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Politics

Interview: Small Business Owner and Sec. of State Brian Kemp

1/22/18--On January 16, 2018, former Georgia Secretary of State and small business owner, Brian Kemp, joined Merion West’s Henri Mattila for an interview to discuss his vision for Georgia as he campaigns for Governor. Read

Marijuana money increasingly flowing to Republican lawmakers

1/21/18--Marijuana business owners are increasingly pouring their profits into lobbying lawmakers as they face a federal crackdown from the Trump administration. A USA Today survey found hundreds of thousands of dollars flowing from the cannabis industry into campaign finance accounts of both lawmakers and political action committees, with emphasis this year on Congressional Republicans who are trying to stop the Trump administration from targeting marijuana businesses. Read

Congressman Earl Blumenauer wants to see medical marijuana in professional sports

11/6/17--Congressional cannabis champion Rep. Earl Blumenauer is the latest public figure to weigh in on medical marijuana in professional sports, urging both the NBA and NFL to stop persecuting their players for using a natural painkiller. Read

The drug industry’s triumph over the DEA

10/15/17--A handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills. The DEA had opposed the effort for years. The law was the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market. Read

Rep. Earl Blumenauer testifies that medical marijuana could solve opioid crisis

10/11/17--In response to Congress failing to recognize that medical marijuana may be a simple and effective solution to the opioid epidemic, Oregon Democrat Rep. Earl Blumenauer made remarks in a testimony before a U.S. House Subcommittee on Health hearing on proposals for ending the crisis. Blumenauer demanding an end to the federal government’s “stranglehold” on medical cannabis research. He called on Congress to pass the Medical Marijuana Research Act of 2017, which would enable “robust” research to resolve the lingering questions surrounding the efficacy of medical marijuana. Read

Trump Drug Enforcement Administration choice to light up pot politics

9/30/17--President Trump will replace the nation's top anti-drug  when Chuck Rosenberg steps down after more than two years leading the Drug Enforcement Administration. It's unclear who Trump will make acting administrator, or if that person will be a placeholder or a long-serving acting administrator like Rosenberg and his predecessor Michele Leonhart, who went three years without Senate confirmation. Read

Sen. Al Franken adds name to marijuana legislation

9/21/17--On Tuesday, Minnesota Senator Al Franken officially became the fifth person to sign on as a co-sponsor for a pro-cannabis legalization bill that would authorize marijuana growers and cultivators to be eligible for taxation. If passed, the measure would further legitimize the manufacture and sale of weed—and the very signing itself indicates Franken’s ever-growing platform on pot. Read

Jeff Sessions may soon have a green light to wage war on medical marijuana businesses

9/17/17--The Rohrabacher-Blumenauer Amendment, which was proposed in 2014 and has been renewed in the federal budget each year since then, disallows the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and federal regulators from using federal dollars to prosecute marijuana businesses in states that have passed medical marijuana laws. However, this protection may soon fade away, possibly giving Capitol Hill's top marijuana opponent, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a green light to trample states' rights and prosecute medical-marijuana businesses. Read

These 3 things will change no matter who succeeds Christie (yes, marijuana’s on the list)

9/18/17--Come January, things will change in the state of New Jersey no matter who the state taps to succeed Gov. Chris Christie, including more marijuana, taxes, and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to fight global warming. As far as the issue of marijuana is concerned, the major party candidates, Phil Murphy (Democrat) promises to join states like Colorado that have legalized recreational use of pot, while Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (Republican) opposes legalizing pot for recreational use, but supports expanding New Jersey's medicinal marijuana use and decriminalization. Read

Pot at poker tables? Democrats push weed to boost New Jersey finances

9/13/17--With Atlantic City’s gambling heyday now past, politicians in the Garden State are aiming to grab marijuana’s riches while neighbors again play catch-up. Beyond the political will and public opinion favoring legalization, New Jersey has a financial incentive to beat New York and Pennsylvania for access to a legalized market where North American consumers spent $6.7 billion in 2016. Read

