORML Director Dale Gieringer, contending that “Californians increasingly recognize that the war on marijuana is a waste of law enforcement resources."

Source: Stop the Drug War

 

Republicanism and the ‘War on Drugs’ – Mutually Exclusive?  Not According to Jeffrey Miron

Hopelessly inconsistent with free market economics; out of step with the rest of the conservative agenda; hard to reconcile with constitutionally limited government; fiscally irresponsible; exacerbating concerns over illegal immigration; hindering conservative opposition to gun control; hampering the war on terror; and negatively impacting the ballot box. Drug Legalization should be a ‘no-brainer’ for conservatives says senior Harvard Lecturer Jeffrey Miron. 

Below follows a brief summary of his key observations:

Fiscal irresponsibility: Prohibition entails government expenditure of more than $41 billion a year. At the same time, government misses out on about $47 billion in tax revenues that could be collected from legalized drugs

Hinders opposition to gun Control: High violence rates in the U.S. and especially Mexico are due in part to prohibition which drives markets underground and leads to violent resolution of disputes

Illegal immigration: Violence created by drug prohibition in Mexico and Latin America is an exacerbating factor in illegal immigration – lower violence rates would translate into lower rates of illegal immigration

Limited Government: None of the enumerated constitutional powers authorizes Congress to outlaw specific products, only to regulate interstate commerce. Laws regulating interstate trade in drugs might pass constitutional muster, but outright bans cannot

The war on terror: This Afghan opium trade is highly lucrative because U.S. led prohibition drives the market underground. The Taliban earns substantial income protecting opium farmers and traffickers from law enforcement in exchange for a profit share.  U.S. opium eradication loses the battle for hearts and minds 

Legalization could also aid the war on terror by freeing immigration and other border control resources to target terrorists and WMD rather than the illegal drug trade 

The ballot box: Many voters find the conservative combination of policies confusing at best, inconsistent and hypocritical at worst. Because drug prohibition is utterly out of step with the rest of the conservative agenda, abandoning it is a natural way to win the hearts and minds of these voters

Free markets: Drug prohibition is hopelessly inconsistent with allegiance to free markets, which should mean that businesses can sell whatever products they wish, even if the products could be dangerous

Individual responsibility: Prohibition is similarly inconsistent with individual responsibility, which holds that individuals can consume what they want — even if such behavior seems unwise — so long as these actions do not harm others 

To read Jeffry Miron’s full article in the Los Angeles Times, follow this link

Source: Los Angeles Times


Too Close to Call as Lead Narrows in Battle for Proposition 19

With an encouraging, though not enormous nine point lead in the polls, oD’s previous Drug Policy Report urged Proposition 19 supporters to maintain the momentum.

Since then the gap has narrowed to only seven points, (49% to 42%), with the vote now less than a month away. With 50% needed to secure overall victory, the campaign for a rational evidence based approach to drug policy is just within grasp. You can be sure that those in opposition will be redoubling their efforts – and so we cannot afford any room for complacency.

Prop 19 is benefiting from the massive media attention it has generated. More than eight out of 10 (84%) California voters have heard about Prop 19, and 50% of those say they will vote for it. Marijuana legalization in California is within grasp this November. Get out the vote efforts will be critical as this race goes to the wire. 

To read the latest statistics, follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

A Trip Down Memory Lane

In a week in which the deadline for consultation responses to the proposed UK Drug Strategy drew to a close; the Californian Proposition 19 lead narrowed; and Afghan opium production halved, Stop the Drug War’s David Guard takes a trip down memory lane in drug policy.

October 4, 1970: Legendary singer Janis Joplin is found dead at Hollywood's Landmark Hotel, a victim of what is concluded to be an accidental heroin overdose.

October 2, 1982: Ronald Reagan, in a radio address to the nation on federal drug policy, says, "We're making no excuses for drugs -- hard, soft, or otherwise. Drugs are bad, and we're going after them. As I've said before, we've taken down the surrender flag and run up the battle flag. And we're going to win the war on drugs."

