Medical Marijuana

Shona Banda Faces Decades in Prison Because Her Son Questioned Anti-Pot Propaganda

A fifth-grader's comments about marijuana lead to felony charges against his mother.


In Live Free or Die, a 2010 memoir recounting how cannabis oil saved her life, Shona Banda emphasizes the importance of "self-taught knowledge," acquired by constantly asking questions and "looking at all of the angles of any information given." Her son may have learned that lesson too well. Had he been less inquisitive, less prone to question authority, he might still be living with his mother, and she might not be facing criminal charges that could send her to prison for decades.

Banda, a 38-year-old massage therapist who appeared in criminal court for the first time last week, is free on a $50,000 bond while her case is pending. She was able to pay a bail bondsman the $5,000 fee necessary to stay out of jail thanks to donations from supporters across the country who were outraged by her situation. The case has drawn international attention partly because it features draconian penalties and a mother's forcible separation from her 11-year-old son but also because of the way it started.

During a "drug education" program at his school in Garden City, Kansas, on March 24, Banda's son heard some things about marijuana that did not jibe with what he had learned about the plant from his mother. So he spoke up, suggesting that cannabis was less dangerous and more beneficial than the counselors running the program were claiming. That outburst of skepticism precipitated a visit to the principal's office, where the fifth-grader was interrogated about his mother's cannabis consumption. School officials called Child Protective Services (CPS), which contacted police, who obtained a warrant to search Banda's house based on what her son had said.

As translated by the Garden City Police Department, Banda's son "reported to school officials that his mother and other adults in his residence were avid drug users and that there was a lot of drug use occurring in his residence." From Banda's perspective, what her son had observed was her consumption of a medicine that had "fixed" her Crohn's disease, alleviated her pain, and restored her energy. "I had an autoimmune disease," she says in a 2010 YouTube video during which she displays the scars left by multiple surgeries aimed at relieving her crippling gastrointestinal symptoms. "With Crohn's disease, it's like having a stomach flu that won't go away." But after she started swallowing capsules containing homemade cannabis oil, she says, her life was transformed. "I'm working for the first time in four years," she says. "I'm hiking. I'm swimming. I'm able to play with my kids [two sons, one of whom is now 18]….Anything beats raising your kids from a couch and lying there in pain all day." Banda's personal experience aside, there is scientific evidence that cannabis is an effective treatment for the symptoms of Crohn's disease.

As far as the police were concerned, none of that was relevant, since Kansas is not one of the 23 states that allow medical use of cannabis. In the cops' view, what they found at Banda's house—"approximately 1 ¼ pounds of suspected marijuana"—was contraband, not medicine. And when CPS caseworkers took Banda's son away from her, they were protecting him, not kidnapping him. "The most important thing here is the child's well-being," Capt. Randy Ralston told the Associated Press. "That is why it is a priority for us, just because of the danger to the child."

The precise nature of that danger remains mysterious. Ralston says "the items taken from the residence"—the marijuana, plus "a lab for manufacturing cannabis oil on the kitchen table and kitchen counters, drug paraphernalia and other items related to the packaging and ingestion of marijuana"—were "within easy reach of the child." But police came to Banda's house in the middle of the afternoon, so that detail is less alarming than it sounds. "She was producing oil during the day, while her son was in school," says Sarah Swain, Banda's criminal defense attorney.

So far Banda has been unsuccessful at regaining custody of her son, who is living for the time being with her husband, from whom she is separated. "He is in state custody and has been since the beginning of the case," Swain says. "He is placed [temporarily] with the father." A family court judge ultimately will decide whether it is in the boy's best interest to be reunited with his mother.

But as Swain notes, that process will be "moot" if "Shona goes to prison." The charges against her, which Finney County Attorney Susan Richmeier announced on June 5, include two misdemeanors—endangering a child and possession of drug paraphernalia—and three felonies: unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance, possession of equipment used to manufacture a controlled substance, and distribution or possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of school property. The distribution charge, a "drug severity level 1 felony," carries the longest maximum sentence: 17 years. Swain says Kansas law allows sentences for different offenses to be imposed consecutively as long as the total term does not exceed twice the longest maximum, which means Banda could be sent to prison for as long as 34 years. Richmeier, apparently based on the assumption that any sentences would be served concurrently, says the maximum term Banda faces is 17 years.

