Monday, June 19, 2017

The 'Green Rush' Went Next Level at Last Week's Cannabis Business Summit and Expo in Oakland

by Nate Sheidlower
Mon, Jun 19, 2017 at 6:18 PM

Hydroponics tables with marigolds belonging to Aessence Grows. - NATE SHEIDLOWER
  • Nate Sheidlower
  • Hydroponics tables with marigolds belonging to Aessence Grows.

The cannabis industry most people know consists of two people: the buyer and the seller. To a certain extent, that hasn’t changed. But, as the industry becomes legitimate through regulation and legalization, there is a lot more than just marijuana being bought and sold.

Last week, Oakland was host to the fourth annual National Cannabis Industry Association Cannabis Business Summit and Expo, and it’s 4,500 attendees. The grand ballroom at downtown’s Marriot City Center brimmed with almost 250 businesses, each posted up for two days to convince business owners and consumers that they can contribute to the rapidly expanding industry.

Child-proof packaging producers set up booths next to potency-testing lab companies, light manufactures, insurance agents, real-estate brokers, law firms, soil salesmen, and even point-of-sale and business-management software engineers. And there was very little actual cannabis on display or available.

In fact, all the samples that edibles companies gave out were non-infused, meaning they included zero THC or CBD. A demo of a hydroponic-growing tank sprayed water on the suspended roots of Marigolds, not pot plants. And even the industrial vacuum sealer demonstration included a bag of moss instead of bud.

“I’m from Humboldt, and we used to be a small group of businesses catering to the growers, everyone knew everyone,” explained Kelly Nicholson, the North America sales director of Autogrow, a company that’s been selling nutrient-dosing machines for agriculture for more than twenty years. “Now, there’s tons of new people — and I know maybe six booths.”

This is one of the many side effects of taking the cannabis industry out of the shadows and putting it in the hands of the government. Cova, for example, is a company that launched last week. They sell software to dispensaries so that they can ring up customers with a point-of-sale program on touch-screen tablets. Its parent company, iQmetrix, has its software powering 19,000 wireless retail locations.

Brendan Carroll explaining how the Yofumo curing box removes the mold, yeast, and bacteria from flowers. - NATE SHEIDLOWER
  • Nate Sheidlower
  • Brendan Carroll explaining how the Yofumo curing box removes the mold, yeast, and bacteria from flowers.

“Legalization and regulation are really legitimizing the industry, and that is attracting talent from other industries,” said Brandon Carroll, co-founder of Yofumo, a company that sells curing boxes for already-harvested cannabis.

Carroll’s product is an example of how Prop. 64 is expanding the scope of the cannabis industry. He and his business partner, Yofumo CEO Alfonso Campalans, both came from a background in financial-management software. The chief engineering officer, Alex Grey, built satellites before joining the company.

His actual product is a gun safe-sized box, which starts at $5,000 and can hold up to six pounds of cannabis for curing, or drying. The boxes remove all of the yeast, mold, and bacteria, leaving only the plant matter, cannabinoids, and terpenes. But he says it also creates a more aromatic marijuana flower: he opened a Harborside bag which he called “the control” and it smelled like good pot, but it was nothing too special. Then, he opened a jar of nugs that had been cured in the Yofumo box — they smelled like a fresh cherry blossom.

“Crazy, right?” he asked. “That’s cherry kush.”

Campalans first had the idea for the box some four years ago, when he saw a need in the industry: Everyone focused on the growing process, and no one was looking at how the cannabis is treated before it reaches the consumer. Work to design the boxes began two years later, and the company launched nationally this week, selling every machine they brought to the summit.

Evan Andrea stands next to the model of Bella Toka Grow Box he used to demo at the summit. - NATE SHEIDLOWER
  • Nate Sheidlower
  • Evan Andrea stands next to the model of Bella Toka Grow Box he used to demo at the summit.
Recognizing a void and working to fill it seemed to be a common theme for businesses at the conference. Mike Newton used to grow his own cannabis, to help with his back pain, until he realized six months of work only yielded him one month’s supply. He became determined to maximize yield, while at the same time making the growing process fluid and easy. Newton founded Bella Toka and began manufacturing the Grow Box last week, a tool that can hold up to seven plants and is designed for that very purpose.

