04/05/15 Doug Fine

This week we visit the Oregon Hemp Convention and talk with Doug Fine, author of Hemp Bound and Too High To Fail, and with attorney and activist Rachel Kurtz.

Program: 
Century of Lies
Date: 
Sunday, April 5, 2015
Guest: 
Doug Fine
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Author
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CENTURY OF LIES

APRIL 5, 2015

TRANSCRIPT

DEAN BECKER: The failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors, and millions more now calling for decriminalization. Legalization. The end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century Of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Hello and welcome to Century of Lies. I'm your host, Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org. Century of Lies is a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network and is supported by the generosity of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy and of listeners like you.

And now, on with the show. The other day, I went to an industry trade show. It was called the Oregon Hemp Convention. You know, a few years back, that would have been unique, it would have been daring, it would have been controversial. It was held at the Portland Expo Center, which is this massive complex on the north side of town, and it was, you know, it was a trade show. I've been to trade shows, and this one was kind of about as exciting as any of them on some levels.

I'm not trying to say it was boring. I mean, there were some great people there, I saw some good friends, lots of people who are starting up and running businesses to service the cannabis industry as well as some businesses that are directly involved in selling marijuana and marijuana products.

It's still a new industry, and it's still a schedule one drug federally as we all know, so I guess there should be some level of excitement. On the other hand, marijuana is becoming a regular business like any other, so ideally, it should become a mundane, everyday kind of thing.

I mean, ask anyone who's been raided, who's faced federal charges for running what they thought of as a state-legal business, who's had their property seized, who's had their lives disrupted, their families – well, I mean, if you ask them, I'm guessing they'll agree that one of the best things on earth would be for the marijuana business to stop being so darned controversial and exciting. Excitement is highly over-rated, when that excitement can lead to spending several years behind bars.

Well, enough of me. Let's hear from someone else. I caught up with the author and hemp advocate Doug Fine at that Hemp expo, so here's part of our interview:

DOUG FINE: Well, I, what's fun, yes I can talk about all of it. What's - and it's great to be here with you, Doug, one of the real truth speakers. Before I knew who you were I would see Drug War Facts and stuff I could quote and talk to people about, and you do such a great job with it.

DOUG MCVAY: Thank you.

DOUG FINE: It's the truth. So, bigger picture. The kind of conversations that I've been having lately range from, what would Dr. Bronner's do kind of, if it's about charging money for your hemp application or idea at all, it's about doing it in a righteous way, where like you, it's almost like you're reluctantly building up your own savings account, you know, because you're just like, is that thing of profit, is that really - but you've got to do it because it's our system and there haven't been many or any better ones.

So, ranging from that, which is the kind of conversation we were just having here about an Oregon project, to, I'm dealing with folks who are used to being successful at the mode of business that got us, you know, here, for better or worse, the American stockmarket-based capitalism, and they're successful at it, and now they want to do something good. And, not that they were necessarily doing anything bad prior, but more mainstream stuff -- manufacturing, etc. Want to do something for the cannabis plant.
CENTURY OF LIES

APRIL 5, 2015

TRANSCRIPT

DEAN BECKER: The failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors, and millions more now calling for decriminalization. Legalization. The end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century Of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Hello and welcome to Century of Lies. I'm your host, Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org. Century of Lies is a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network and is supported by the generosity of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy and of listeners like you.

And now, on with the show. The other day, I went to an industry trade show. It was called the Oregon Hemp Convention. You know, a few years back, that would have been unique, it would have been daring, it would have been controversial. It was held at the Portland Expo Center, which is this massive complex on the north side of town, and it was, you know, it was a trade show. I've been to trade shows, and this one was kind of about as exciting as any of them on some levels.

I'm not trying to say it was boring. I mean, there were some great people there, I saw some good friends, lots of people who are starting up and running businesses to service the cannabis industry as well as some businesses that are directly involved in selling marijuana and marijuana products.

