Donald Trump and Harry J. Anslinger: Two Peas in a Pod

Like the majority of Americans, I have been dismayed and saddened by the current Republican presidential campaign, which seems totally out of touch with reality. We are all accustomed to politicians bending the truth to make themselves look good, but the current group of GOP candidates seems unhinged –paranoid and seeking to appeal to our worst instincts — totally disconnected to the world in which the rest of us live.

Led by the Donald, this early election season has consisted mostly of demagoguery: unabashed fear mongering, xenophobia, racial prejudice, misinformation and pure fabrication, offered as a substitute for a political platform. And it is especially depressing is to learn that roughly one-third of the Republican voters apparently find this message appealing. This bilge is like fast-food to many who are disillusioned or out-of-work or otherwise feel they are losing out to minorities or immigrants or other segments of society. It is not a pretty site.

His supporters seem to believe any absurd claim that Trump can find on some right-wing, conspiratorial website, or other similar unreliable sources, because it is also where many of them get their “news”; and because it reinforces their preconceived beliefs. Beliefs that President Obama was born outside the US and is therefore not eligible to be US President; that blacks in America are responsible for 81% of white homicide victims (the real number is closer to 15%, according to; that Obama is Muslim and the Obama Administration has been infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood; that 911 was an inside, CIA job; and on and on. There appear to be no limits on their imaginations.

In the end, I assume the political process will find a way to weed-out these candidates to whom truth has become irrelevant, and who are more than willing to use hatred and bigotry and total lies (remember Trump’s claim about those thousands of Muslims in New Jersey who were cheering the downing of the World Trade Center) to try to advance their campaign, regardless of the damage it does to our society.

And if the Republican voters do not find a way to rid themselves of these crackpots – and cannot coalesce around a more mainstream candidate — the American public will have to finish-off Trump in the general election, which should be a cakewalk. While we surely do have some conspiracy-minded dingbats in this country, fortunately they do not comprise anywhere near a majority of the voters.

But it reminds many of us that sometimes the public debate in this country does go off the tracks, as we learned from the study of how marijuana prohibition came about in the first place. We have heard (or more accurately read), this type of irrational blather from a public figure before, and we paid an incredibly heavy price for it. Listening to Trump is like a flash-back to Harry Anslinger: tell a big lie often enough, and it will be treated (by some) as the truth.

The Absurd Justification for the Criminal Prohibition of Marijuana

The first commissioner of the Bureau of Narcotics was a man named Harry J. Anslinger, a former alcohol prohibition agent who had been appointed to head this new federal anti-drug agency, established in 1030, by his wife’s uncle, Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon. To build support in Congress to make marijuana illegal in 1937, Anslinger painted a picture of marijuana as a drug that led to death and insanity, caused white women to become sexual slaves to blacks and Mexican migrant workers, and generally led to depravity and crime. And the media at the time, especially the powerful, right-wing William Randolph Hearst chain of newspapers, were largely uncritical, reporting his most fanciful allegation as fact. It was the beginning of “yellow journalism.”

Few Americans at the time had any familiarity with marijuana, and most marijuana smokers at that time were either Mexican migrant workers or jazz musicians coming out of New Orleans, and it is fair to say that neither group was held in high regard, or had the political power to resist, at the time.

Here are some quotes from Anslinger when Congress, at his request, was considering the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, a bill that passed with only a brief hearing in the House, and none in the Senate. This measure was an attempt by Anslinger to justify a bigger budget for his agency, a pattern that continues even today, when law enforcement agencies continue to support marijuana prohibition, despite its acknowledged failure as a public policy, because it provides jobs for them.

To make the case for the need to criminalize marijuana, Anslinger made the following “reefer madness” claims about the dangers of marijuana smoking:

“By the tons it is coming into this country — the deadly, dreadful poison that racks and tears not only the body, but the very heart and soul of every human being who once becomes a slave to it in any of its cruel and devastating forms…. Marihuana is a short cut to the insane asylum. Smoke marihuana cigarettes for a month and what was once your brain will be nothing but a storehouse of horrid specters. Hasheesh makes a murderer who kills for the love of killing out of the mildest mannered man who ever laughed at the idea that any habit could ever get him….”