October 2, 1992: Thirty-one people from various law enforcement agencies storm Donald Scott's 200-acre ranch in Malibu, California. Scott's wife screams when she sees the intruders. When sixty-one-year-old Scott, who believes thieves are breaking into his home, comes out of the bedroom with a gun, he is shot dead. A drug task force was looking for marijuana plants. After extensive searches, no marijuana is found.

September 30, 1996: President Bill Clinton signs into law the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act for 1997. FY1997 totals provide increased drug-related funding for the two leading drug law enforcement agencies in the Department of Justice: FBI ($2,838 million) and DEA ($1,001 million).

October 3, 1996: US Public Law 104-237, known as the "Comprehensive Methamphetamine Control Act of 1996," is signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

It contains provisions attempting to stop the importation of methamphetamine and precursor chemicals into the United States, attempting to control the manufacture of methamphetamine in clandestine laboratories, to increase penalties for trafficking in methamphetamine and List I precursor chemicals, to allow the government to seek restitution for the clean-up of clandestine laboratory sites, and attempting to stop rogue companies from selling large amounts of precursor chemicals that are diverted to clandestine laboratories.

October 1, 1998: The increase in funding of prisons and decrease in spending for schools prompts protests by California high school students.

October 5, 1999: The war on drugs is "an absolute failure," says Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico at a conference on national drug policies at the Cato Institute. Johnson, who drew sharp criticism from anti-drug leaders for being the first sitting governor to advocate legalizing drugs, argues that the government should regulate narcotics but not punish those who abuse them:

"Make drugs a controlled substance like alcohol. Legalize it, control it, regulate it, tax it. If you legalize it, we might actually have a healthier society." Johnson also meets with founding members of Students for Sensible Drug Policy; footage from the meeting appears on CBS evening news.

October 6, 2000: Former US President Bill Clinton is quoted in Rolling Stone: "I think that most small amounts of marijuana have been decriminalized in some places, and should be."

Source: Stop the Drug War

Two Mayors Murdered, Six Tortured and Shot, and a Drug-Boss Killed – A week in the Life on Mexico’s Front Line

Another week, another hundred lives lost – and so the futile war on drugs continues. While California may be on the precipice of radical change, the lot of the Mexican people remains bleak.  Stop the Drugs War’s Bernd Debusmann, Jr. brings us the very latest round up of events from the increasingly militarized front line, where conflict between the armed forces and cartels see many innocent lives ruined in the crossfire:

Friday, September 24: In Nuevo Leon, the mayor of the town of Doctor Gonzalez was shot and killed outside his home alongside his personal assistant. The motive for the killing remains unclear. Doctor Gonzalez is just over 30 miles from Monterrey.

Saturday, September 25: In Obregon, Sonora, a known-drug boss and reputed member of the Sinaloa Cartel was shot and killed with two other people. Reyes Castro Molina, 48, had previously been suspected of involvement in the assassination of Mexican singer Sergio Vega. Several days ago, a note threatening Molina was left with two dismembered bodies near the town of Sinaloa De Leyva. Molina attempted to flee while shooting at his attackers, but died after being hit by an AK-47 round.

Sunday, September 26: In Chihuahua, the bodies of six young men were discovered in an automobile. The bodies, which were discovered on the Jimenez-Villa Lopez highway, had been dead for at least two days. They had all been tortured and shot in the head.

In Ciudad Juarez, a man was killed and cut into pieces and left on a street corner. Additionally, his eyes had been gouged out and his genitals removed, according to one report. A note left by his killers accused the dead man of "killing innocent women" and being in the employ of a drug boss.

Additionally, a suspect in a July car bomb attack which killed three people was captured in the Ciudad Juarez. Jose Ivan Contreras Lumbreras, 27, allegedly killed a man and dressed him in police uniform to lure police to the bomb.

In Sinaloa, a 12-year old boy was shot in the head and killed after gunmen attacked the ranch in which he slept.