Simply put, the grow box is two pots of soil stacked on top of each other with a screen in between, and a rack on top of the pots similar to a cage used with tomato plants. The screen removes the hassle that normally comes with growing marijuana of transferring the plant to a bigger pot for the flowering process.

“When it’s time to begin flowering, you just pull this out,” Newton’s business partner Evan Andrea explained as he removed the screen, allowing for the roots to extend down into more soil.

But even though many of the exhibits featured products that would interact with cannabis in some way, there was one company that had nothing to do with tangible pot.

Mentor Capital is a group that invests in cannabis businesses and works to help take them public. CEO Chet Billingsley founded the company in 1985. Before entering the cannabis world in mid-2013, he invested in cancer research and treatment companies.

“In the world of cancer, cannabis is a godsend,” Billingsley told the Express. He said by bringing his Wall Street background to the cannabis industry he feels he can do more good than previously.

But investing in cannabis businesses is a little bit different than other types of companies. Mentor Capital acquires an interest in larger, private cannabis companies, provides them with funding, and helps them prepare their accounting and board structure so that they can eventually be spun off as a stand-alone public company.

Cannabis companies could also remain with Mentor Capital, who asks for 5 percent of the company’s equity, which Billingsley said is about half what it costs to go public through other methods, such as a reverse merger.

He said now is the perfect time for smaller companies like his to get in to the industry, because it is not yet clear exactly how the federal government, under President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, will act with regards to cannabis businesses.

“The big guys and the medium guys have got too much to lose,” he said.

Throughout the two-day summit, discussion of Trump was sporadic. Kayla Bertsch, a horticultural engineer for Solexx, a company that’s sold plastic greenhouse coverings for over two decades, said she feels “scared about the sustainability and the future of the industry” because of the current administration.

Indeed, a lot is unknown when it comes cannabis and Trump. But another president came to the NCIA summit last week, and he was not silent about his view of the future of the industry.

Former president of Mexico Vincente Fox delivering the keynote address at the NCIA summit. - COURTESY OF NCIA
  • Courtesy of NCIA
  • Former president of Mexico Vincente Fox delivering the keynote address at the NCIA summit.
Former president of Mexico Vincente Fox was the keynote speaker, introduced by NCIA executive director Aaron Smith as “the first world leader to address the cannabis industry.”

Throughout Fox’s 45-minute speech, he spoke about how much pain people in Mexico have experienced because of the war on drugs, and how legalization is the road to ending crime that causes this pain. He acknowledged the work it took to get the cannabis industry to where it is today, and the industry’s potential.

“You’ve been striving, you’ve been struggling to open things, to change laws, to change behavior, to change image and perception. You’re doing that every day, and you will keep on doing it.” Fox told the audience. “Each of you can start with a small business in California or Oregon or Colorado, but you’re dreaming to become global and you are going to.”

And a moment before Fox’s speech, during a press conference, indicated how far marijuana truly has come: A man stood up and questioned the president’s choice of language. “Why do you call cannabis a drug?” he asked. “It’s an herb, it has flowers, and there are many herbs that have been used in naturopathic healing for millennia that are not called drugs.”

“I’m also ignorant sometimes, as Trump,” Fox responded. “I’m going to call it a flower now, a plant, no problem.”

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

City of Richmond to Feds: We Won’t Help You Bust Our Residents for Pot

by Nate Sheidlower
Wed, Jun 7, 2017 at 1:15 PM

Last night, Richmond City Council declared that it won’t use city resources to help the federal government apprehend people for marijuana.

The council adopted a resolution in solidarity with a state bill that would prohibit state and local agencies from assisting the feds in any efforts to bust individuals for marijuana offenses legal under state law (unless directed to do so by a court order). Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer, an L.A.-based Democrat, introduced the bill in late February, and it passed the Assembly last Thursday by a vote of 41 to 32.

Richmond is the second East Bay city, after Oakland, to support this bill, and the third in the state, with the West Hollywood also sending in a letter of support. The California Growers Association also has a petition on its website in favor of the bill with more than 300 signatures.

