Author: anthonyj1977

The American Bankers Association Urges Congress to Pass the SAFE Banking Act

The bipartisan Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE Banking Act) of 2021 is expected to get a vote today in the United States House of Representatives, a big development for the cannabis industry and the first step towards finally implementing a sensible federal cannabis policy. State-regulated cannabis businesses are severely hindered from a lack of access to bank accounts and other normal financial services. The extra burden especially hurts small businesses, complicates business relations with vendors, and creates a safety risk for staff, customers, and the local neighborhood. The cannabis industry got a big boost today, with the American Bankers Association urging Congress to pass the SAFE Banking Act, writing:

Since 1996, voters across the country have determined that it is appropriate to allow their citizens to use cannabis for medical purposes and, since 2012, for adult use. Currently, 36 states have legalized cannabis for medical or adult use and that number continues to grow. Nevertheless, current federal law prevents banks from safely banking cannabis businesses, as well as the ancillary businesses that provide them with goods and services.

As a result, a majority of states are struggling to address the significant challenges to public safety, as well as regulatory and tax compliance that go hand-in-hand with businesses forced to operate in an all-cash environment. Providing a mechanism for the cannabis industry to access the banking system would help those communities reduce cash-motivated crimes, increase the efficiency of tax collections, and improve the financial transparency of the cannabis industry. Since bank accounts are monitored in accordance with existing anti-money laundering and Bank Secrecy Act requirements, bringing cannabis-related legitimate businesses into the mainstream banking sector would also help law enforcement to identify suspicious transactions – an opportunity that is not available in an all-cash environment.

The ABA was joined by 51 state banking associations, who in a separate letter penned, noting that the “SAFE Banking Act is a banking-specific bipartisan solution that would address the reality of the current marketplace.” No matter anyone’s stance on cannabis legalization, and the ABA noted that they are neutral on the issue, they should support the SAFE Banking Act. Denying cannabis companies access to bank accounts leads unnecessary complications and danger for our local communities. Hopefully the House passes the common-sense legislation overwhelmingly and the Senate follows suit.

Gallup: All-Time High 68% of Americans Support Cannabis Legalization

Imagine living in a world where only 12% of Americans support cannabis legalization. The year Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and the Beatles played their last performance, 1969, was when Gallup first polled Americans, “Do you think the use of marijuana should be legal or not?” Nearly 90% of Americans either opposed ending prohibition or were unsure. Fast forward to 2021, and we can clearly see the success of the cannabis community all around us, in our many political and cultural victories. And Gallup has the receipts, as support for legalization has reached an all-time high of 68%, as the polling company revealed, noting the success of the movement over the decades:

Americans are more likely now than at any point in the past five decades to support the legalization of marijuana in the U.S. The 68% of U.S. adults who currently back the measure is not statistically different from last year’s 66%; however, it is nominally Gallup’s highest reading, exceeding the 64% to 66% range seen from 2017 to 2019.

Gallup first measured the public’s views of marijuana legalization in 1969, when 12% of Americans backed it; by 1977, support had more than doubled to 28%. It did not exceed 30% until 2000 but has risen steeply in the two decades since then, and is now twice what it was in 2001 and 2003.

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The trajectory of the public’s support for the legalization of marijuana has coincided with an increasing number of states approving it. It is not entirely clear whether the shift in public opinion has caused the change in many state laws or vice versa. Given recent trends, more states are likely to legalize recreational marijuana in the future. Considering the high level of public support for such a measure, a change in federal policy could even occur.

While its been easy to see the success of the drug policy reform community in educating the public about cannabis, it’s always great to view hard data as our fight for freedom will only get harder in the electoral battles ahead. Reefer Madness prohibition has been the law of the land for decades and prison-industrial complex and other business interests that have perversely benefitted from arrests and convictions of those that dare to utilize cannabis, will give up their entrenched power willingly. If every state had a fair initiative process, where we can take the issue directly to voters, our electoral challenge would be much easier. Passing groundbreaking legislation that upends nearly a century of lies is still a difficult task, especially when wealthy business interests opposing legalization flex their political muscle. However, with the truth on our side and supermajority support from American voters, we just need to continue doing the hard work that has led to so many successes, step by step, state by state.