Monday, September 27: In Tancarito, Michoacán, the mayor and a city advisor were stoned to death and left in the bed of a pickup truck. Tancarito Mayor Gustavo Sanchez and city advisor Rafael Equiha were found near the city of Uruapan. Tancarito, a small town of 26,000, has long suffered from high levels of drug-related violence. Last year, the entire police force of 60 officers was fired after doing nothing to stop a series of drug-related attacks. Gustavo Sanchez is the fifth Mexican mayor to have been killed in the last six weeks.

In Coahuayana, Michoacán, five gunmen and a marine were killed in a firefight. Eight gunmen and a marine were killed in Reynosa.

In the city of Chihuahua, gunmen stormed a state police facility and stole arms and ammunition. Nobody was injured or killed in the incident. The raid is unprecedented as it is the first time a state police facility has come under this sort of attack. Approximately 43 assault rifles and 26 pistols were taken, along with grenades, body armor and tactical gear. Mexican news sources reported that the men were dressed in CIPOL (the state police intelligence unit) uniforms.

Tuesday, September 28: In Morelia, Michoacán, a judge has dismissed criminal charges against five police officials who had been arrested for links to drug trafficking organizations. The four state police and one city police officer were all from the port city of Lazaro Cardenas. All had been accused of protecting members of La Familia.

Total Body Count for the Week: 103 / Total Body Count for the Year: 8,152

Source: Stop the Drug War

"The verdict doesn't surprise me since they rigged the trial" – Legal Distributor Convicted of Medical Marijuana Distribution

It was a case of second time lucky for San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis in her personal crusade to convict medical marijuana dispensary owner Jovan Jackson.

Jackson’s conviction was unsurprising, yet not because he had operated outside the strict regulatory framework for his practice, but because in an alarming sign of a “sordid culture of hostility that surrounds these issues,” Dumanis persuaded the trial judge in the case to disallow Jackson from mentioning medical marijuana in his case – giving the jury little option but to “find him guilty of three counts of possession of marijuana possession and distribution.”

"By refusing him a defense, the district attorney and the court have railroaded Jackson and ensured his conviction," said Americans for Safe Access (ASA) chief counsel Joe Elford, who submitted an amicus brief in support of Jackson prior to his trial. "Jackson was denied a fair trial," Elford continued. "His conviction and the basis on which the court relied in refusing him a defense -- that sales are illegal under state law -- should absolutely be appealed."

To read more about this case, the issues it raises, and the potentially positive moves local governments can make in implementing the state’s marijuana law, please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

Drug Prohibition is ‘Futile’, says Former Spanish Drug Czar

As former Director General of Spain’s National Drug Plan, a former Judge in the Criminal Chamber of the Audiencia Nacional, and Professor of Criminal Law at Madrid’s Complutense University; Araceli Manjón-Cabeza is in a position to make an informed view of Drug Prohibition.

From this position she concludes prohibition; "installed in the United States at the beginning of the 20th Century, and imposed by that country on the rest of the planet, has failed"

Manjón-Cabeza is not alone in this view. Her comments come only a week after former Prime Minister Felipe González called for drug legalization. She cites a list of pro-legalization luminaries from Milton Friedman to novelist Mario Vargas Llosa; Latin American ex-presidents Henrique Cardoso, Ernesto Zedillo, and Cesar Gaviria; and the 17,000 who have signed the Vienna Declaration calling for evidence-based drug policies.

The stark reality of the war is demonstrated most powerfully by the painful failed exercise of the Mexican Experience, "the clearest proof" of the ineffectiveness of drug prohibition.  Accepting the probable rise in drug use should legalization be pursued, the economic and social cost-benefit for Manjón-Cabeza weighs clearly on the side of evidence based drug policy. 

She argues "quality control, preventing the ills associated with consumption of illegal poisons; reductions in price, reducing the indices of drug-induced delinquency and delivering consumers from especially unhealthy and dangerous markets, and leading them to a legal controlled market" are all factors tipping the scales in favor of a change in direction. 

Manjón-Cabeza goes further; legalization, she says; "would deprive organized crime of its most profitable activity, deprive it of part of its ability to corrupt public and private wills and infiltrate the licit economy; dispense with the legal exceptionality demanded by persecution and repression of the drug trade, which, at times, brings us to the limit of what the state of law is able to support.”