It's still a new industry, and it's still a schedule one drug federally as we all know, so I guess there should be some level of excitement. On the other hand, marijuana is becoming a regular business like any other, so ideally, it should become a mundane, everyday kind of thing.

I mean, ask anyone who's been raided, who's faced federal charges for running what they thought of as a state-legal business, who's had their property seized, who's had their lives disrupted, their families – well, I mean, if you ask them, I'm guessing they'll agree that one of the best things on earth would be for the marijuana business to stop being so darned controversial and exciting. Excitement is highly over-rated, when that excitement can lead to spending several years behind bars.

Well, enough of me. Let's hear from someone else. I caught up with the author and hemp advocate Doug Fine at that Hemp expo, so here's part of our interview:

DOUG FINE: Well, I, what's fun, yes I can talk about all of it. What's - and it's great to be here with you, Doug, one of the real truth speakers. Before I knew who you were I would see Drug War Facts and stuff I could quote and talk to people about, and you do such a great job with it.

DOUG MCVAY: Thank you.

DOUG FINE: It's the truth. So, bigger picture. The kind of conversations that I've been having lately range from, what would Dr. Bronner's do kind of, if it's about charging money for your hemp application or idea at all, it's about doing it in a righteous way, where like you, it's almost like you're reluctantly building up your own savings account, you know, because you're just like, is that thing of profit, is that really - but you've got to do it because it's our system and there haven't been many or any better ones.

So, ranging from that, which is the kind of conversation we were just having here about an Oregon project, to, I'm dealing with folks who are used to being successful at the mode of business that got us, you know, here, for better or worse, the American stockmarket-based capitalism, and they're successful at it, and now they want to do something good. And, not that they were necessarily doing anything bad prior, but more mainstream stuff -- manufacturing, etc. Want to do something for the cannabis plant.

Read Hemp Bound, and say, we want to invest in this tri-cropping idea which, for those who don't know, is about using a hemp harvest, a community using it, to get the value added that allows a real economy to be built. So, for, the tri -- the three legs of tri-cropping have to do with all these seed slash flower applications for hemp, the second one is fiber, the third is energy from biomass, and from there once you have a crop that the community manufactures, whether it's a hemp-seed oil-based salad dressing, a hemp fiber sandal, nanotechnology fiber for the forthcoming supercapacitor battery market, or waste biomass just purely for energy, you're giving communities options.

So, I have these guys that are investing in it because they think it's right but they have an old mode of doing business. So, in one conversation I'm having in one state it's more about, hey man, no, we really do have to put this on paper and make this be a real entity so that we can get a real application in for a real permit kind of thing, and on the other hand it's like, no man we're not going to find a cool design for a hemp decorticator and make it offshore with slave labor, we're going to find a really cool hemp decorticator design and generate like the Tesla of hemp decorticators, make a solar powered factory with hemp-based fibers onto the hemp decorticator, providing local jobs from the local crop, you know?

So in between there stands as usual the reasonable Doug Fine! So we're in the middle and we'll see how it goes, but it's a very exciting time, evolving by the day in hemp.

DOUG MCVAY: That's fantastic! They just started doing some of the, approving applications here in Oregon, the hemp program's only barely getting off the ground really. Nationally, we've got a possible, any possibilities in Congress? What do you think about some of the stuff happening at the federal level?

DOUG FINE: I'm cautiously optimistic that we may see full commercial hemp legalization this year, 2015. The reason why I'm cautiously optimistic is S.134, the current full hemp commercialization bill, get it out of the purview of Justice, 0.3 percent of THC or under, controversial level but that's where we're at at the moment, in the future that will certainly change. But, it's been introduced by both of Oregon's senators and both of Kentucky's senators, and more, it's completely bipartisan. There's very little opposition left to industrial hemp, there's no roadblocks in the way, it wouldn't be setting precedent, it would just be taking the next logical step.

One of the co-introducers, Kentucky's Senator Mitch McConnell, is the Republican Senate Majority Leader, so, the most powerful guy in the place, so I'm cautiously optimistic that, that full hemp legalization will go through this, uh, this year, and for the time being, listeners, in the future, this is going to sound strange to you, hemp is in an interim position and not treated as one of our -- not just any other crop but one of our most important and honored and patriotic crops once again.