Cannabis community, come celebrate your supermajority status at Kind Leaf in beautiful, Pendleton, Oregon. Eastern Oregon’s premier craft cannabis boutique has the best selection in the Great Northwest and great deals that include discounts for military veterans, OMMP patients, and senior citizens.

St. Louis County, Missouri, Decriminalizes Cannabis, Effort Led by Former Police Chief

Each electoral and cultural victory for cannabis law reform should be celebrated as it is one more swing of the sledgehammer at Reefer Madness prohibition and the failed War on Drugs. Poll after poll has shown that the people are on the side of freedom and common sense, whether polling Americans at large or voters in Louisiana. Popular support is extremely important as we fight to allow regular banking services for the industry and ultimately deschedule cannabis under federal law, but nothing begets more success for the movement like electoral success. Decriminalizing personal cannabis possession in St. Louis County, Missouri, is very notable, not just because it adds about a million residents living in a decriminalized area, or that it will help end cannabis prohibition in the Show-Me State in the next couple of years, but because of who introduced the decriminalization bill as KSDK Channel 5 reported:

The St. Louis County Council voted 6-1 Tuesday night to reduce the penalties for certain amounts — less than 35 grams — of recreational marijuana possession. 

It goes from a fine of not more than $1,000 or one year in jail or both to a fine of not more than $100.

The legislation was sponsored by former St. Louis County police Chief Tim Fitch. Ernie Trakas was the lone “no” vote, explaining that he considers marijuana a gateway drug that can lead to users becoming addicted to more dangerous illicit substances.

Most importantly, people utilizing cannabis won’t be subject to arrest and up to a year in jail for possessing a personal amount of cannabis, a change that will improve many lives. Additionally, having a former police chief, while still harboring some outdated concerns about the Gateway theory, introducing a successfully decriminalization in Middle America is just another great sign in our fight to legalize federally. Also worth noting, Maplewood City, a suburb of St. Louis with about 8,000 residents, also voted to decriminalize up to 35 grams, setting the fine at just $1. The Maplewood City Council based their new law off of one recently passed in nearby Webster Groves. Step by step, city by city, state by state, freedom is on the march.

Cannabis Community Lost Two Influential Members in Steve Fox and Sara Batterby

Just yesterday, I blogged about the progress the cannabis community had made, thanks to two cannabis law reform pioneers that were no longer with us, Dennis Peron and Jack Herer. Each new generation of advocates stands upon the shoulders of giants and those two, along with Eugene, Oregon’s Elvy Musikka, and many others, have formed the foundation of our fight for freedom. Two recent influential members of the cannabis community, Colorado’s Steve Fox and Oregon’s Sara Batterby, left their own important marks on our movement. Like many, I was floored by the unexpected death of two folks impacted many, and were taken way too young.

With a long political career, Steve was a leader of the cannabis legalization movement in Colorado, helping write and pass Amendment 64, which ended prohibition in the Centennial State in 2012, undoubtedly one of the most important events in drug policy reform history. The Denver Post reported of his passing, noting that he took them to task when their editorial board lamented the reported rise in Colorado’s cannabis use:

“The more important question is why the editorial board considers an increase in marijuana use ‘disturbing,’” Fox wrote at the time. “This survey only showed a statistically significant increase in consumption by adults. Is this disturbing for moral reasons or is it based on societal costs? Did the survey cite any specific negative public health outcomes from increased adult use? (Answer: No.)”

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“Steve Fox was a trailblazer in the legalization of cannabis here in Colorado and helped lay the groundwork for today’s legal industry. His innovative spirit has left a lasting impact that won’t soon fade. My heart goes out to his wife and daughters,” Gov. Jared Polis said.

Fox is survived by his wife and two daughters. A GoFundMe page has been set up to support his family. Raised in the Jewish faith, Fox believed and practiced “Tikkun olam,” to “repair or heal the world,” according to the release. “That is what drove Steve to take on the cause of cannabis policy reform. And it was what drove Steve to be the person he was. Tikkun olam. Mission accomplished, dear friend.”