It seems unlikely that Banda, who has no criminal record, would receive a sentence as long as 34 or even 17 years. But a substantial prison sentence is a real possibility given the charges she faces. "When your cure is illegal," says a caption at the beginning of Banda's 2010 video, "you are forced to make the choice to live free or die." If Richmeier has her way, living free will no longer be an option for Banda.

One way to keep Banda out of prison may be to challenge the actions that police took before obtaining a warrant to search her house. Banda initially turned away the officers and CPS employees who came to her house, ostensibly to "investigate the safety of the residence for the child." Capt. Ralston describes what happened next:

The residence was secured pending investigation and application [for] a search warrant. Officers remained on scene until the search warrant was granted to prevent the destruction of evidence while the application for search warrant was proceeding.

That "securing" of the residence, University of Kansas law professor Richard Levy told The Wichita Eagle, may have amounted to an unconstitutional seizure, which casts doubt on the validity of the subsequent search. And without the evidence obtained in the search, the case against Banda crumbles.

Even if the search is upheld, Banda may be able to avoid conviction on the distribution charge, which seems to be based on the amount of cannabis found in her home, as opposed to evidence that she was selling pot. The quantity of cannabis that Banda had may seem like a lot for a recreational user, but it isn't for a daily medical user who consumes marijuana in the form of extracts. "I know of no evidence that Shona Banda was ever distributing marijuana," Swain says, noting that the difference between possession and possession with intent to distribute could be the difference between a year's probation and years in prison. Banda's potential sentence also is enhanced because she happens to live within 1,000 feet of school property (assuming prosecutors measured correctly), not because there is any reason to believe she was selling pot to kids. Swain says that enhancement may be subject to challenge, depending on the nature and location of the property prosecutors have in mind.

It seems indisputable, however, that Banda engaged in the unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance as Kansas defines it. For someone with no criminal record, that charge alone carries a presumptive sentence of 98 months—more than eight years.

How does Richmeier justify threatening Banda with such harsh penalties? The same way a Texas prosecutor last year justified threatening a teenager with 20 years in prison after he was caught with a pound and a half of hash brownies and cookies: We don't make the law; we just enforce it. "The Finney County Attorney's office is responsible for upholding the law in the State of Kansas and holding violators of those laws responsible," Richmeier says in a statement she sent reporters last week. "Currently, the laws in the State of Kansas do not allow for marijuana use, possession, [or] possession of paraphernalia nor do they allow the production of oils or other by-products of the cannabis plant, regardless of a person's medical status."

Richmeier, who says her office will refrain from discussing the details of Banda's case to avoid "prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding," adds:

Once a violation of law has occurred, our office does not pick and choose the persons we prosecute. Cases with legitimate, well-investigated violations are filed. Once a complaint is filed, we depend on the veracity of our legal system to ensure the appropriate punishment occurs.

That defense, which presumably is Richmeier's response to the public uproar caused by her prosecution of Banda, is not quite accurate. After all, Banda was breaking the law every day she made and took her medicine. She wrote a book about it, produced YouTube videos about it, and began work on a documentary about her experience with the "amazing" and "miraculous" plant that she credits with saving her from disabling pain and premature death. "Knowledge is power," Banda says in her 2010 video. "When you decide to take your life in your own hands, and realize that you can do this with a $50 machine and a $5 spatula, a plant that you can grow for free in your own backyard, you can do this, and it's awesome." Banda's "violation of the law" was hardly a secret, but it was not until her son questioned anti-pot propaganda at school that police decided to investigate and Richmeier decided to file charges.

"Shona has always been open about her use of cannabis oil," Swain notes. "This is not someone who has chosen to live in the shadows for fear of criminal prosecution….Shona told me that when she moved to Garden City, she took a copy of her book to the sheriff's department and said, 'This is who I am.'"

So why the sudden interest in treating Banda like a criminal? "It goes to the completely arbitrary nature of the enforcement of drug laws," Swain says. "To me, this is just a glaring example of how ridiculous the war on drugs in this country has become."

This article originally appeared at

NEXT: "Glenn Reynolds: U.S. attorney chills Reason-able speech": The Instapundit Weighs in On Our Gag Order

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    1. That is freaking awesome. Except that eventually law enforcement will game the crowdsourcing to their benefit. In fact I am so sure, someone will have a link to it by the end of this thread.