And he frequently cited exploitive news reports of violent crimes allegedly committed by those who had been smoking marijuana, to support his call for prohibition:

“An entire family was murdered by a youthful addict in Florida. When officers arrived at the home, they found the youth staggering about in a human slaughterhouse. With an axe he had killed his father, mother, two brothers, and a sister. He seemed to be in a daze… He had no recollection of having committed the multiple crimes. The officers knew him ordinarily as a sane, rather quiet young man; now he was pitifully crazed. They sought the reason. The boy said that he had been in the habit of smoking something which youthful friends called “muggles,” a childish name for marijuana.”

Anslinger’s campaign was based on racial prejudice, as demonstrated by the the following:

“Colored students at the Univ. of Minn. partying with (white) female students, smoking [marijuana]and getting their sympathy with stories of racial persecution. Result: pregnancy.”[

“Two Negros took a girl fourteen years old and kept her for two days under the influence of hemp. Upon recovery she was found to be suffering from syphilis.”

Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act by a voice vote, leading to the arrest of nearly 30 million Americans over the next seven decades, with roughly 90% of those arrests for simple possession for personal use. Anslinger and his reckless campaign of misinformation wrecked havoc on our society, that continues still today in many states.


So as we prepare for the 2016 election cycle, let’s focus our support on candidates who respect our right to decide for ourselves whether or not to smoke marijuana; and let’s reject those demagogues who wish to impose their version of morality on the rest of us, and who seek to demonize entire religions and ban immigrants from entering the country. They are no better than Harry Anslinger was in the 1930s, and we must not go down that path again.

Let’s make sure we elect a president who will continue the Obama policy of allowing the states to adopt marijuana legalization, without federal interference. And let’s get behind those several legalization initiatives that are expected to appear on the ballot in a half-dozen states in November, and add an impressive new list of states that have discovered the advantages of taxing and regulating marijuana, instead of arresting smokers.

Let’s reject demagoguery and racism, and embrace personal freedom and inclusiveness.

43 thoughts

  1. I realize that NORML is a political organization, but I hope we can keep our personal political opinions from mixing with NORML’s objectives.

    Keith along with many Americans disagree with almost all of Trump’s policies, however when it comes to marijuana he has not been a strong prohibitionist. In fact, he has only addressed the issue a couple of times in which he expressed his opinion that states should be left alone to regulate marijuana.

    I really think this editorial has no place on NORML, and if anything is exactly the type of thing that Trump’s poll numbers thrive on.

  2. Just as Kieth said,”The Donald” will be dispatched in short order to his rightful place by popular vote. Harry Anslinger and all who carry the torch of prohibition are the true criminals of this seventy year injustice. My hope is to live long enough to see an end to it all. Use your vote people, its the loudest voice for change and will restore cannabis to its rightful place. Learn, Practice, Educate, and Advocate for all things Cannabis.

  3. Then I should be listening for Ending treason against the Republic and crimes against humanity namely mass murder.

  4. Who is the alternative? Hillary or Sanders? No thanks. I’d rather my vote go to some who isn’t worse than what we have now.

    Trump is my second choice, but if Rand Paul doesn’t get the nomination, Trump will get my vote.

    I want someone in office that actually cares about my country.

  5. Wow, i am a little shocked now. First things first: Trump is for letting states decide, whether to weed or not to weed. Be careful @Hillary!! Women have always been pro prohibition – it was actually the very first thing, women ever voted for when they got the right to vote!! Make no mistake!! Hillary will not end prohibition. (And what did Obama do for legalization??)

    But what makes me write a comment: Do not defend Islam. As an US-citizen you obviously have no §#$% idea what Islam is. Please do never ever again talk about this cult again and do not mix it up with unrelated topics. Actually – and this is not easy to think about – the Batanclan killers where heavy smokers. As others were. Do not infantilize these people. They do not need your help.

    In defense of Trump: the 1.6B Muslims are not able to fix the problem of violent Islam. Since 1400 years. Worldwide. PC-talk won´t fix it either.

  6. In other words, vote for Bernie Sanders if you want marijuana descheduled within the next couple of years, or Hillary if you just want it resecheduled and keep people in jail. (Vote for Trump if you’re a £#€*!n¥ idiot).

    Anslinger: “Marijuana makes Mexicans rape our white women.”