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch announces his support for medical marijuana research, releases new bill

9/13/17--Sen. Orrin Hatch believes medical marijuana has “possible benefits.” He’s introducing the Marijuana Effective Drug Study Act of 2017, a proposal focused on removing the “bureaucratic red tape and over-regulation” that the senator feels might impede research into the drug’s potential use for patients. Read

Oshkosh Common Councilor Caroline Panske convicted of marijuana possession

9/8/17--Oshkosh Common Council member Caroline L. Panske, who was in favor of easing penalties for marijuana possession last year, has been convicted of possession of marijuana. She was convicted in August after a July traffic stop in Waushara County led to two misdemeanor charges — possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia — and a citation for driving with an open intoxicant. Read

Senators want Feds to make sure dispensary marijuana is safe

9/11/17--A powerful Senate panel is urging federal agencies to make a number of surprising marijuana moves, including launching an effort to test products sold at dispensaries in states where cannabis has been legalized. Concerned about a lack of data on the potency and purity of cannabis available to consumers, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee is directing federal agencies to formulate a “National Testing Program for Schedule I Marijuana-Derived Products.” Read

House committee rejects medical marijuana protections

9/7/17--In a significant blow to medical marijuana advocates, patients, and cannabis companies around the nation, the House Rules Committee has blocked protections for MMJ patients and banks that want to serve state-legal cannabis businesses. The actions mean the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, a version of which has protected MMJ patients since 2014, will not proceed as part of the spending package to a vote by the full House. Read

Congressman proposes budget amendment to protect marijuana research from DOJ

9/1/17--Republican congressman Rep. Matt Gaetz, a freshman lawmaker representing the western panhandle of Florida, has proposed an appropriations amendment to provide safe harbor for medical cannabis research in the majority of U.S. states. If included and passed, it would provide protections for researchers of Schedule I substances in states that have legalized some form of medical cannabis. Read

Paraguay politician arrested in Bolivia with 50 tons of marijuana

8/25/17--Bolivian authorities seized more than 5 tons of marijuana in the possession of three Paraguayans, who were subsequently arrested: political figure Fredy Alberto Godoy Segovia and his partners Sixto Gilberto Biordo and Edgar Salomón Sanabria Núñez. This was Bolivia's biggest marijuana seizure this year, highlighting how deeply involved Paraguay's officials have become in the highly profitable transnational drug trade. Read

Colorado defends its legal marijuana program in strong letter to Jeff Sessions

8/24/17--Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) and Attorney General Cynthia Coffman (R) mounted a vigorous defense of their state’s legalized and regulated marijuana program, replying to a critical letter from Attorney General Jeff Sessions that was directed at states that have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes. In a response letter, Hickenlooper and Coffman tell Sessions that their state’s numerous marijuana laws and regulations are “effective.” Read

Here’s what Jeff Sessions got wrong on marijuana, according to Washington state officials

8/24/17--Officials in Washington state think U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has it all wrong when it comes to the state’s legal marijuana market. Last week, Gov. Jay Inslee and State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, both Democrats, fired off a letter saying Sessions recently made “a number of allegations that are outdated, incorrect, or based on incomplete information.” Read

Congress appears ready to buck Sessions on medical marijuana

8/23/17--Congress will likely renew protections next month for state medical marijuana laws, but pro-pot lawmakers and advocates are still watching nervously in case Attorney General Jeff Sessions launches a last-minute sabotage campaign. The amendment, offered by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), will soon expire unless Congress renews it. It appears likely lawmakers will include the language in a spending bill keeping the government open past Sept. 30, with one possible hiccup – intervention by Sessions, who’s famously known for his abhorrence to cannabis. Read