      1. Yeah. It’s only a matter of time before donating to defense funds is made illegal.

        1. That or the storm troopers will be busting down our doors because if we gave to her defense that means there is enough “probable cause” to determine we too must be using, manufacturing, selling, etc.

          1. well, it is a ‘war on drugs’. so, um, by supporting her you would be aiding and abetting enemies of the state, or possible financing terrorism.

      2. can they sleaze the assets of the crowdsourcing site for aiding teh terrorizzzts?

      3. jester,

        I wish you were jesting. On this site there’s at least one article where the Man forced this site to divulge commenter’s-like me, now-out from behind our username. So, since the camels’ nose is under the tent, expect to see the slobber pooling around your sandals anytime now.
        But Shona-cmon! You moved from somewhere. Why in the name of Whoozits did you park in Kansas? I mean (no offense, Kansonians) even if you like the place, as long as you’re relocating (the article has you arriving in town and letting the Cops know you’re a user who wrote a book about it) why not relocate to a medical-maryjane state?
        Everybody should be taught both basic libertarian economics and philosophy, and basic understanding that the Criminal Justice System is for someone else to challenge. There’s a slew of hero’s out there, and it’s not a place to unthinkingly risk getting entangled in.

  1. How much of our tax money is being used to try this woman? I certainly hope prosecutors are seizing any profits from Live Free or Die as coming from a criminal enterprise so they can recoup some of the cost of this very necessary prosecution.

    1. God I hated that movie. If this women is responsible for that film she had it coming for a while.

    2. They have plenty of money and would have no problem getting more via their immoral and unconstitutional civil forfeiture laws.

    3. “Our” tax money?

      What makes you think any of that money is “yours”? The money that is “yours” is the money your masters chose to leave you.

  2. The first rule of Cannabis Club is…..

  3. “RESULTS:

    Complete remission (CDAI score, 100) was observed in 10 of 11 subjects in the cannabis group (90%; from 330 ? 105 to 152 ? 109) and 4 of 10 in the placebo group (40%; from 373 ? 94 to 306 ? 143; P = .028). Three patients in the cannabis group were weaned from steroid dependency. Subjects receiving cannabis reported improved appetite and sleep, with no significant side effects.

    Although the primary end point of the study (induction of remission) was not achieved, a short course (8 weeks) of THC-rich cannabis produced significant clinical, steroid-free benefits to 10 of 11 patients with active Crohn’s disease, compared with placebo, without side effects.”

    —-National Institute of Health, October 11, 2013

    1. There are two important things to understand about this. 1) The side effects of steroids are so dangerous, that it is impossible to keep someone on steroids indefinitely. So the next thing after steroids–once they stop being effective in sufficiently small dosages is surgery. 2) They can only take so much of your small intestine out before you lose the ability to absorb nutrients. Then the inflammation eventually causes cancer or becomes so bad that it can’t absorb nutrients and it’s bye-bye.

      So, if cannabis has no significant side effects–unlike steroids–and it makes people avoid surgery–unlike steroids? Then doctors should be prescribing cannabis before and rather than steroids. That they prosecuted this woman for doing what was necessary to save her own life is a travesty.

      1. But marijuana is immoral!

        1. … and suffering leads all us to the Heaven. Only in God we T(h)rust.

      2. The steroid treatments will definitely screw a person up, and it really doesn’t take all that much time.

        Gave my dad cataracts,

        Also destroyed a good portion of his intestines. Complications from the surgery to remove the damaged areas nearly killed him.

      3. Cancer is a multi billion dollar cash cow, so doing #1 to achieve #2 and ultimately cancer is a win win for the pharma industry.

        Diabetes is a bigger cash cow since it is relatively easy to have someone develop diabetes, and the younger the better, and they can give you enough of their drugs to keep you alive with some accuracy, unlike cancer. The FDA food pyramid is a good start to get the disease. Forced gov’t interference to eliminate trans fat when people have already determined it was bad for them and have been cutting it out forcing food companies to reduce or eliminate it altogther on their own is a sign gov’t doesn’t give a crap. If they did they’d go after high fructose corn syrup (which I am against them doing since education is the better means by which will change peoples minds these forcing the food companies to restrict and/or eliminate it also).