Former President Barak Obama’s administration assured states that lawful marijuana would not be subject to harassment or arrest by the federal government. According to an Assembly analysis, A.B. 1578 was drafted because the Trump administration has swayed the other direction, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions hinting at a possible crackdown on cannabis offenders.

“Considering Proposition 64 just passed in California, and here in Richmond we have a cultivation tax on the books, I don’t think it makes sense for us to be supporting the federal government with our local resources to go after any of these actors,” Councilmember Melvin Willis, a co-sponsor of the resolution, said at the June 6 meeting.

While Californians legalized medical marijuana in 1996 and recreational adult use last November, cannabis remains on the federal controlled substances list, and is therefore illegal at the federal level. A.B. 1578 would not stop state or local agencies from assisting the feds to go after anyone operating outside of state law, i.e. those in possession of large amounts or cultivating, processing, or distributing without the proper license.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

City of Albany Expands Ban on Marijuana Businesses, Outdoor Growing

by Nate Sheidlower
Tue, Jun 6, 2017 at 10:00 AM

cannabis-1254745_960_720.png
The Albany City Council voted unanimously last night to add commercial recreational businesses and general outdoor cultivation — whether commercial or personal — to the city’s list of prohibited activities related to marijuana.

Medical marijuana dispensaries and commercial cultivation sites are already banned in Albany, since 2011, and now councilmembers have directed their staff to expand the ordinance.

Councilmembers debated whether the potential financial benefits from both local and state taxes outweighed the potential increase in crime, and the unknown effect that allowing marijuana business to operate within city limits would have on the community. They decided to continue with prohibition, and wait to see what happens in other cities in 2018, before deciding the best course for Albany.

This action by the Council is in stark contrast with Albany’s neighboring city of El Cerrito, which voted in April to instigate a public process to remove its city-wide ban on marijuana businesses after the passage of California Proposition 64 last November.

Under Prop. 64, each local municipality has the authority to set its own regulations with regards to marijuana consumption in public places, marijuana business operation and taxation, and home and commercial cultivation. Cities such as Albany have the power to completely shut out the legal marijuana industry, the only thing they can’t do is prohibit indoor home cultivation.

But no matter how much control each city wishes to have, they’ve only got until January 1 to get their laws on the books before the State starts issuing business licenses.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Prop. 64 Rolls Out New Ads, No on 64 Touts Unfavorable New Poll

by David Downs
Fri, Oct 21, 2016 at 9:38 AM

The proponents of an initiative to legalize marijuana for adults in California are launching a series of online videos that will be appearing on television, as well.

Thursday, Yes on 64 uploaded “Common Sense,” featuring California’s former director of finance, Tom Campbell, appealing to extremely important swing voters. The video has not been made public as of this morning.

tm_campbell_yes_on_64_screen.jpg

In the video, tinkling piano notes play, the suit-and-tie-wearing Campbell says, “As California’s former director of finance I assure you Proposition 64 is a smarter, safer, more fiscally sound approach to adult-use marijuana than what our state is currently doing.

“So, though I never tried marijuana and I don’t advocate others doing so, I’m voting Yes on 64 to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana for adults 21 and over. 64 has strict safeguards for families and a billion dollars in new revenue for our state’s greatest needs. So vote yes on 64.”

The ad rollout comes amid a new poll showing Proposition 64’s support at just 51 percent, with a 3.7 percent margin of error. The No on 64 camp on Tuesday touted the results of the automated poll conducted October 13-15 via phone and online.

“Proposition 64 … is backed 51% to 40%. Unchanged from mid-and late-September,” Survey USA states.

“The survey was conducted using blended sample, mixed mode. Respondents reachable on their home telephones (58% of likely voters) were interviewed on their home telephones in the recorded voice of a professional announcer. Respondents not reachable on a home telephone (42% of likely voters) were shown a questionnaire on the screen of their smartphone, tablet or other electronic device. Polling ballot measures and citizen initiatives is an inexact science,” Survey USA states.
Among all polls, Survey USA polls have generally yielded results showing the least support for Proposition 64. However, the polling group is correct when it states: “In general, having nothing to do with California specifically and having nothing to do with 2016 uniquely, opposition to a ballot measure increases as Election Day approaches. Rarely does support for a ballot measure increase over time. As a result, the outcome of Prop 64 cannot be assured at this hour.”