Why the Marijuana Justice Act legalizes marijuana the right way

8/16/17--According to Jim Patterson, The Hill opinion contributor and CEO of Eaze, a cannabis technology that connects people to doctors and dispensaries for on-demand consultations and deliveries, the Marijuana Justice Act, introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), is a bold step forward in transforming the industry as we know it. Patterson says the bill will shine a light on how marijuana policies have negatively impacted targeted communities, specifically low-income communities of color. Furthermore, it seeks to undo some of the damage that Booker aptly describes as, “the unjust application of the law and economic bias.” Read

Harwell ‘open’ to medical marijuana law in Tennessee

8/12/17--The treatment of her sister's back injury has caused Republican gubernatorial candidate Beth Harwell to reevaluate Tennessee's ban on medical marijuana. She still opposes the legalization of recreational marijuana; however, earlier this year Harwell formed a House task force to work on proposals to address opioid and prescription drug abuse in Tennessee. The panel will evaluate medical marijuana as part of that process. Read

Lawmakers halt bill to let VA doctors prescribe pot for pain

7/26/17--Republican lawmakers have blocked a vote on a bill that would have allowed Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend medical marijuana as a pain treatment in states where the drug is legal. The House Rules Committee stopped a proposed “Veterans Equal Access” amendment from moving to debate on the House floor by keeping the measure out of the House’s proposed VA funding bill for next year. Read

Marijuana, taxes key topics in Woodland city council race

7/21/17--At least two Woodland City Council candidates, Nate Cook and Keith Bellisle, want to see the city’s ban on recreational marijuana stores lifted, and a third, Dave Plaza, said he’s open to the idea, too. Marijuana is just one of many topics the three candidates have to debate as they compete to replace outgoing council member Marilee McCall for the Position No. 3. Read

Marijuana legalization: The new Reefer Madness

7/12/17--In a published commentary featured in The Hill, Kevin Sabet, president and CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, presents his argument for why the proposed Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment is bad for public health and safety. Sabet deems restricting the Justice Department's spending on enforcement in states that have violated federal law and passed medical marijuana initiatives as a back-door gimmick to legalize marijuana at the federal level, while also benefiting major criminal organizations seeking legal cover for drug trafficking. Read

Ed Markey demands apology from Kellyanne Conway for comment on addiction

6/26/17--Senator Ed Markey issued a fiery statement Monday demanding an apology from White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, after she stated that people suffering from drug addiction need “a four-letter word called ‘will’ ’’ in an interview about health care’s role in stemming the ongoing opioid crisis. Markey, in a statement, said Conway’s words are a “death sentence’’ for those suffering from opioid addiction. Read

How six senators are leading the fight for federally legal weed

6/22/17--There's a growing core group of senators who are urging the federal government to catch up with the states when it comes to medical marijuana. A bipartisan and ideologically diverse group of six senators introduced legislation that would allow the laws legalizing medical marijuana in 29 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam to supersede the current federal prohibition on weed. It also would make it easier for epilepsy patients and veterans to access medical marijuana, while loosening restrictions on researching weed. Read

Al Franken and Rand Paul join forces to protect medical marijuana from Jeff Sessions

6/16/17--Senators Al Franken and Rand Paul, among others from both sides of the aisle, have come together to craft a bill that would guard against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is dead set on getting rid of rules that keep the DOJ from enforcing federal drug laws in the case of states that allow medical marijuana. Read

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, staunch marijuana legalization supporter, to run for Colorado governor

6/12/17--U.S. Representative Jared Polis plans to join the race for Colorado governor this week. Polis is a founding member of Congress’ Cannabis Caucus, a bipartisan group dedicated to promoting and protecting the marijuana industry. In joining the race for governor, the Boulder Democrat will advocate a vision for Colorado that tests how far to the left the state has shifted politically in the last decade. Read

American Legion to Trump: Allow marijuana research for vets

5/20/17--The American Legion, one of the nation’s most conservative veterans’ groups, is appealing to President Trump to reclassify marijuana to allow large-scale research into whether cannabis can help troops suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Under current rules, doctors with the Department of Veterans Affairs cannot even discuss marijuana as an option with patients. Read