But no, we're in this interim phase where there's a few hoops that have to happen to cultivate, but if you're int he right place in the right state, you can cultivate hemp this year.

DOUG MCVAY: It's incredible. Switching gears for another minute, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs just finished up its annual meeting over in Vienna this month. You were there last year, uh, speaking to the folks, got any thoughts about the international hemp scene?

DOUG FINE: Yeah, and I'll speak to wider world's cannabis and even wider than that. That's normally where I stop, is at the boundaries of the cannabis plant, but when you start talking about the world issue, the rest of the world's activists are not primarily made up of cannabis activists as they are in the states, there are harm reduction, stop throwing people in jail for anything, and that's a weird, weirder coalition than it might seem, because it's not just about, do you favor all drugs? It's -- cannabis is not a drug, cannabis is a god-given plant, and other things that are dangerous, it's harder for me to talk about.

But that said, it's important to have a coalition, and we do have a coalition, and cannabis is prominent in it. But, long story shorter, the next big chance for the modification of the three conventions on narcotic drugs that, international conventions that must be changed so that, to allow the kind of change we're seeing here in the US and in places like Uruguay, Portugal, Netherlands, Denmark, Spain and elsewhere -- Canada -- that next opportunity is a special session of the entire United Nations general assembly in New York in 2016, the shorthand is UNGASS, UN General Assembly Special Session, UNGASS 2016.

It's just getting everybody together to talk about what's up with the drug conventions now. We don't know what that means, it could go in any direction, but the time is right for a very commonsense change to the conventions that, in essence, bottles down to it's not the UN's business. Independent member states should create their own drug policy as long as their is no export and international industry going on.

DOUG MCVAY: The, uh, I listened in on the CND, a lot of the CND meetings when they were going on, and there was obviously resistance from the UN bureaucracy, but a lot of member states were expressing their hope that they could expand the discussions to talk about the treaties as a whole, and the direction and the sort of supply-side emphasis and the rest. Basically, a lot of -- and support, you know, changing to embrace harm reduction, to embrace evidence-based techniques. The efforts of civil society, for what it's worth, this year they seemed to be really taking hold, and nations were listening. It's, it was pretty cool.

Your website of course, www.dougfine.com, you can get your books and more information about what you're doing. Fine writer. Man, uh, yeah. What kind of projects are you, do you have coming up, what do you have happening?

DOUG FINE: I'm still touring on Hemp Bound, the follow-up to Too High To Fail, because hemp is emerging so fast, but because it's emerging so fast I had to do a follow-up and this is really exciting. Pre-order on now as you said at dougfine.com for First Legal Harvest, a 28-page, 25 percent hemp printed monograph that describes the worldwide but especially the half dozen US, fully federally legal, digital age hemp crops that I visited in Vermont, Kentucky, and Colorado, and as well as a sort of an outlook of what to look for this year and in coming years as the hemp industry returns. It's a sort of addendum to the book Hemp Bound, but it is printed on 25 percent hemp and the first 1,000 copies will in some form have some American hemp from last year in the first 1,000 copies.

DOUG MCVAY: Wow. Wow, wonderful! And they just go to DougFine.com and find the, okeh, say the title again, it's the follow-up to?

DOUG FINE: Follow-up to Hemp Bound, it's called First Legal Harvest, it recounts just that, the historic return of Thomas Jefferson's favorite crop, the crop that's going to return America to greatness as Silicon Valley did, as the auto industry did. The next big thing, the cannabis plant.

DOUG MCVAY: Fantastic. Doug Fine, thank you so much.

DOUG FINE: Always good to be with you, Doug.

DOUG MCVAY: That was an interview I did with hemp activist and author Doug Fine at the recent Oregon Hemp Expo in Portland, Oregon. You can find more of his work at DougFine.com. You're listening to Century of Lies, a production of hte DRug Truth Network. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

Now let's go to another interview I got at that hemp convention. Rachel Kurtz is an activist and an attorney, she's been a leader in drug policy reform for more than a decade, and she is someone I'm proud to call my friend. We had a really good conversation at the convention, so let's hear part of that.