        Schedule I of the The Controlled Substances Act
        “High Abuse, No recognized Medical use, Lack of Safety

        Funny how Marijuana is in this list but tobacco isn’t. I guess the gov’t doesn’t believe that it has a high propensity of abuse, that is has some medical use, and that it is safe. Or maybe theres another reason….

        1. Schedule I by all rights should also include alcohol. Indeed, there was a time when this country believed making any substance illegal took a constitutional amendment…

        2. Yet cocaine and methamphetamine are schedule II substances, and alcohol and tobacco are fully legal.

  4. “With Crohn’s disease, it’s like having a stomach flu that won’t go away.”

    That’s partially what it feels like, but the reality is much, much worse than that.

    It involves constant internal hemorrhaging from the lining of the small intestine.

    People are usually initially driven into the emergency room because of severe blood loss. I know someone intimately who had lost 70% of the blood in his body due to UC that way.

    The tired feeling comes from a lack of iron. In short, your hemoglobin needs iron to transport oxygen, but it takes weeks and weeks for your body to absorb significant amounts of iron into your blood stream, and if you’re constantly hemorrhaging, you’re still losing iron all the time. You end up huffing and puffing like you ran a marathon after walking across a parking lot.

    Also, if you have Crohn’s or UC, your chances of developing cancer are eight times those of someone else. If you had a ten percent chance of developing cancer before, now that you have Crohn’s it’s 80%. It’s because of the inflammation of your intestinal walls. But guess what? When Jesus made us? He lined our intestines with cannabinoid receptors! And activating those receptors with cannabis oil alleviates the inflammation…yay!

    1. Most pro-lifers would say that she should be free to kill her own baby if carrying the baby to term would destroy her health. If she can’t get an exemption from the law to simply consume cannabis–rather than kill a baby–to save her own life, then what kind of monsters are we?

      If they send this woman to prison, the government should be forced to supply her with cannabis oil on compassionate grounds.

      1. wait, you meant pro-choicers right?

  5. While I think this prosecution is ridiculous, why was she living in Kansas to begin with? If her therapy demanded she possess a substance that could result in decades away from her son just because of the state she lived in, why didn’t she move to one of the other 30+ states where at least medical MJ is legal?

    It just seems like she was needlessly and dangerously living on the edge.

    1. It may be stipulated in her custody agreement.

      As I recall, she’s divorced, and if she agreed to stay in Kansas to facilitate visitation with the father in order to get clear custody, that would explain it.

      Regardless of what state we live in, though, people should be free to alleviate their own suffering.

      1. I totally agree with you. It’s a crime that MJ is illegal anywhere, for any reason.

        A custody agreement makes sense. Those things are a pain to amend, even when both parents stipulate, and we have no idea if the father would have helped or hindered.

  6. And the REAL MURICANS chime in at the Go Fund Me page:

    “Well if the state of Kansas says Marijuana is illegal it’s illegal! Should have stayed in Colorado where it is legal. 2 ounces of Marijuana is a substantial amount and having it laying around the house on the table of all places tells me you’re irresponsible and unfit. I’m not donating a dime to this dipshit. You deserve jail time just for being so stupid.”

    If the state of Alabama says you have to ride in the back of the bus then you have to ride in the back of the bus! Should have moved to Colorado or something if you wanted to sit in the front of the bus, Rosa.

    1. “So, when New York makes it illegal to own firearms, are you gonna say ‘the law is the law’?”

      Funny, the archists never seem to actually think any of this shit through further than their immediate desire to control people in the way they want right this second. Fuck.

      1. “Funny, the archists never seem to actually think any of this shit through further than their immediate desire to control people in the way they want right this second. Fuck.”

        “Archists”. I like it. All hail Dora Marsden!

        As for the Archists failing to think things through, you’re missing the point. They communicate to manipulate. Whatever bests manipulates in the moment *is* the Truth. The whole “correspondence to reality” shtick is entirely foreign to their minds.

  7. Once a complaint is filed, we depend on the veracity of our legal system to ensure the appropriate punishment occurs.

    I don’t think the word means what the County Attorney thinks it means.