Beyond this, Manjón-Cabeza hits at what she sees as the real crux of the matter; “it would make vanish the pretext of the United States that an effective struggle against the drug trade justifies its intervention in the affairs of other countries punished by that whip."

Placing prohibition in a wider context, she presents a critique of the US's prohibitionist crusade, which began a century ago as inspired by "racist motives...economic motives...political motives."  This, she argues includes "finding one of the pretexts – others have been communism and Islamic terrorism -- to legitimize the intervention of a great power in the evolution of other countries."

Source: Stop the Drug War

The Times they are a’ Changin – Gubernatorial Candidates Favor Marijuana Decriminalization

With clear positions in favor of decriminalization, Vermont and Connecticut Democratic Gubernatorial candidates Peter Shumlin and Dan Malloy are a sign of a changing political climate. Explicitly and repeatedly referring to the issue during his campaign, Shumlin argues, "we simply are penny wise and pound foolish to be using law enforcement dollars to lock up criminals when they're dealing with small amounts of marijuana,"

The focus, Shumlin asserts, should be on “meth dealers, cocaine dealers, heroin and the really tough drug challenges we face as a state." While not so vociferous, Dan Malloy nonetheless he "absolutely supports" decriminalization.

Both candidates are leading their respective polls, with Malloy ahead 6.5 percentage points while Shumlin leads by a narrower 3 percentage points. With a closer battle to win, Shumlin has the support of the Marijuana Policy Project who believe that with Shumlin as Governor, a decriminalization bill can pass Vermont next year.

Source: Stop the Drug War

Groundbreaking NTA Research offers new hope for Drug Addicts

Defining success in drug treatment is a complex question. In an international first, the UK’s National Treatment Agency has followed the post-treatment journey of thousands of drug users over a four year period, and delivered a closer understanding of how to frame treatment goals.  The study discovered that “almost half of those discharged in one year subsequently demonstrated sustained recovery from addiction.”

By matching four years' worth of National Drug Treatment Monitoring System data with Drug Test Records and the Drug Interventions Programme, the NTA evaluated the long-term outcomes of drug treatment for 41,475 people who left treatment in England in the financial year 2005-06.  It included both those who left in a planned way, and those who dropped out. The key findings were:

  • Strong evidence of sustained recovery from addiction was found for almost half of all the clients discharged from treatment during 2005-06. Around 46% neither came back into treatment, nor were they found to be involved in drug related offending in the following four years
  • Of the remainder discharged in 2005-6, about half came back directly into treatment, mostly within a year; and a further third were re-directed back into treatment through contact with the criminal justice system
  • Of those who left treatment but subsequently re-offended using drugs, 65% went back into treatment.  This indicates they got a second chance to overcome their addiction

Chief Executive of the NTA, Paul Hayes, said:

"These findings are very exciting because they help us define more accurately what 'success' looks like for drug treatment. Typically, a user coming into treatment is heavily addicted, in poor health and has low self-esteem.  They are often at their peak of criminal activity and the prospects for long-term recovery from drug addiction can seem bleak

Experts agree heroin and crack cocaine users take several years to overcome addiction, and need repeated attempts before they do.  This means annual statistical reports of numbers in drug treatment can present a distorted picture of a system that is subject to a steady ebb and flow of people coming and going over a longer time frame

Now, thanks to our extensive NDTMS database, we can follow the treatment journey of individuals over successive years and demonstrate to users and the people who work with them that positive change and recovery from addiction is possible."

“A Long Term Study of the Outcomes of Drug Users Leaving Treatment September 2010” can be found on the following link

Source: National Treatment Agency

Vienna Declaration in Five New Languages

The Vienna Declaration is now available in five more languages thanks to the European Drug Policy Initiative (EDPI)

The Declaration is a powerful call to stop the global war on drugs: it urges governments and international organizations to put human rights, scientific evidence and public health into the center of drug policies. By now more than 17.000 individuals endorsed the declaration - a significant achievement but we believe there are much more people all over the world who think it is time to reform the global drug control regime.