    Trump: “Mexico is sending us their rapists…”

    Soooo… Trump was clearly reading from Anslinger’s handbook. (“I’m gonna make pro-hiBition Bettah… And make tha Mexicans PAY for it..”.) How ironic is it that the conspiracy theorists are the Republican candidates while marijuana consumers and advocates are the ones delivering facts. (Although, I should point out that Trump could have done more for security at the Trump towers while he still had the maintenance contracts after an Islam extremist bombed the basement back in ’92… Just statin the facts… Just the facts…) Thats why the entertainment media limits interview time on marijuana legalization and Bernie Sanders. There’s Nobody from any legitimate group to legalize marijuana showin up to a spot on CBS or FOX lookin all chinese-eyed (Heeeey… Trump is Chinese-eyed… And he’s not Chinese!) y’know, like they just fell out of a VW bus with Chong. Nope; nobody but us suit-and-tie marijuana nerds and Bernie Sanders with all his boring “facts.” Even Jon Stewart was all orgasmic when Trump announced he would run before he left the Daily Show… It’s easy entertainment! All you have to do is put Trump’s puckered lips next to a pic of a Sharpe dog’s @$$hole! SAME thing!!!

    This race is between Hillary and Bernie. The real question is how many seats from prohibitionist Congressman are going to be lost next year because so many younger voters will FINALLLY VOTE! If you havnt been to this site before, click on the Take Action link at the too right hand corner and Check your local NORML chapter to find out which Congressman is rated best for your state’s marijuana legalization. Light it up 2016!

  7. With all due respect, and as a supporter of NORML for over 15 years, I find this to be, by far, the most sensational, ridiculous article I’ve ever seen NORML publish.

    As a progressive Democrat I in no way support Donald Trump, but comparing him to Harry J. Anslinger is absolutely absurd, and putting the comparison in your title seems to be nothing but pure click-bait.

    In fact, surprisingly enough, Trump is one of the more progressive candidates when it comes to cannabis, having said he supports state rights and is in “100% support” of medical cannabis, whereas Anslinger is the key reason cannabis, including for medical use, was prohibited to begin with.

    NORML… start living up to your legacy and focus on reform, not sensational garbage.

    With love and respect,

  8. It is deeply saddening the intellectual barrenness the modern successors to those who protested the war in Viet Nam have. So, have YOU found a pic of the plane at the Pentagon (the one often shown looks like the canopy of a fighter jet, on a passenger plane; but it is only trees), or in Shanksville just after it supposedly crashed?

    If Obama wasn’t born in Kenya, then why is the birth certificate published at an easily demonstrable fake? Just load it into Photoshop or Illustrator to see the layers of a supposedly pre-Adobe document. In addition to this, in order to be a “natural born US citizen” as required by the Constitution, his need not be born in the US, but his parents must be citizens. No one even alledges his father was. He therefore is not eligible for the post. He has conducted far more secret and illegal wars than Nixon!!! Daily “kill lists” which are publicly acknowledged. Who do you think they are carried out by? Secret “death squads”. From the Constitution: “No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; …”. Nixon never dared as much!

    There is no end to the imaginations of hipsters who think that govt. is really not “that bad”. You give four conspiracy theories, one of which I’ve never heard supported by the likes of It is the only one you bother to give facts to refute.

    It is a sad day, when the heirs to the legacy of protesting the Viet Nam war are intellectual pushovers.

  9. Yes, gains are being made in pot law; but lawful government is being rolled back hand over fist; starting with the Federal Reserve Act, which nullified parts of the Constitution requiring gold and silver to be lawful money (where has it got us? MASSIVE PUBLIC DEBT!!!). The Patriot Act and related acts pretended to take away our right a fair trial. The daily “kill list” can include US citizens to be killed without a trial.

  10. I don’t see the connection to Trump and NORMLs endorsement of this article. Please help me out here. What is Trumps stance on pot? I thought he fully supported medical. Call him a racist and you might not be wrong, but I don’t get all this.

  11. Hi NORML,

    Just FYI:

    Trump is for medical and for states’ rights on cannabis.

    There’s mention of Marco Rubio in this article, and he’s as bad as it gets on cannabis issues.

    Stick with cannabis law reform, NORML. Please. I may not be a Trump supporter, but to think Hillary is any better is foolish.