  8. I hope there is a special in place in … oh forget it.

    1. The prosecutor, something something something, wood chipper, something something something, feet first, something something something.
      Fucking heartless cunt.

      1. LMAO


  9. “We don’t make the law; we just enforce it”

    Well then there you go. Nazi death camps, WWII German soldiers shooting people in the head into mass graves, Islamic radicals beheading and killing people because of a picture is all ok because, they “don’t make the law” they are just enforcing it.

    “When you decide to take your life in your own hands, and realize that you can do this with a $50 machine and a $5 spatula, a plant that you can grow for free in your own backyard, you can do this, and it’s awesome.”

    This is the root of the problem. A free market enterprise where one can bypass gov’t and it’s pharma-friends with kickbacks is the problem. Can’t have people using safer means to help their illness and not have gov’t involved so they can pretend they care about us “common” folk. And then not to let the gov’t K-12 indoctrination centers freely indoctrinate regardless of any truth and with a fear some of the little chillens may think differently, or may be able to back up their convictions with truth. No no no, that will not do.

    One of the biggest problems with this war on drugs is that it stifles free discourse concerning the truths about the benefits and real dangers of drugs. There needs to be free and open dialog on the drugs based on truth. If alcohol was still prohibited then the benefits of light consumption of alcohol would never have come to light.

    1. As many problems as there are with cops, prosecutors, and judges, the source of the rot is the state legislature.

    2. “A free market enterprise where one can bypass gov’t and it’s pharma-friends with kickbacks is the problem. ”

      The profits and power of the medical mafia are really the point. It’s a shakedown for your money or your life/health, and they fighting to keep that control.

      Legalizing pot is a sideshow. We need to legalize medicine.

  10. Marijuana is not medicine. She is lying.

    1. you are right. it is the gateway to everything bad in the world. gateway i tell you!

      1. It can lead to dancing and eventually heavy petting!

        1. Let’s not forget the dangers of black people and their jazz music.

    2. At least in CA, even Kaiser doctors are starting to recommend marijuana — preferably the edible kind — over prescriptions sold at the pharmacies. Most commonly as a substitute for benzos, especially for people with past addiction problems. The docs can’t actually prescribe the stuff nor tell you how to find one who will…but the nurses are usually more than helpful.

    3. Please take the “liberty” out of your handle. Thanks.

      1. And change “Order” to “Orders”.

    4. How dare she attempt to save her own life! Doesn’t she realize that her child is better off witnessing her debilitating death?!?!

  11. Although the primary end point of the study (induction of remission) was not achieved, a short course (8 weeks) of THC-rich cannabis produced significant clinical, steroid-free benefits to 10 of 11 patients with active Crohn’s disease, compared with placebo, without side effects.”

    —-National Institute of Health, October 11, 2013

  12. woodchipper

    1. Is anyone else feeling chipper?

  13. Richmeier, who says her office will refrain from discussing the details of Banda’s case to avoid “prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding,” adds:

    Once a violation of law has occurred, our office does not pick and choose the persons we prosecute.

    Bullshit. I’m sure if Banda was a bigtime contributor to Richmeier’s relection campaign whe wouldn’t be facing these stupid charges.

    I hope there’s a special wood[redacted] in [redacted] for that piece of [redacted] prosecutor.

  14. If the Abigail Burroughs case taught us anything, it’s that every arm of the government would rather that you die than medicate in a non-FDA approved manner. Teaching your kids contrary to the state’s messaging is, to their little minds, ipso facto child endangerment.

    Here’s hoping the prosecutor spends the balance of her worthless life suffering from history’s worst case of fibromyalgia, and she gets sent up for opioid shopping.

  15. I’d like to put the War On Drugs into a woodchipper, feet first.

    1. You’re on thin ice, buddy. You’re threatening the life of the obscene money making scheme of the FedGov!

    2. I’d prefer the FDA.

  16. Well, at least her son received an invaluable lesson in free speech and why teachers and police cannot be trusted.

    1. Exactly.

  17. It was interesting. I didn’t mind the fact that there was no romantic interest. Gives you more time for action but you more nice video check this way and comment me
    Best Home Deal ??????

  18. If the goal is to ensure the well-being of the kid vis a vis his not developing drug use habits, I’m sure breaking his family and ruining his mother’s life is the best way to go about that.