I first met Sara Batterby when she helped co-founded HiFi Farms and the the Portland Women Grow chapter following the passage of Measure 91. Her Silicon Valley background was unique to the Oregon movement and she quickly became extremely influential and I was fortunate to speak alongside her on several panels and hearing committees. She was a force to be reckoned with and went on to dedicate her work to helping startups, especially women-led ventures, secure capital for their business efforts. Further, she became an advocate for raising up people of color and the LGBT community in the industry as well. In addition to her capital funding efforts, she moved onto a farm, cultivating hemp and raising cattle. Ran into Sara by chance in Southern Oregon last Halloween and she introduced me to a song that she loved that became an instant addition to my playlist. The Cannabis Business Times reported on her passing:

“Sara’s heart beat harder for purpose and justice and at the heart of that was an anger at injustice. Injustice would always fuel her. The injustice of capital unevenly distributed,” Batterby’s family wrote in a statement. “The injustice of a legal system that criminalized cannabis. She used her brain to figure out ways to beat the system or change the system. She used her charisma to convince people to join her. And she made it happen through pure perseverance, determination and stubbornness.”

Additionally, Batterby worked with over 50 founders across industries such as food, apparel and cannabis, and was also recognized as a “Woman of Influence” in 2019 by the Portland Business Journal. In Cannabis Business Times, Batterby was interviewed for a 2017 article, where she shared the challenges she faced as a cultivator to start her business and the steps she took to overcome those challenges. She was later interviewed for a 2018 article—discussing resources to help women advance in the cannabis industry.

To read more about Batterby, visit her memorial page.

While I had the pleasure of knowing both Steve and Sara, many others in the movement knew them better, and my heart goes out to them, their friends, and family who are mourning and grieving. Life is too fragile and fleeting. Death eventually comes for all of us and one of the most important things that we can do is live our lives in ways that improve the world and those around us, so when we pass, our good memories and good work live on. Steve Fox and Sara Batterby definitely lived their lives in profound ways in that they both live on. May the both rest in peace and power.

Vox Thinks That Cannabis Legalization Has Already Won. Yes, but Let’s Not Let Up.

Cannabis legalization is on a great winning streak. Over 43% of our nation now lives in a state that has ended prohibition and there has never been a better time to be a drug policy law reformer. The success that the cannabis community has had politically and culturally is nothing short of remarkable. I had an activist yesterday tell me that they are amazed that I have been able to stay sane after two decades in this fight, let alone those that have two decades on me. I countered that I celebrate all of our victories along the way and while it can be frustrating, I take solace in knowing that we have come so far since 1996, the year when California became the first state to legalize medicinal cannabis. All of our success has finally moved into the halls of Congress and ending Uncle Sam’s Reefer Madness seems inevitable and we’re gonna see more articles like Vox’s declaring that “Marijuana legalization has won” stating:

At this point, the question of nationwide marijuana legalization is more a matter of when, not if. At least two-thirds of the American public support the change, based on various public opinion surveys in recent years. Of the 15 states where marijuana legalization has been on the ballot since 2012, it was approved in 13 — including Republican-dominated Alaska, Montana, and South Dakota (although South Dakota’s measure is currently held up in the courts). In the 2020 election, the legalization initiative in swing state Arizona got nearly 300,000 more votes than either Joe Biden or Donald Trump.

Legalization has also created a big new industry in very populous states, including California and (soon) New York, and that industry is going to push to continue expanding. One of the US’s neighbors, Canada, has already legalized pot, and the other, Mexico, is likely to legalize it soon, creating an international market that would love to tap into US consumers.

The walls are closing in on this issue for legalization opponents — and quickly.

Of course, what German Lopez writes in Vox is true, but there is a big “but” to consider. Legalization has won, BUT there is still much work to be done. Legalization is inevitable, BUT only because advocates have laid the foundation for decades and are continuing to do the hard work of winning elections, either by taking the case directly to the voters or winning over legislators and governors. The cannabis community has won the cultural battle because we have been right all along, just as those pioneering activists like Oregon’s Elvy Musikka and those no longer with us, like Jack Herer and Dennis Peron, were right about the ills of prohibition all along. However, we can’t let up.