  12. Keith you own this problem (exploitable FEAR of ganja grounded in populationcranium, belief in “drug effects” caused by $igarette format but flamed on cannabis), you have co-created it (not opposing HBOMP Hot Burning Overdose Monoxide Paperbustion!!), now Say Sorry (like Rahm), take the First Step:

    museumize that suitntie PICTURE with the oldstyle “Joint”-in-hand Gesture cavalierly wasting some of the rolled-up 500-mg $mokedosage (and toddlers will think it’s a $iggerette ad), and publish a photo or animecartoon of vapoconverted you and Marc Emergency, sharing a 25-mg single Vapetoke on a doubleflexdrawtube one-hitter.

  13. A family member of a recent Muslim terrorist attack in England blamed marijuana for the incident. He said that marijuana led his brother to radical Islam. I am fairly confident that anyone who is elected president will continue to allow States to legalize and tax marijuana. With the exception of Chris Christie.

  14. How could Sir Stroup forget Trump’s 1990 declaration, that the drug war must be wholly reversed?! That was a grim time period – when no other citizen of his magnitude had the guts to make any such pronouncement! He’s already “100%” for MMJ, in this election endeavor. Look, Keith – if you were an OTR trucker, you’d discover that most of America’s largest companies are manned by illegal aliens who make no attempt to learn English. If you don’t mind abstaining from Cannabis for a spell, I’ll be glad to take you in my truck and show you for yourself. I’ll pay your rider insurance and it’ll be my treat. You’ll stand with Rand, and vote Trump in the general election, by your own volition, that way. Citing incomparable bad guys of the past is not appropriate… Anslinger? Come-on! BTW, I thought that the in-law relation between he and Mellon was discredited. Was Andrew Mellon also DuPont’s banker, in the 1930’s? I Love Ya, Keith. I always do look forward to reading your essays. You’re one of my favorite people. But your ‘progressive’ slant reminds me, today, of how Hillary thinks that hemp has something to do with hip replacement. Did you high-five Al Gore, after his receipt of Herer’s book, in 1991, when he said, “You’ll have to trust us, on this”? When is Gore going to tell Hillary what hemp, is? Nobody else ever has! Progression, my flat tire!

  15. “Marihuana” is a federally defined term. It is supposed to be a definition, not a racist federal jobs creation plan. We can inject common sense into the law by contacting our representatives in Congress and suggesting that they enact this succinct reform to the existing definition which puts the prohibition where it should be:

    16. The term “marijuana” means all parts of the smoke produced by the combustion of the plant Cannabis sativa L. which is prohibited to be grown by or sold by any publicly traded corporation or subsidiary company.

    This year is a good time fix that definition that it upholds our Constitution.

  16. There all good buddies at the top,perhaps their using Trump as a sort of Pied Piper to split the Republican party into two factions,while he lures the extremist into the far right field, to make it easier for the Democrats and Hillary.Once that happens, then we jump ship and vote for Bernie Sanders.

    Thanks, Trump.

  17. Ok, looks like some people are getting their feathers in a ruffle from pickin on el Donald while he’s pickin on… Pretty much anyone he can.
    First, in Keith’s defense he basically said vote for someone who isnt campaigning on bigotry and racism, which clearly Trump represents. (BTW, @Pete, New York’s wall street was settled by a Dutch-muslim pirate by the name of Anthony Van Jansen, otherwise known as “the Turk.” He is a common ancestor of such proud Americans as Jacklyn Kennedy Onassis and Humphry Bogart… And perhaps even you and Trump? He brought the first Koran to the U.S. and became a law-abiding tax paying citizen when the Dutch sold New Amsterdam to the English).
    Now, in Trump’s defense on marijuana, he did have some good quotes about legalization, but considering Trump was officially “fired” from back in 2011 for telling so many lies, he is not exactly credible at his word.
    So here’s the factcheck on Trump and marijuana:
    He did have a good quote back in 1990:
    “The only way to win the war on drugs is to legalize them and spend the revenue on drug education.”
    Sounds great, I wish that was his campaign, but in fact he currently stands for medicinal only. Here’s a link with video of what he says in response to legalization:
    As soon as he said “states should decide” he follows up with Colorado “not exactly being problem free.”
    …Well neither is Trump.
    (Psst… Trump; the point is everyone knows that save for a recent rightwing fanatic shooting up an abortion clinic, Colorado’s violence has gone down since legalization while revenue from tourism has paid the bills… You know what? Fhugettaboutit. I want to see you and Sanders debate!)