RACHEL KURTZ: Well, business is great. I mean, there's so many people in this industry now, and they need attorneys so they can, you know, they're realizing it as they go forward, you know. They might think they do until maybe they have, you know, a disagreement with their partner and they realize, oh we don't have anything in place to, that helps us figure that out.

Or you start a business with a few friends, and you form a company online, and then it turns out one of them doesn't pull their weight, but they still somehow have 20 percent of your company because you all signed this form and you just assumed everyone would show up to work every day and you'd all work it, but one person doesn't, and so now they're stuck. So it's important to have things like vesting shares, and things like that where, you know, the longer you are with the company, then you get your shares.

Or in your operating agreement, make sure you put down the roles people have, the jobs people are expected to have, you know. Things like that, that people really don't think about, but are why it's important to have an attorney. But really, I saw this as a way where, you know -- my activism was trying to make cannabis legal, and so now that it is slowly becoming that way, I saw the need for, well, this, now that they're legal, they need, you know, to be regular businesses, and they need all the things that regular businesses do.

And that's really what pushes legalization, too -- unfortunately. You know, for so long, we were talking about the racial disparities, and unfortunately nobody cares about that. I mean, we do, and people say they do, but it really doesn't end up what drives policy.

And so, I think it was about five or six years ago, I went to a cannabis business conference in New York City. I'm not sure if you were there, but it was years ago, first time I'd ever heard of something like that. I was still doing activism, showed up, and all these people in New York City at this nice hotel, in suits, and they're all talking about future cannabis business, and it dawned on me, like, that's how we're going to legalize it. The more people get involved and see the money there, that's when it's going to change. These people with a lot of money can afford big lobbyists, they're going to start pushing the agenda and making sure that they can exist, and we're seeing that, slowly and slowly, where it's really, I think the industry pushing legalization. So that's partly why I'm involved.

But what's sad is that the racial disparities that we all, you know, those of us who are activists cared about, we're not really seeing that translate. I mean, there's less people getting arrested, but there are still, the people who are getting arrested, there's still racial disparities. And if you look around here, it's, I mean, well it is Portland, but it's still, you know, it's a very white crowd. And it is Portland, it's a white city, but it's kind of sad how we're kind of seeing people of color being left behind in this emerging industry, and that's something, I'm actually doing a pro bono case for somebody in Washington, who, an African-American woman who is trying to get a retail license up there, and it just, it really drives me. There's some interesting issues around it, and it just really drives me because I'm like, this is who we should be supporting in this, you know, now that it's legalized, so --

DOUG MCVAY: I'm proud, that's, I am so proud to know you Rachel Kurtz, you are one of the coolest people I know. It's, you've got to - the people who come into this because it's a business, and don't understand the social justice background that it all sprang from -- it's, it's a little difficult sometimes to really connect because they just, they just don't quite get it, you know? And then there are folks, you know, folks like you, who still do, and it's really cool.

Now, there are a number -- at least in terms of gender it's getting a little, around here it looks like it's getting a little better. There are at least a number of women running -- you know, doing things, and it's not just booth babes. I mean, you know, I mean, what do you -- I talked to the folks at the Women's Alliance about it, a little bit, but you're involved with that group, and with NORML Women's Alliance, I think, or you have been, or well, whether you have or not, how do you think we're doing on that level?

RACHEL KURTZ: I think we're doing great, and I think, I don't know about Colorado, but I know in Washington state, I've really been, you know, part of a great network of women up there. And I'm not necessarily a member of different groups, because I, like I said, I'm so involved with so many other things but I support them wholeheartedly and go to some social events with them, and looking to do more of that down here as well.