Many old-school activists thought that ending the war on cannabis was inevitable during the 1970s when states first started decriminalizing personal amounts, but then there was the “Just Say No” expansion of the Drug War during the 1980s and into the 90s. This isn’t the time to spike the football, count all of our chickens, or insert-phrase-that-means-celebrate-prematurely, just yet. We still need to pass the SAFE Banking Act, free prisoners, expunge criminal records, implement equitable regulations, AND end prohibition all across the land. Step by step, state by state, we’re making it happen, but let’s continue to the work and not let the headlines get to our heads just yet.

Minnesota, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island Could All Legalize Cannabis This Year

This year has already been a historic one for the cannabis community with New York, Virginia, and New Mexico passing bills to end prohibition. A decade ago, there were no states that had legalized and now over 40% of our nation lives in a state that has voted to end prohibition. From an industry standpoint, New York is a huge get as the state will become one of the biggest markets in the world and its status as a financial and media hub should help create the momentum to pass the SAFE Banking Act to finally allow regulated cannabis businesses to access normal financial services. The criminal justice and social equity reforms passed in the Empire State should also resonate and help convince states to legalize right, even those that were earlier pioneers. Culturally, Virginia being the first state in the former Confederacy to sweep Reefer Madness prohibition into the dustbin of history is a landmark development that will bring more key support. New Mexico’s biggest impact outside of its border could be its influence on Texas as voters, legislators, and policymakers will start to notice that they are missing out on jobs and revenue for no reason as residents of the Lonestar State take advantage of legal stores in the Land of Enchantment.

More history could still be made as Minnesota, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island still have the potential to join the growing number of states that have legalized more freedom, jobs, and revenue, as Marijuana Moment reported:

From Delaware to Minnesota, lawmakers are still working to end prohibition by the year’s end. While there’s no guarantee that they’ll be successful, there’s growing momentum for legalization with top lawmakers and governors on board, and each state that enacts the policy change adds pressure on those around them to follow suit.

If two more states get legal marijuana bills signed this session, 2021 would set a record for the highest number of new legalization laws enacted in a single year. And if just one more state were to adopt legalization this session, 2021 would tie 2016 and 2020 as a year with the most number of states to legalize cannabis—quite remarkable given that no states are putting the issue directly to voters on the ballot this year.

Marijuana Moment provides a great breakdown of where the bills currently stand in these states. In addition to these four northern states, it should be noted that Louisiana could be the next southern state to join Virginia. A legalization bill was introduced last week and 2/3 of voters now support ending prohibition. The work of moving state by state is a ton of work, forged by advocates over years, if not decades, but it’s necessary to end harmful arrests and convictions while creating much needed jobs and revenue. Sooner, rather than later, this gains at the state level will create a tipping point to where Congress and the White House will no longer be able to deny the will of the voters and we can finally cure Uncle Sam’s Reefer Madness once and for all.

Congress, Pass a Jobs Bill! Legalize Cannabis.

It’s an understatement to say that there’s a lot on the plate of our nation and leaders. While our economy has started to improve, much more still needs to be done and it is imperative that we learn to adapt quickly and think about how we can best address our needs into the future, and not just plan for “the last war”. Over the past year, one of the few economic bright spots has been the cannabis industry. Legalized states have produced thousands of new jobs and generated millions upon millions in additional revenue, while the cannabis industry, with one hand tied behind its back, has emerged as an essential, multi-billion dollar industry. Ending federal prohibition will allow the cannabis industry to truly flourish with a similar tax code and access to banking services like other business sectors. As Rolling Stone reported, ending cannabis prohibition could lead to a better economic revival in states like Michigan that have lost manufacturing jobs, and all across the land:

For example, according to a recent report by the cannabis media platform Leafly, there are more legal cannabis professionals nationwide than there are electrical engineers, dentists and paramedics. In Michigan, more than half of those cannabis-related jobs were added just in 2020 alone. Referring specifically to Michigan, the report dryly notes, “In a state known for its auto industry, the number of cannabis workers is now roughly equal to the number of auto repair mechanics.”

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In 2020, according to Leafly’s findings, our industry sold $18.3 billion worth of product and supported 321,000 full-time jobs. The cannabis industry created this value last year without access to the regular security of banking and without even basic insurance programs available to every other business. Across the country, the industry did it with a concurrent illicit market competing against us every step of the way. We did it without being able to sell products between states as we do with automobiles or soybeans. Our industry is the industry of the 21st century — and it may just save us all.