  18. I think Keith was going for the correlation that Trump, like Anslinger, is highly racist, fear mongering sensationalist with Broadway style speeches that clearly bend fabric of reality. I’m glad Keith wrote this. He has always helped us remember the true history of Cannabis prohibition and the start of the War on Drugs / Free choice.
    The fact is, Anslinger, was one of the most evil humans to walk this planet. He in concert with many right wing 1%’s of his time developed this fabrication to take away rights of others, pure and simple. Trump, isn’t far from that. The decision to choose, that free will, should never be removed from our society. And whether you choice is to smoke cannabis, live a simple life off grid or choose the religion that you feel completes you that must be protected and not interfered with by our government.

  19. Is Donald Trump really worth discussing here ? I can see the danger you are highlighting though – i.e. that some people still believe any sensationalist rumour, no matter how ridiculous, if told from the right source. But also remember we are in a new information age where ideas get endlessly scrutinised via web sites and social media. Donald Trump has one sixth of the vote (maybe) and everyone else is against him.
    If you are to be concerned about anyone turn your attention to that prohibitionist monster Chris Christie – now he really does think like Anslinger !

  20. Keith,

    I totally concur. Anslinger vilified certain people, certain minorities, to push his agenda, and The Donald does exactly the same thing. Somewhere Adolf Hitler is smiling.

    PS–Nobody can best The Donald when it comes to lying, obfuscating and distorting. One tiny example: He continually bloviates about how he “built” his money empire, but rarely mentions the fact that his daddy left him an inheritance of from $40 to $100 million friggin bucks! Geez, I might’ve been able to build a money empire, too, if only my pops had willed me $40 mil.

    This is a guy who’s filed corporate bankruptcy four times! (Yeah, I want someone like that directing our economy!) Like other corporate moguls, he’s obviously learned how to use our very skewed economic system to win even when he loses.

    Those who would vote for Trump obviously prefer a plutocracy–rule by the rich–over democracy. I myself prefer to live in a democracy.

    1. Hillary has never filed bankruptcy. She takes her cash directly from the Saudis and others.

      Do you think the Saudis will be egging her on to end Prohibition? Or might they be of the opposite persuasion.

      Can Hillary be bought? Her donors seem to think so.

  21. No reason to bring Trump in on this. Fluff like this just pushes leveled headed individuals away from reading more articles. Obviously an anti-Republican rant. Me thinks this is not the place. The dems are just as stupid anyways… just sayin

  22. There are many, many reasons to dislike Donald Trump, and I believe that there is a need for a good effort to rally against him.

    This article, though, does not belong here.

  23. Ignorance is not bliss. Trump and Clinton are showing the nation how much the office is bought and not earned.

  24. I found this article to be most informative, now I would like to see the same information forthcoming on all the presidential candidates regardless of their party.

  25. …The lust for political power here or any country for that matter, but particularly in the U.S. as it has so much wealth and technology to feed the agendas… is about the “manipulation of perception”…The “Corporate ~ Media ~ Industrial ~ Political Empire” is absorbed in this process. Marijuana is an herb, with adaptogenic healing powers, psychologically, spiritually and physically, and for that matter economically and environmentally. Its enormous healing potential is an extraordinary threat to the power structure which spins lies and manipulates perception….to enable it to turn “Truth” into “Lies”…etc etc….This con has been going on for many many decades and that is what Mr. Stroup is pointing at in this article, and it applies to every generation of Power Politics in the “Industrial Machine” called “America”….a shell game to confuse, distract, manipulate and exploit human beings to be possessed, controlled, by a very cold hearted materialistic/atheistic power structure at the expense of individual Freedom, Democracy and Spiritual Health and Liberation…These archaic laws agains Marijuana were put in place for that reason only, and to feed a demonic, demagoguery which is severely threatened by change, individual Freedom, Enlightenment and Human Liberation.