But it, it's, I think it, because of that kind of network and the support we give each other, we have actually like a Facebook page of women, we're always kind of supporting each other in this movement, and we, it's, that's I think partly why you don't see so many booth babes, because it's gotten to the point now when somebody does do that, boy, the women, the businesswomen kind of start to shun them, and be like, oh did you see that booth, you know?

So now, and I think that because of the public way that we've been out about, you know, being here as cannabis businesswomen and everything, you know, I think the other businesses, male-driven, are seeing that and taking it seriously and know that they have this, you know, whole constituency that they need to respect, because they're consumers as well.

And, so, they're -- I think people are just getting smarter about it, you know. Sex does sell, you know, you're still going to see that in some aspects. You can't get around it, because it happens, I get it, you know. I'm not totally opposed to something, you know, people using that when it works, I mean, this is also, you know, this is a business expo too, but you go to like a High Times cannabis cup, you're going to see booth babes there. And, because it's just more like a funner kind of party atmosphere too, so I don't blame them at all.

But, as long as they, you know, recognize that, you know, the female-run businesses should be taken seriously, and I think that they are because they do such a great job they can't be ignored. And you have some just pretty amazing women leading the movement, like, what's her name?

DOUG MCVAY: I can name a few, we've got the director of SSDP, Betty Aldworth, who came out of the National Cannabis Industry Association.

RACHEL KURTZ: Yeah, that's exactly who I was thinking of, Betty Aldworth, to me, she's just an amazing women who's been very vocal about what she sees going on in the industry, and she speaks up, and she does, I saw this great presentation by her once about female consumers, and about kind of the percentages, and what it takes to reach them, and it was, it was just brilliant, so people like Betty are doing great work in that area, for sure.

DOUG MCVAY: I've got to admit, when she came into the job at SSDP, I was, I was a little concerned because I only knew her from, from her, you know, I only knew of her, the fact that she came out of NCIA, and I had no knowledge otherwise, I thought, oh, not another pot-head running a group, please. And, well, no, she comes out of, she understands, she did come out of harm reduction, she understands drug policy as a much broader thing, as a social justice issue, and yeah, after talking with her I was so relieved, you know, and now, I'm, yeah, I'm psyched to see that she's running it. I think she's one of the best -- she's about the best choice they've made -- she's the best choice of director they've made in a very long time and I'll just leave it at that.

RACHEL KURTZ: Well, and it's so refreshing when you do have people like her, and some of the activists, you know. I'm new to Oregon now, I just moved here in the fall, I'm in the process of getting licensed. My firm, Gleam Law, does have an Oregon attorney so we can practice down here as well. But just, you know, there are some activists down here like, well of course John Sajo, I just, I love him. And, I mean, Anthony Taylor, I've been really impressed with him too.

And, it just, kind of, it's nice as activists, it's comforting when you know that there are people out there who are doing great work, and you don't feel like -- you know, and they're starting, you know they weren't there necessarily 15, 20 years ago, back then you know, we all felt like we had such a big load to carry, you know, such a big burden because there's only so many of us, at least so many of us that were sort of rational, you know, people, too.

There's definitely been activists a long time, but now, it's like, we're really seeing some bright, professional people come around, and it just sort of makes it easier for me to be a professional, you know, in a business, and just do activism on the side, rather than have activism be my whole career, because it just -- I know there are other great people out there doing it, and it's just comforting having people like Betty leading such a great organization, like, oh yeah, she's got that covered.

DOUG MCVAY: I know that you're running your booth and you've got people coming up so you probably should go, but just as long as I've got you, real quick, I was following what was happening up in Washington state in the legislature, and the last month or so I haven't been following as closely, haven't seen much, haven't watched any of the hearings, I don't know if there have been. Could you give me a quick update on how things are going up in Washington? I know that they were talking about, well, trying to, I think the term of art is "align" the medical and adult use, nice way of saying roll the two into one. How's things going, what's happening in Washington state, are we going to see anything coming up?

RACHEL KURTZ: So, at this point, the two bills that are really going, that are really driving it and will most likely pass are 5052, it's an SB but it's now SHB, like, I believe, I don't know, however that --

DOUG MCVAY: Came out of the Healthcare Committee, that was the one, that's the Republican, the Republicans run the Senate, right? But just barely, but okeh.