Congress’ weed guy grapples with the Trump Administration

5/19/17--Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) has been one of America’s most outspoken public officials on liberalizing America’s marijuana laws. He is now tasked with serving as an unofficial liaison between official Washington and a cannabis industry concerned about the prospect of a federal crackdown on it. Blumenauer remains upbeat about the prospects for the industry, insisting that nationwide legalization is four years away, at most. Read

Bipartisan legislation seeks to undermine Sessions’ sentencing memo

5/18/17--Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ former colleagues in the Senate are pushing back on his order to federal prosecutors to pursue the most severe penalties possible for defendants, including mandatory minimum sentences, and introducing legislation to give federal judges more discretion to impose lower sentences. Republican Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who co-sponsored the legislation, said that Sessions’ new policy will “accentuate” the existing “injustice” in the criminal justice system. Read

President Trump signals: War on drugs back on in the USA

5/12/17--President Donald Trump and United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions signaled that the DOJ will enforce the laws, and seek maximum sentences for drug law violators. Apparently, the Drug War looks like it is back on, and as a result some marijuana industry stocks are heavily impacted by the news and the notion that the Drug War is back on in the U.S. Read

Coming soon: vending machines that scan your fingerprints and sell you pot

5/12/17--American Green, a Phoenix-based cannabis technology firm, recently developed a vending machine prototype that will check a customer's ID using biometric verification, and sell pot or other age-restricted items to anyone legally allowed to buy. The option is being presented as ideal for consumers hoping to get their hands on marijuana while avoiding face-to-face contact with a seller, or perhaps someone they know. Read

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell weighs in on marijuana

5/7/17--NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell weighed in on the possibility of medical and/or recreational marijuana use in the NFL. Goodell tore down any hope that the NFL would become the first major sport to allow its players to use marijuana without facing drug-testing repercussions. Read

Federal prosecutors may again push for harsher sentences

5/9/17--Justice Department officials have been weighing new guidance that would encourage prosecutors to charge suspects with the most serious offenses they can prove. If embraced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, this could result in an increased use of rigid mandatory minimum sentences that critics have called unnecessarily harsh. Read

Trump says he reserves right to ignore medical marijuana protection provision in spending bill

5/8/17--President Donald Trump signed his first piece of major legislation on Friday, despite his objections to numerous provisions included in the measure. One such provision prohibits the Justice Department from using any funds to block implementation of medical marijuana laws by states and U.S. territories. In a signed statement that accompanied the bill and outlined his objections, Trump said he reserved the right to ignore the provision. Read

Rohrabacher says he’ll take medical marijuana fight with Jeff Sessions to Supreme Court

5/5/17--Rep. Dana Rohrabacher hopes to convince Attorney General Jeff Sessions that good people smoke pot sometimes. But if he can’t, Rohrabacher said he'll make is argument in court with Sessions. The Republican congressmen believes, “If we have to take it all the way to the Supreme Court, we will win on this.” Rohrabacher, who has used cannabis himself to ease arthritis, has unexpectedly become a leading figure in the fight to legalize marijuana at the federal level. Read

Trump indicates where he stands on medical marijuana

5/6/17--President Donald Trump, who has stayed mum on the topic of marijuana since the election, finally gave an indication as to where he stands on the issue by stating: "Division B, section 537 provides that the Department of Justice may not use any funds to prevent implementation of medical marijuana laws by various States and territories. I will treat this provision consistently with my constitutional responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Read

Marijuana industry relieved after Sessions signals no looming pot crackdown

4/29/17--The marijuana industry is feeling some relief after Attorney General Jeff Sessions met with Democratic Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and signaled he will leave state pot laws alone. Despite harsh rhetoric against marijuana since his confirmation as Attorney General, Sessions allegedly implied federal marijuana enforcement in legal states is not a real priority for the Department of Justice. Read