  26. ….ha…i just read a article that said…”Republicans are 84% more likely to declare war on countries that don’t exist, than make PEACE with countries that do exist”….what a surprise ~

  27. Keith,

    Thank you for writing this! I’m so glad to see people in your position taking a stand against the extremism that has infected politics in the United States. It’s important to remind people of the racism, xenophobia and demagoguery that was deployed to justify prohibition. We must not forget the people that have suffered under these draconian laws. It is essential that we remain vigilant when it comes to social justice. Wishing you well.

    Cecily Friday Shamim
    Executive Director
    Tennessee Cannabis Coalition

  28. Mistake, in my opinion, for you and your organization to bash a presidential candidate who may be a favorite of many cannabis advocates. He may be theatrical in the way he presents his views but if you investigate what is really going on around the world instead of believing the corrupt politicians and following mainstream media, you just might find out that what he is saying is pretty much the truth. I love cannabis!

  29. This is a misleading headline. It led me to think, to my surprise, Trump had come out against cannabis. The actual content of the article says absolutely nothing about his stance on marijuana legalization, but is just an excuse to bash him. The reality is he said in 2011 he was for full drug legalization. Recently he has said he is for medical marijuana being legal nationally and letting states decide on recreational legalization.

    Far from the implications of this headline.

  30. Nice article, NOT. I believe prohibition is a complete utter failure as well, but to say that the democrats have more to offer for this country is delusional!! Talk about out of touch with reality, THOSE PSYCHOS are complete buffoons!! I mean Bernie Sanders???? Hillary Clinton??? Seriously come on!

  31. Good article. I just want to inform everyone that Republicans are what’s wrong with our country. Instead of worrying about real issues, they care about stopping abortions and immigrants and their main issue- making the rich 1% even richer. They claim to be “religious” but have nothing but greed. The fact that would try to elect a moronic joke like Trump speaks volumes. I am voting for whatever Democrat wins the nomination. I love God and marijuana and I am not going to back down ever!! Never do it yourself, either!!! Go Dems Go Pot!! We will win. Godspeed.

  32. If yall don’t mind, Im going to continue to smoke marijuana like I have for the past 50 yrs. As far as your political ambitions, it may come as a shock to you that conservative ‘folks’ smoke pot too. You thinkin Hillary Clinton would be a good choice to run the country eh? and that Barack Obama is a man of honesty and integrity? Im gonna keep smoking what Im smoking. Obviously, what youre smoking has altered your sene of reality…

  33. I don’t care what Trump said, I highly doubt he’d fully legalize Marijuana. He’s a liar and can’t be trusted for anything except flushing our country down the toilet like BUSH. Even if he actually did it would come at a high price with every program that helps the lower 20% gutted like Social Security. And entrusting the safety of our country to a know-nothing ridiculous blow hard greedo like him is very troubling and irresponsible and dangerous to say the least… It is stupid lunacy to vote for a man like Trump if you’re not rich and even then it’s a waste of a vote. Hillary or Sanders are the RIGHT votes. Keep on smokin’.

  34. Let’s all stop the bullshit. Donalds antics are nothing more than a political diversion. Let’s be serious for a moment. He’s not going win, nor will he even be top 5 at the poles.

    What everyone seems to have forgotten is the real issues at hand: unemployment, reducing heathcare cost, racial inequality, and a rapidly dwelling war on drugs. The politician who can hone in on these issue’s will be the next president.

    Thank you NORML for the humorous recap of this man’s ridiculous political campaign, but watching it live on TV is so much better. He’s not only making a fool of himself, the poor party that endorsed him, his future business opportunities will suffer greatly as well. Not to mention roughly 95% of Americans are ashamed of him & have to endure the ridicule from the rest of the world for being lumped in the same catagory as Donald Trump- American citizens.

    Keep up the great work NORML.ORG!!!

  35. Despite the platform Republican policy is to let the States decide. Even Ted Cruz changed his tune to that position.

    In addition Trump is 100% for medical cannabis. Hillary say: “it needs more research”.

    Ya know. You are not going to get the laws changed if you only appeal to Democrat supporters.

    Young Republicans favor an end to Prohibition.

  36. 1 year later… We all know what Trump does… trust old men with their own agendas.

    You are all fools who voted him in. And we will bring him down soon enough. For now AG is in hot seat for other issues, let alone this, but the people will not stand for that prohibitionist arse wipe.

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