No on 64 has promised to start airing their own video ad in the pivotal Los Angeles market, stating in Spanish that marijuana candy advertising would be coming to television “on shows children watch.”

“We can’t allow our children to be put at risk,” the ad states.

(In fact, federal communications law prohibits advertising banned drugs on broadcast television and radio. Station owners that do could lose their jobs and their station’s FCC licenses. Prop 64 also explicitly prohibits advertising to children.)

Last week, veteran campaign experts said they expected Proposition 64 to pass.

And in a press conference this week, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom stated: "We're working our tail off. ... If we’re able to continue where we are today, with this kind of a pace of energy, we’ll win.”

Also this week, Gallup reported 60 percent of Americans now support marijuana legalization.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Nurses Can Train on Marijuana This Friday in Lafayette

by David Downs
Mon, Oct 17, 2016 at 9:16 AM

Mainstream medical practitioners and institutions are woefully behind the curve on cannabinoids.

But as adult-use legalization spreads, it also lifts the lingering stigma over mainstream medical uses for pot. Dramatic inroads are being made.

The Apothecarium launches a new physician outreach program with Mayor Jean Quan’s husband Dr. Floyd Huen this October.

And over in Lafayette Friday, nurses can get trained on cannabinoid medicine from two rock stars in the space: Alice O’Leary Randall, LPN, CT; and the East Bay's Eloise Theisen, RN, MSN, AGPCNP-BC.

Patients in many nursing homes and hospice care facilities are prohibited from using cannabis-based tinctures and oils. - STEPHEN LOEWINSOHN
  • Stephen Loewinsohn
  • Patients in many nursing homes and hospice care facilities are prohibited from using cannabis-based tinctures and oils.
Nurses who attend the Nurses Medical Cannabis Workshop: A Clinical Focus, obtain six contact hours per session, which may count toward continuing education requirements.

Experts say doctors and nurses are not currently trained on the endocannabinoid system, and lack basic information about the plant, its compounds, dosing and drug interactions, and indications. Yet about one in 20 California adults are estimated to have used cannabis for serious medical condition.

Theisen specializes in female seniors — some of the most cannabis-phobic patients around. Randall is a noted medical voice on cannabis, and former partner of Robert Randall, a celebrity federal medical marijuana patient.

The event is sponsored by United Patients Group and Green Health Consultants and is $225.

The California Board of Registered Nursing is listed as the provider for a total of six (6) CE Certified Contact Hours.

The duo also conducts the workshop Saturday in San Rafael.

[David Downs is the author of The Medical Marijuana Guidebook, America's most practical guide for patients and caregivers.]

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Marijuana and Election 2016: Grading the Candidates and Measures on Pot-Friendliness

by David Downs
Thu, Oct 13, 2016 at 10:18 AM

The deadline to register to vote in California is eleven days out. Vote by mail packets are already hitting mailboxes statewide.

For folks hoping to end the drug war, there’s ample opportunity up and down the ballot to express the will of the people, whether it be: voting in local city council members and county supervisors who will decide if your town can have a medical dispensary — and eventually a recreational one; voting in state races to pick representatives who will defend and expand safe access at the state level, a well as shield the industry from rapacious special interests; to voting for Congress members and Senators who will decide if banking reform and tax reforms get a hearing in Congress, let alone a floor vote, or approval.

California's multi-billion cannabis industry hangs in the balance of the General Election. - DAVID DOWNS
  • David Downs
  • California's multi-billion cannabis industry hangs in the balance of the General Election.
The Drug Policy Forum of California, an influential online site, has released its General Election Voters Guide to Drug Policy Reform recently. The beefy Guide covers candidates and state measures, highlighting pro-reform votes in green, anti-reform votes in red, and neutral votes black.

Of note:

— The DPFCA Voter Guide is technically neutral on California legalization Prop. 64, but mostly endorses it, with fears about tickets for smoking in public, and taxes.