Gubernatorial candidates consider broader marijuana laws

4/22/17--Candidates for New Jersey governor are considering embracing efforts to authorize recreational use in the state. Industry watchers say they’re optimistic legalization will move forward, even if they are unsure about the pace. Read

Trump adviser urges him to keep Sessions from harassing state-legal pot suppliers

4/3/17--Roger Stone, the longtime Republican operative and adviser to Donald Trump, is publicly urging the president to reject Attorney General Jeff Sessions' "outmoded thinking on marijuana" and keep him from harassing state-licensed canna businesses. Read

Trump’s apparent drug czar pick has strong “no” vote record on marijuana, including CBD oil

4/12/17--Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., will be President Trump’s drug czar, according to a report from CBS News. Marino’s congressional voting record is that of a hard-liner on marijuana issues, and he recently said that he’d like to put nonviolent drug offenders in some sort of “hospital-slash-prison.” As drug czar, Marino would oversee the Office of National Drug Control Policy, a branch of the White House that advises the president on drug policy issues. Read

How Jeff Sessions wants to bring back the war on drugs

4/8/17--Sessions has yet to announce specific policy changes, but law enforcement officials say that Sessions and one of his top lieutenants, Steven H. Cook, are preparing a plan to prosecute more drug and gun cases and pursue mandatory minimum sentences. The two men are eager to bring back the national crime strategy of the 1980s and ’90s from the peak of the drug war, an approach that had fallen out of favor in recent years as minority communities grappled with the effects of mass incarceration. Read

7 marijuana-related bills introduced in US Congress

4/2/17--A total of seven bills that would support the marijuana industry were introduced in Congress last Thursday, three in the Senate and four in the House. The new bills seek similar, but not identical, changes to U.S. laws related to the cannabis industry. Read

Maher, Roger Stone share marijuana cake on TV

4/1/17--HBO host Bill Maher and former Donald Trump campaign adviser Roger Stone shared a marijuana cake on “Real Time” on Friday night after finding common ground on marijuana policy. Maher later noted that it was the 420th episode of "Real Time" and asked Stone to bring out what he referred to earlier as a "420 cake." Read

Daiber noncommittal on recreational marijuana, prefers ballot initiative

3/29/17--Bob Daiber, who serves as Madison County’s education chief, appears to be trying to straddle the marijuana-legalization issue. Apparently, he is “still researching the legalization of marijuana recreationally and cannot weigh in on one side or the other.” Capitol Fax reported that he is “in favor of a ballot initiative to allow voters to legalize marijuana of their own free will, similar to what had occurred in Colorado and Washington.” Read

Johnny Isakson endorses removal of pot from DEA’s Schedule 1 list

3/14/17--U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson favors the removal of marijuana from the Schedule 1 list of banned drugs — which now lumps pot with controlled substances such as heroin and LSD. When asked about the subject by a constituent with multiple sclerosis, Isakson touted the medical benefits of cannabis oil, as well as work in the state Legislature to expand access for people fighting severe illnesses such as cancer. Read

If Trump cracks down on pot, where does that leave Mass.?

3/7/17--Officials in the four most recent states to legalize marijuana — including Massachusetts and Maine — are languishing in limbo after signals from the Trump administration that a recreational marijuana market crackdown may be coming. Massachusetts’ top marijuana regulator, Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg, asked the Trump administration for an explanation of its intentions on the issue. A Trump spokesman predicted “greater enforcement” efforts against recreational marijuana, but provided no specifics. Read

NFLPA plans to explore whether marijuana is safer alternative to opiates

3/3/17--The NFL and NFL Players Association are trying to strike a proper balance regarding the permissibility of marijuana. For now, marijuana remains banned. For changes to happen, the NFLPA will need to make concessions, but instead the NFLPA is apparently planning to apply pressure to the league based on medical research. Specifically, if the NFLPA can prove that marijuana is a better alternative for pain management than opiates, the NFL may have no choice but to embrace the substance, at least for medical reasons. Read