    1. Do it for the children!

  19. Just another of the countless examples of victims of the tyrannical, selective, despicable drug prohibition! And note, this is yet another person who is busted with drugs in her home who is charged with the school zone violation, because her home happens to sit within a thousand feet of a school, a violation which carries a mandatory minimum prison term.

    The filthy oppressors must all be removed from power, totally and permanently, on every level of government, in every branch, and that includes those villains, the prosecutors!

    Robert Farrior.
    New Jersey

  20. “So why the sudden interest in treating Banda like a criminal?”

    Considering Banda’s previous public disclosure of her medicinal use of MJ you’ve come to an incorrect conclusion.

    The real point and issue at stake was the direct face-to-face AND toe-to-toe challenge that the child presented to the public education administration. NO ONE is allowed to challenge the public educational system and live.

    The proceeding events are demonstration of that fact.

    1. “The real point and issue at stake was the direct face-to-face AND toe-to-toe challenge”

      Ding! Ding! Ding!

      We have a winner!

      What gets everyone fucked is questioning the divine right of our rulers.

      You WILL Respect My AUTHORITAH!

  21. Attention in the comments:


    That is all.

  22. As a Colorado resdient, Ive said it before, and Ill say it again:
    Fuck Kansas, and give that lady her kid back
    For crying out loud I mean Jesus Christ.. Rapists and molestors get less time.
    Of all the stupid, asinine bullshit to pursue..

    God Damnit our laws are stupid.


  23. I hope the son’s in therapy to deal with this trauma.

  24. “…veracity of our legal system to ensure the appropriate punishment occurs.”

    no punishment is ever appropriate. there is no justice that can be had by means of punishment. what u end up with, instead, is abuse.

  25. The legal case has naught to do with her actual possession or use. It has wholly to do with the fact her son rocked the boat at school, disagreeing or questioinging those who shall not be questioned, but blindly obeyed. GOvernment as god does not like being challenged, and his questions did just that. Now the ire of the dragon hath been kindled… and SOMEONE must pay to restore the false face of rectitude they work so hard to preserve.

  26. so, why do the jews and christians hate weed so much? it’s in both of their “holy books” and is a gift from god to be the domain of all man….

    so, the real question should be…. why the fuck dont the jews and christians listen to their god and instead decide to burn in hell for all eternity?


    i honestly have no idea… .ive never had imaginary friends…. and used those imaginary friends to put a gun to the heads of non-violent people…to coerce their behavior…. contrary to the word of my god…


  27. Ah yes, the wonderful police state that America has become is still working well. I remember a 13-year-old girl in California, years ago, who was taught how bad marijuana was and told the instructor that her parents smoke it. They were arrested and she was sent to foster care. Later, when interviewed, she said if she had known before the consequences she never would have said anything. This is a lesson for us all. When around the police state authorities, tug your forelock and say yes sir, or they may arrest you and put you in prison for NOT VIOLATING ANYONE’S RIGHTS!

    Sorry about the shouting, but how is it in a nation that supposedly supports the concept of inalienable rights, that adults minding their own business, not harming anyone else or anyone’s property can be charged with a crime. Well, actually, in the matter of drug use, they aren’t being charged with a crime, they are being charged with a sin. The so-called war on drugs is part of America’s religious/sharia laws.

  28. This really sucks. That poor woman and son. That guy is probably crying with guilt, blaming himself for speaking up. When I had my daughter 21 years ago, my mother would often warn me to be careful of who I associated with because of the possibility of some vengeful idiot calling cps with false accusations. What is wrong with those people who reported her in the first place? Idiots.

  29. }}} We don’t make the law; we just enforce it.

    Yeah, but there are a multitude of cases to be dealt with, and a limited amount of time and personnel to do it with… so you ALWAYS make choices about which ones to fervently enforce and which ones to bail on.

  30. Her crime was in enrolling her innocent son into a state indoctrination camp; she’s now paying the price.

  31. It costs more to live in Colorado than Kansas.

  32. From the prosecutor: “Once a violation of law has occurred, our office does not pick and choose the persons we prosecute.” Complete bullshit. Prosecutors decide all the time whether to take a case to court or not. They could choose not to prosecute, they could choose to offer a plea deal or they can choose to go to court. Nobody forces them to do a particular option, except maybe public opinion.

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