“Observers agree that a victory for legalization in California would be a powerful boost for marijuana reform both nationally and internationally. On the other hand, defeat would undoubtedly be interpreted as a major setback to legalization and likely invite a crackdown,” the DPFCA Guide states.

— Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gets a "neutral" vote, and so does Republican nominee Donald Trump. However, Trump’s second in command Mike Pence is totally anti-reform. Libertarian candidate and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, and Green party candidate, Dr. Jill Stein advocate full legalization of marijuana, and get the DPFCA’s green light.

— In the race for Sen. Boxer’s seat, Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Orange County clinches a green light from reformers, while Attorney General Kamala Harris gets a "neutral" rating.

“More seriously, Harris failed to speak up against the federal crackdown on dispensaries in California, despite the fact that as former District Attorney of San Francisco she should have known that the city’s dispensaries were working well and the federal charges against them were bogus. … her lack of leadership in the state has been troubling.” 
— Over in the races for open Congressional seats, DPFCA highlights the die-hard prohibitionists who want to represent you in Congress, specifically calling for voters to send home in defeat: Doug LaMalfa (R- Redding/ N.E. Cal.); Jeff Denham (R-Modesto); Darrell Issa (R-Vista); Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield); Scott Jones (R-Sacramento Co.); Casey Lucas (R-Monterey); and Paul Chabot (R-San Bernardino).

Rep. La Malfa thinks pot should be considered as dangerous as heroin, and has said “any measure that would continue to keep it as a controlled substance I would support." 


All across inland and Southern California, voters can defeat recalcitrant Republicans — like in Rancho Cordova/Roseville where pro-reform Democrat Ami Bera is battling former Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, who is "100% against" legalization. Pro-reform voters can make a difference in races in Monterey, Squaw Valley, California City, Palmdale, San Bernardino, Irvine, Orange County, and Oceanside.

— Also, there are about 50 local ballot measures related to cannabis.

Read the full Guide to see your local legislative races and ballot measures, as well.

And to those who say 'voting amounts to tacit support for a corrupt system', we reply, “Cool. So when the revolution starts, should we just send you an email or something?”

As Lt. Gov. Newsom told the cannabis industry this summer in Oakland, “Our actions matter. By doing nothing, you’ve done everything, by abdicating any responsibility for the world we’re living in.”

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Gov. Jerry Brown Licenses California’s Smallest Medical Pot Farmers

by David Downs
Wed, Oct 5, 2016 at 12:02 PM

Gov. Jerry Brown provided a path to licensure for California’s smaller medical cannabis gardeners that want to sell their crop into the regulated commercial market.

"Dutch Crunch" medical marijuana
  • "Dutch Crunch" medical marijuana

The governor signed the so-called “cottage” licensing bill, A.B. 2516, on September 29, creating a Type 1C, or “specialty cottage,” state cultivator license.

A licensed cottage grower could have up to 2,500 square feet of total canopy size in a greenhouse; up to 25 mature plants outdoors; or 500 square feet indoors, on one premise.

Growers get the license from the state’s food and agriculture department, and the state license pairs with local licenses.

The cottage licensing law addresses new anxieties about industrial agriculture disrupting the economics of the otherwise unmechanized crop.

Local cottage licenses have yet to be crafted. Meanwhile, medical marijuana megafarms are being licensed and grandfathered in as fast as cash-thirsty cities can pass ordinances.

The rich cultivation cultures of the Bay Area’s urban center are facing the stresses of a fully legal, soon-to-be-regulated sector. San Francisco growers say lack of local licensing threatens to push them out. Oakland is mired in a potentially illegal equity permit program already diminishing its competitiveness.

Pot prices plummet under legalization, which erases the ‘risk premium’ on weed. Overproduction also drives out inefficient gardeners. The RAND Drug Policy Research Center estimates one gram of cannabis could fall from a black market high of $20 to about $2. You could grow all of California's annual supply on 1,100 acres, according to new estimates.

Several enacted and proposed laws and regulations aim to preserve small farmers who could command boutique pricing similar to vinters and brewers.

“As this industry moves forward, we need to make sure that all farmers, regardless of size, can come into compliance – that’s what success looks like,” stated Assemblymember Jim Wood, the bill’s sponsor.