Elizabeth Warren demands Jeff Sessions respect state marijuana law

3/3/17--A bipartisan group of senators, led by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions urging him not to undo a 2013 policy permitting states to set their own recreational marijuana regulations. The push is a response to recent mixed messages from the Trump administration on whether it will enforce federal law, which still bars recreational marijuana use, or leave the decision to implement the federal policy to the states. Read

Otter wants Trump to crack down on weed

2/17/17--Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter urged President Donald Trump to use the full power of the federal government against neighboring states that have legalized marijuana. The price Idahoans are paying, according to Otter, is that people are bringing marijuana into the state. Read

New Mexico GOP calls out House Speaker for failing to disclose cannabis ties

2/15/17--The Republican Party of New Mexico criticized the Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf of Santa Fe for not disclosing his work as an attorney for a licensed marijuana producer as the Legislature considers several cannabis-related bills. Egolf says he complied with disclosure requirements by listing each state agency before which he has represented a client, and that he sees no conflict in acting on marijuana-related legislation that is not specific to his client. Read

Pro-pot lawmakers launch a Congressional Cannabis Caucus

2/16/17--Republican congressmen Dana Rohrabacher (California) and Don Young (Alaska) joined Democrats Earl Blumenauer (Oregon) and Jared Polis (Colorado) to launch the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. They are dedicated to developing policy reforms that can bridge the gap that exists between federal laws banning marijuana and the laws in an ever-growing number of states that have legalized it for medical or recreational purposes. Read

National DA group mobilizes to advise Trump on pot policy

1/30/17--Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett has been selected to join a group of prosecutors from across the country who will help advise the Donald Trump administration on policies regarding marijuana. Read

Maryland General Assembly ethics committee hires special counsel

1/20/17--The General Assembly ethics committee that's investigating Del. Dan K. Morhaim's work with a medical cannabis company has hired a lawyer to assist with the review. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, who on Friday disclosed the hiring of the special counsel, said the action underscores the serious nature of the investigation. Read

Congressmen launch joint political effort to pass marijuana laws

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-10-14-06-pm12/9/16--Two members of Congress, Reps. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., are joining forces to create the Cannabis Caucus in hopes of improving the odds to passing federal marijuana reform bills. The caucus will be made up of members of Congress who see marijuana reform as an important issue, and it will focus on a bipartisan effort to pass bills, Rohrabacher said. Read

7 reasons President Trump is unlikely to fight legal marijuana

screen-shot-2016-12-27-at-10-20-28-am12/8/16--With Donald Trump nominating Cabinet members who have spoken out against legal marijuana, some are arguing that the war on drugs may make a comeback. Time magazine presents seven reasons why it would be hard to stop what the states have started. Read

5 things Trump’s AG pick has said about cannabis

screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-7-30-00-am11/18/16--Trump’s nomination of US Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) for US attorney general bode well for cannabis programs in legal states. Despite Trump’s reassurances he would respect state laws, past statements by Sessions make clear that the Alabama Republican is no friend of cannabis. Leafly highlights some of his many statements from his years in public office. Read

VA urged to support access to medical marijuana

tmr_image-block11/20/16--The Weed for Warriors Project, the country’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to helping veterans find relief from service-related disabilities through the use of medical marijuana, on Veterans Day called on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to stop blocking the legal, ethical, and responsible use of medical marijuana and safer medical alternatives for veterans. Read

Trump’s choice for top law enforcer has cannabis proponents fearing future

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-7-30-26-am11/20/16--When Donald Trump offered Sen. Jeff Sessions the position of attorney general, the pick drew criticism from civil rights groups and immigrant advocates. In the fast-growing, multibillion-dollar marijuana industry, it is also raising fears. Sessions is no fan of marijuana or its legalization, based on his previous comments, and as attorney general he would oversee federal prosecutors and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Read