This has undoubtedly been a terrible time in our country, but while so many other consumer industries have been shaken, cannabis has flourished during the darkness, proving that it can be the job creator and economic driver we need as we look to a much brighter future.

As Congress debates some serious issues about where to spend our hard-earned tax dollars and best move our nation forward, they shouldn’t ignore cannabis legalization for too long. With broad bipartisan support, sweeping Reefer Madness prohibition into the dustbin of history is a win-win for our nation. Thanks to hardworking advocates, legalization is here to stay in 17 states already, and will come to most remaining states eventually. For once, our legislators can embrace the future and help bring more jobs and revenue to communities that have suffered so much over the past year.

When you support Kind Leaf in beautiful Pendleton you are supporting an Oregonian-owned craft cannabis boutique that supports the local economy and community.

Cannabis Legalization Rises in the South in Virginia! Louisiana Next?

Yesterday, the Virginia Legislature took a huge sledgehammer to the federal war on cannabis by passing legalization and setting its official implementation date as July 1st. The former capital of the Confederacy officially became the 17th state to sweep prohibition into the dustbin of history, with more than 40% of our nation now living in legalized states.

Virginia and Oregon will share legalization anniversary days, with Old Dominion joining the Beaver State just six years after Measure 91 kicked into effect. The Virginia Mercury reported on the details of the law, which allows those of age to legally possess up to an ounce of cannabis:

Adults caught with more than an ounce but less than a pound will face a $25 fine. And adults caught with more than a pound can be charged with a felony punishable by between one and 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

And while sales of the drug are illegal, the legislation permits gifting up to an ounce of the drug to any adult. (The provision explicitly prohibits transactions that have become common in Washington, D.C., where companies sell legal products at high prices that are delivered with what is described as a free gift of marijuana.)

People under the age of 21 caught with the drug face a $25 fine, but would also be required to enter a substance abuse treatment and education program.

Virginia moving forward should help advocates’ political lobbying in other southern states like Louisiana, where a recent poll showed overwhelming and growing support for ending prohibition, as WFAB reported:

A recent poll showed 67% of Louisiana voters are in favor of legalizing cannabis. That’s up from the 54% who favored it last year, which leaves lawmakers to face what they say is obvious.

“I think there’s a sense of inevitability of it too, that people figure this is coming and it’s probably better earlier than later if it’s coming,” said Louisiana Rep. Tanner Magee (R).

And it’s not just one party that’s leaning towards legalization. The poll done by JMC Enterprises showed that the majority of both Democrats and Republicans are in favor of giving legalization the green light. Right now in Louisiana, it’s legal to be prescribed cannabis but only in a concentrated form. Magee said his bill would expand those laws.

Cannabis legalization has passed step by step, state by state very similarly to the medical cannabis movement, with mostly initiative states moving first before states where advocates don’t have the luxury of taking the issue directly to the voters. Most southern states don’t allow the initiative process, so broad bipartisan support is necessary to force the hand of elected officials. Legislators and their constituents seeing that the sky doesn’t fall in Virginia, thousands of new jobs being created and millions of dollars in additional revenue generated, will only speed up the passage legalization laws throughout southern states. Each state then adds more federal representatives that are on the right side of history. Thank you, Virginia, this win will go down as one of the most important victories in our fight for freedom and equality.

Oregon Cannabis Community, Send a Message Supporting the Cannabis Equity Act

Legalizing cannabis in Oregon has resulted in many positive developments. Thousands of jobs have been created and millions in revenue have been added to the state’s budget thanks to the nascent billion dollar industry. Criminal penalties have been drastically reduced, arrests have plummeted, and some convictions have been cleared from records. The passage of Measure 91 helped build the foundation to pass Measure 109 to legalize medical psilocybin therapy and Measure 110 to decriminalize personal possession of all drugs while allocating more than $100 million a year more for drug treatment, harm reduction, and recovery programs. However, there is much more work to be done. Previous marijuana criminal offenses need to be expunged automatically, regardless of the ability to pay court fees, and the industry hasn’t sufficiently uplifted the communities most harmed by the Drug War. The Cannabis Equity Act, House Bill 3112, is a great opportunity to bring more justice to our criminal justice system by automatically expunging old cannabis convictions while expanding economic opportunities across demographics by allowing cannabis cafes, and implementing equity provisions. Thanks to the Cannabis Equity PAC, Oregonians can easily send a message to legislators supporting HB 3112 that reads, in part:

Cannabis legalization has led to an influx of tax revenues far beyond what was ever imagined when cannabis was legalized in 2014. With significantly increased cannabis tax revenues and with our Black, Indigenous and Latinx communities at their most economically vulnerable following 2020, now is the time to invest in equity and economic repair for Black, Indigenous and Latinx people with the passage of HB 3112.

HB 3112 would allow for the direct investment of a portion of our cannabis tax revenues for housing, health care, and educational needs into these communities as we commit to restoring essential rights and privileges to those who have been stripped of them simply due to cannabis criminalization.

HB 3112 would provide an automatic and free path to expungement for some 28,000 Oregonians allowing them access to loans, better opportunities for jobs and an ability to begin building the generational wealth that has been denied them.

Please take a moment to send a letter to the Oregon House Judiciary Committee. The Oregon Cannabis PAC has made it super easy and quick, you can make your voice heard in under a minute. The bill is set for a work session on Thursday, April 8th, and could get passed out of committee. Regardless of whether the Cannabis Equity Act passes this session or not, it’s important to demonstrate as much support as possible and to continue to build upon the foundation that hard-working advocates have put into bringing more fairness to our system. A sincere thanks to everyone making their voices heard.

Like Cannabis, Oregon Psilocybin Pioneers Tackle How to Provide Safe Access to All

The first meeting of the Oregon Health Authority’s Psilocybin Advisory Board was last week and the topic that was at the forefront of the committee members’ minds was how the Beaver State can develop a program that will be as equitable as possible while establishing a model that will have a big impact on other states. Providing healthcare services and medicines to everyone that can benefit, across various demographics is a tough challenge for any program, complicated even more when the medicine is still illegal under federal law.

The Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) has certainly had mixed success. With Oregon having the most affordable cannabis in the nation and dispensaries like Kind Leaf offering discounts to OMMP patients, a lot of patients are acquiring an adequate supply of medicine, but too many are falling through the cracks. Unfortunately, this will be an issue for cannabis so long as federal prohibition remains in place. This is a also huge challenge for Oregon’s psilocybin program, so it’s great to see equitable access for a big focus while the state institutes a first-of-its kind system, as KTVL reported:

“I know Measure 109 is the name that’s fresh in our minds, but I actually think about it as the Oregon model of psychedelic care, which we’ll all work together on defining,” said board member Tom Eckert and founder of the Oregon Psilocybin Society, which championed the measure. “I think our work together is going to reverberate across the state, across the country, and across the world deep into the future.”

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“With all this expertise, it’s only to Oregon’s benefit to be able to continue to bring in the capacity and expertise that exists on this board. In addition to the capacity and expertise that may exist outside of this board,” said Sam Chapman, the manager of the Yes on 109 campaign and now Executive Director of the Healing Advocacy Fund. “Here in Oregon, even prior to the pandemic, Oregon has been suffering from one of the most several mental health crises in the country.”

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“It will be my work along with all of you to ensure that we center holistic equity and decolonization in everything that we do. Every aspect of our work here is an equity issue. From licensing to treatment centers to access and affordability and everything else in between, we have to ensure that our recommendations here are equitable,” said Dr. Rachel Knox, an endocannabinologist and member of the board.

Just as we’ve seen a deluge of evidence about the medical benefits of cannabis over the last few decades, we will likely start seeing more and more evidence about how psilocybin (aka “magic mushrooms”) and other psychedelics can help people battling post-traumatic stress, depression, and other mental health conditions. It’s exciting that Oregon is leading the way and we should be proud to be a pioneer in this field and across the spectrum as we implement drug policies that invest in people instead of prisons.

Kind Leaf is proud to offer discounts to military veterans, senior citizens, and OMMP patients.

Featured photo available via Wiki Commons.