In related news, cottage licensing supporter and director of the California Growers Association Hezekiah Allen told the Lost Coast Outpost he would not vote to legalize marijuana — unless it heralds a planet-wide return to pre-industrial agriculture.

"We need to fundamentally reconsider the way our farms and businesses relate to the natural world," he said.

California has a several billion-dollar medical cannabis industry, is the leading domestic supplier to the nation which spends tens of billions on cannabis annually, RAND finds. California currently makes about 20,000 marijuana-related arrests each year, resulting in several hundred million dollars in adjudication costs, according to state estimates.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

California Medical Marijuana Extract Makers Get Historic Protections

by David Downs
Tue, Oct 4, 2016 at 7:50 AM

California’s elite artisanal medical cannabis extract-makers will get the same legal shield as the patients and collectives they currently serve, under new law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

More …

Thursday, September 29, 2016

#BlackLivesMatter In New Marijuana Legalization Video from #Yeson64

by David Downs
Thu, Sep 29, 2016 at 11:51 AM

Marijuana is a leading driver of race-based police brutality in America, according to a new video released online this week from a group helping to legalize cannabis in California.


Hot off the heels of their incendiary Jay-Z video on mass incarceration, the Drug Policy Alliance has released “It’s Not Legal Yet: Why We Must Legalize Marijuana in California,” highlighting the disproportionate enforcement of marijuana laws against Blacks and Latinos.

Even though California decriminalized personal marijuana possession in 2010, Black and Latinos continue to get pot tickets at far higher rates than whites in California. They’re also overrepresented among California’s 25,000 or so annual arrests for things like selling pot or growing it. California had nearly 500,000 arrests for marijuana from 2006 to 2015.

The DPA notes:
Black people were nearly five times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana felonies. Latinos are 35 percent more likely than white people to be arrested for a marijuana offense: 45 percent more likely for a misdemeanor and 26 percent more likely for a felony. Further, marijuana infraction enforcement in Los Angeles and Fresno was nearly four times more severe for Black Californians and 1.5 times more severe for Latino Californians than whites.
“With gripping images and narration, this short film raises up the critical racial and social injustice issues at stake under marijuana legalization in California,” stated Lynne Lyman, California state director for Drug Policy Action. “It upholds Brave New Films’ tradition of making hard-hitting films on the most pressing issues in our communities.”

Monday, September 26, 2016

Amoeba Records Hits Big With Pot Shop Permit in Berkeley

by David Downs
Mon, Sep 26, 2016 at 9:26 AM

Last October, we broke the news that cannabis might be helping to save the music industry. Amid the collapse of record sales and the rise of legal cannabis, musicians are launching marijuana brands. Also, the West Coast’s most famous record store, Amoeba Records, had opened a medical marijuana doctor’s office, and was applying for a coveted license to sell medical cannabis in Berkeley

Last week, those plans came to fruition: The Berkeley City Council agreed to grant the ailing record store a license to dispense medical cannabis from their Telegraph Ave. store. The store will be called BC3, for Berkeley Compassionate Care Collective, at 2465 Telegraph Ave.

amoeba_records_pot_shop.jpg

“We. Got. The. Berkeley. Dispensary. Permit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A record store and a dispensary, who could have imagined this awesomeness?!?!?!?!?!?” wrote Amber Senter, Amoeba permit team member,  on Facebook.


It could be a minimum of several months before any Amoeba Records Dispensary sees its first customers. The records store’s conversion of its jazz room and exterior requires approvals from Berkeley’s Department of Planning and Development.

Berkeley council also approved another pot-shop dispensary, to be operated by the group behind San Francisco’s enormously successful, well-run, award-winning The Apothecarium. Berkeley’s The Apothecarium will be at 2578 Shattuck Ave.

These two new permits come after Council awarded a permit to its first Black, female, senior citizen pot shop owner Sue Taylor.

Competition was fierce for Taylor’s permit, and Council agreed to add two more permits after she won hers. Berkeley currently has three licensed, operational dispensaries: Berkeley Patients Group, CBCB, and BPCC. BPCC led a campaign to oppose any new permittees near its small, low-profile store on Telegraph Ave.


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