RACHEL KURTZ: Yeah. So Ann Rivers bill, 5052, and that was the one, yeah, that was sort of really merging the two. It would make it where current licensed 502 growers would then be able to potentially expand their canopy to designate plants that are medical for some how, they're, I don't know, medical, and then -- you know, I don't know, I'm of the mind that all of the plants --

DOUG MCVAY: When you say expand -- I'm sorry, I just thought for a second, when you say expand the canopy, what you mean is, basically, put more square footage, more square, more area into production?

RACHEL KURTZ: Maybe. So, what it would do is direct the liquor control board to figure out how much more product would be needed when you're bringing patients into the fold. I don't know that they'd have to expand the canopy much because at this time there is a massive backlog of product, there's like 30,000 pounds or something. And so, what they really need to do, and I think they'd also have to do this, is expand the number of stores. That's what we really need.

And so, they would have to -- because they know, okeh, we have that many more people, you know, if the patients have to come to these stores, we need more stores. And so they'd have to expand the number of stores, which, they're not even, you know, they're like a third of the way to their original number anyway, so if it was up to me I'd say forget the whole lottery thing, which they shouldn't have done in the first place, and just let whoever apply, wants to apply, apply. And I think with moratoriums, and just with, you know, landlords not being willing to, you're already going to, like, limit the numbers.

And so then, you know, current dispensaries can apply to be a 502 retail, but they just, you know, they have to follow all the guidelines for applying, they have to be 1,000 feet from schools and all the other places, parks, all that stuff. So that will limit the, you know, the dispensaries, but they could -- so then if they're a 502 store they can apply to have a medical designation, which really means that they, they have, their employees have been trained in all the medical aspects of cannabis, which is, really, that's, I mean, that seems like a good thing, having some training, having people there. I mean, that could have been helpful for dispensaries as well, you know? Like, having people there who really understand the medical benefits of the plant so they can help the patients.

So that's kind of what would happen, that's sort of the general overview of what's happens there. That will likely go through. The other bill is HB2136, and it's sort of a companion bill, where they say that the, you know, they both, if one's going to pass they're both going to pass, they're kind of looking at them in tandem. And the main thing that HB2136 does is get rid of the 25 percent tax at three levels, and have it all be one tax. It was 30 percent, now I heard something about 37 percent, somewhere around there. Effectively, 25 percent at three levels works out to be about 40 percent.

So, it's between 30 and 40 percent, at the retail level, sort of like a sales tax. And the great thing about that is that it might be a reduction in taxes overall but it's also, now, currently people, these businesses can't write off, can't write the excise tax off their federal tax. It's counted as income that they have to pay tax on before then they pay the state the excise. So in this way, it would be able to be written off, it wouldn't be counted as income. So that's helpful for everybody involved, they don't have that extra income they're having to pay taxes on.

It also means, there were a lot of small-time producers, these really small businesses that got a producer license that didn't get a processor license, just didn't even think about it, all they knew is they wanted to grow some pot. But, if you don't have a processor license, you have to sell to a processor, you can't sell straight to retail. Have to sell to a processor, and then there's, they stick a 25 percent tax on.

DOUG MCVAY: That was an interview with Rachel Kurtz, from Washington state and now Portland, Oregon.

And that's all the time we have this week. I thank you for listening. This is Century Of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org. Century Of Lies is heard on 420Radio.org on Mondays at 11 am and 11 pm, and Saturdays at 4 am, all times are pacific. We're heard on time4hemp.com on Wednesdays between 1 and 2pm pacific along with our sister program Cultural Baggage. And we're on The Detour Talk Network at thedetour.us on Tuesdays at 8:30pm.

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We'll be back next week with more news and commentary on the drug war and this Century Of Lies. For now, for the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!

DEAN BECKER: For the Drug Truth Network, this is Dean Becker, asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition: the century of lies. Drug Truth Network programs archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Policy Studies.