The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) would like to contribute to the success of this call by its own means: we asked our partners in the (EDPI) to translate the Declaration to their own languages. We are glad to present you the Vienna Declaration in five new languages: Bulgarian, Dutch, Hungarian, Norwegian and Romanian - thus, tens of millions of more people can read the document in their native languages now.

The translations are available here:

Виенска декларация (Bulgarian)

De Verklaring van Wenen (Dutch)

Bécsi Nyilatkozat (Hungarian)

Wien-erklæringen (Norwegian)

Declarația de la Viena (Romanian)

Source: Drug Reporter

The ‘Golden Triad’ to Reducing Criminal Recidivism

“Mother California – A Story of Redemption Behind Bars,” is more than an autobiographical account of the life of lifer; a man serving a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole, or, perhaps more aptly, “the other death sentence.”

For Karen Franklin, “through (Kenneth) Hartman, we witness how three decades of irrational, tough-on-crime rhetoric has plunged California's prisons into an abyss of despair, violence, and criminal recidivism, all the while emptying the state's financial coffers.”

The book is an often harrowing account of “how far the advocates of punishment-for-the-sake-of-inflicting pain will go to turn the clock back" and erase the progressive reforms won by prisoners during the 1970s.

Franklin draws attention to the “Golden Triad,” offered by Hartman in one of his philosophical essays on the prison system as the three proven ingredients to reducing criminal recidivism:

Increased and enhanced visiting to build and maintain family ties

  • Higher education
  • Quality drug and alcohol treatment

To learn more about Kenneth Hartman’s autobiography, philosophy and “Honor Yard” – Hartman’s effort to put his accumulated wisdom into practice, follow this link

Source:  In the News – Forensic Psychology, Criminology and Psychology-Law

‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind’ – Lord Mayor advocates Rehabilitation Relocation

In a controversial move sparking outrage, Councilor Gerry Breen – Lord Mayor of Dublin – has suggested that drug treatment centres and homeless hostels should be relocated to the suburbs.  The Mayor contends that Dublin has been plagued with problems associated with the congregation of the homeless and drug addicts:

“We have to deter drug dependent people from coming into the city centre because what we have now in the city centre is an atmosphere of ghettoism….They house them in hostels and B&Bs and then they are dumped out on the street in the mornings and have nowhere to go.”

“We need to make the city centre a place where 13-year-olds feel safe coming to shop, where families and older citizens feel safe…If people have the perception that it isn't safe on the street, then I am going to address that.”

However, in a stinging criticism, Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, Pat Carey, countered:

“This attitude is disappointing and runs totally contrary to the spirit of the National Drugs Strategy. That strategy is all about communities accepting responsibility...it is certainly not about shunting people and their problems to the suburbs or ghettoizing our drug problem. This out of sight, out of mind approach to drug rehabilitation is not what we are about.”

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Labour North Central Councilor goes further, arguing that the Mayor’s comments are “dangerous and not befitting of his office…Cllr Breen has a responsibility as Lord Mayor to bring this city together, to be a unifying force, and to make Dubliners believe in their city again. He has made a poor start. And the poor deserve better.”

Read more about this ongoing war of words in the Dublin People

Source: Dublin People

Royal Society of Medicine Damns ‘Lazy Stereotyping’ as ‘Crazy Chemist’ targets Young People

‘Unsophisticated’, ‘appalling image’, ‘lazy stereotyping’, ‘reminiscent of propaganda’ – to say that the UK Government’s new ‘legal highs’ information campaign for young people has been poorly received is to understate it. 

Comprising posters, cards and materials on the government’s ‘FRANK’ website, the campaign features an individual of shaven head and psychotic appearance, identified as ‘The Crazy Chemist’, said to be in need of ‘human lab rats.’ National centre for expertise on drugs and the law, Release, argue that by reducing ‘complexity to one simple, easy to grasp idea’, it is questionable whether the campaign will have an impact in real terms among the very people it is seeks to reach out to.

Release argues that ‘young consumers of drugs, legal or otherwise, are often much more sophisticated in their understanding of the issues of risk and health than governments credit. As a consequence, the appeal to a campaign which is frankly infantile in its messaging is unlikely to be effective. One can quite readily imagine the ‘Crazy Chemist’ figure being turned into an icon along the lines of the film ‘Reefer Madness’

Accurate, considered and realistic information is essential to a well structured and cohesive drug policy.  For Release, this campaign is “unsophisticated, and reminiscent of propaganda rather than education. The fact is that ‘legal highs’ are an opportunistic move made on an unregulated market composed largely of people who do wish to take drugs, many of them being educated consumers who negotiate risk as part of their lifestyle.”

To make up your own mind, see the Crazy Chemist by following this link

Source: Release

‘No Room for False Optimism’ as Afghan Opium Production Halves

"This is good news but there is no room for false optimism; the market may again become lucrative for poppy-crop growers so we have to monitor the situation closely," said Yury Fedotov, UNODC’s controversial new Executive Director.

Total 2010 opium production is estimated at 3,600 metric tons (mt), down 48% from 2009. The decrease was largely due to a plant infection hitting the major poppy-crop growing provinces of Hilmand and Kandahar particularly hard.

Last year, surveys indicated that farmers were willing to consider abandoning opium cultivation due to the low price it fetched. After a steady decline from 2005 to 2009, prices are rising again, effectively reversing a steady downward trend.  Prices have increased by 164% over 2009, to $169 per kg.

In the short run, the decline in opium production has pushed prices up. Despite the drop in overall production, the farm-gate income of opium farmers rose markedly.  Now that opium is commanding high prices again, the gross income for farmers per hectare has increased by 36 per cent to US$ 4,900.

Compounding the problem was the low price of wheat, an important alternative crop. "We are concerned that in combination with the high price of opium, a low wheat price may also drive farmers back to opium cultivation" said Mr. Fedotov.

Mr. Fedotov called for a comprehensive strategy to rein in the Afghan opium threat, including by strengthening the rule of law and security, and spurring development efforts. "Corruption and drug trafficking feed upon each other and undermine any development effort in Afghanistan. We must continue to encourage the Afghan government to crack down on corruption.

The first priority was to curb demand. "We must not forget the consumer side of opium's deadly equation.  Unless we reduce the demand for opium and heroin, our interventions against supply will not be effective. As long as demand drives this market, there will always be another farmer to replace one we convince to stop cultivating, and another trafficker to replace one we catch."

"We need a broader strategy to support farmers throughout Afghanistan by providing them with access to markets and a secure environment.  Stability and security, combined with sustainable alternative development opportunities, will give farmers the chance to make a living without resorting to opium poppy cultivation", said Mr. Fedotov.

Source: UNODC

Safer Injecting Facilities Linked to Increased Uptake of Addiction Treatment, Study Shows

We end this weeks report with news of an encouraging Canadian study into safer injecting facilities.

For those arguing that Safer Injecting Facilities delay entry into drug treatment, supporting and compounding the perpetuation of illicit drug use – research carried out by the Vancouver based British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS has successfully demonstrated the exact opposite of this assumption.

The results of the three year study, which monitored 1090 clients visiting the Insite clinic were very encouraging; "73% accessed addiction services, a figure higher than that amongst the general population of injection drug users…additional factors identified by the study as contributing to cessation included regular attendance at the SIF and contact with counselling services based at the facility."

For Dr. Julio Montaner, President of the International AIDS Society, the message is clear; “SIFs have been shown to increase addiction treatment, reduce rates of crime and incidence of HIV, prevent drug overdoses, and now help people who use drugs quit injecting.”

As Stop the Drugs War point out, Safe Injecting Rooms “provide a range of benefits to drug users, including reduction of overdose, monitoring of general health, provision of counselling and advice services, in addition to contributing to community life by reducing the crime and nuisance often associated with street drug use. Access to treatment services is another objective, which, as the study shows, the facilities are able to realize.”

To view the abstract of the study follow this link

Source: Release

 

 

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