The 2016 Original Terpestival™ Terpene Tournament™ Winners Hopland, CA

Beautiful Cannabis artwork on display from our vendor Cathy Lee Art of San Diego

by Dr. Michelle Sexton, Co-Founder and Medical Research Director

The Original Terpestival™ and Terpene Tournament™ has  again offered local craft cannabis producers and processors the opportunity to showcase their top genetics and compete for terpene characteristics of finished cannabis product. The Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy (CASP) reached another milestone in this successful fund-raising event, held this year in Hopland CA on July 23rd.  CASP is a 501c3 tax-exempt organization that collects and disseminates information about cannabis policy and markets in the context of state-level experiments in democracy, affected by Legal Cannabis laws, rules, and regulations.

Dr. Ethan Russo addresses the Terpestival™ crowd!
“Terpenes and Growing” panel with Jim Fullmer from Demeter Association, Envirocann, Sunshine Johnson from Sunboldt Farms, and moderator Don Wirtschafter

Dr. Ethan Russo, an internationally recognized Cannabis historian, Board-certified neurologist, psychopharmacology researcher and Medical Director for Phytecs  was the keynote speaker. For the competition, SC Labs provided the quantitative analysis of terpenes and judges also sampled the entries. We are grateful to our many sponsors and vendors who came out for hot fun in the summer time at a unique facility, The  Solar Living Institute. We hosted three very educational panels on Processing and Terpenes, Growing and Terpenes, and Terpenes in Health and Ritual. The event was well-attended and we received incredible reviews for this one-of-a kind educational boutique event! Awards were presented on the basis of both quantitative and qualitative results.

One category of award was for the highest total amount of terpenes that were quantified (out of 35 commonly found in cannabis species). The aggregate results across all samples revealed some interesting data. The flower average terpene content was 1.4%  Because the event was away from harvest time, there may have been loss of terpene content over time, depending on storage conditions. Only rarely will flower have more than 4% total terpenes, which is pretty amazing given the potent aroma of the plant!

As you can see from Figure 1 the total terpene variability in concentrate  is notable, and is due to differences in extraction protocols and extraction efficiency for the terpenes.   Specifically in Figure 2 you can see that 2/3 of the solventless extracts (CO2 accepted) actually did not concentrate monoterpenes, and sometimes had less of the individual monoterpenes than the flower samples. Only beta-carophyllene is significantly being concentrated in most of the samples while cannabinoids are typically increased 4-fold or more.  The terpenes are an important chemical class that differentiate chemovars from each other. However, if they are being lost in the process, perhaps this raises the question of whether products should be sold under the same name as the original varietal that the concentrate was made from. Also, because the monoterpenes have been reported to have their own biological effects, with their loss it is to be expected that the overall effects would be quite different!

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Figure 1: Total Terpene Aggregate Results. Average for flower is 1.4% and for concentrates 9.7%

Figure 2: Total Terpenes in Low-end concentrates. This graph is the individual terpenes in the concentrates from Figure 1 that were less than 4% total. Beta-caryophyllene and limonene were the two terpenes that were significantly concentrated.

The winner for Highest Total Terpenes in an extract, as well as for most of the terpene categories was from Paradigm for their terpene extraction of “Indica Jello Terps”. Paradigm is the largest woman-owned extraction facility in California, owned by Karyn Wagner. Interestingly, based on the judges comments, these highly concentrated terpene products are not desirable for inhaling on their own. As Karyn agreed, they are a useful intermediate product that could be implemented for combining back with more viscous extracts in lieu of using propylene glycol, glycerine, polyethylene glycol or MCT oil (all of which may be harmful to human health when heated and inhaled), so that they are pourable for filling cartridges, or for use in tinctures. Paradigm also was awarded second and third place for Blue Dream Dreamer and AK47 Shotgun.

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Figure 3: All concentrates with winners. Notably absent from all of the concentrates is terpinolene, an unusual compound that provides interesting effects ranging from stimulating (mind) for some, to body relaxing and anti-psychotic for others. We opted give an award for highest linalool instead.
fig 4
Figure 4: Terpene content in flower. The spread for each terpene that we gave awards for, along with the winner and placers (in order) in each category.

Highest Total Terpenes for Flower was awarded to Dirt Ninja for their Grapefruit OG. Second place was Silly Strawberry by Sunboldt Grown, and third place went to Sage and Sour Kush from Ethereal Collective. Figure 4 shows the total terpene distribution across flower entries with the winners in each class alongside.

An event volunteer rocking the t-shirt with her own design!

We gave judges’ awards based on their subjective feedback provided in a survey form. Rick Pfrommer selected the judges, and following part of our event theme (women-centric) , we had 50% of women judges and one gender neutral individual. They were aged 30-49 and 63% had a bachelors level degree. We asked them to rank each sample based on smell, taste, visual appearance, smoothness of smoke and overall effect. They scored these elements on a scale from 0-5 indicating whether the terpene dominated the smell and taste, was somewhat present, neutral, faintly present or none detected. We asked them to rate the overall effects such as physically stimulant, or relaxing with the answers of very, somewhat, neutral, very little or absent. They also scored entries for visual appeal and “smoothness”.

Most Stimulating:

Flower                                                                       Extract

ChemDog x SFV Ethereal Collective                      Oil Spill                     Humboldt Oil Cartel

Sherbert              Ethereal Collective                      Sour OG                     Talking Trees Farm

Grapefruit OG     Dirt Ninja Farms                        Purple Lotus CBD    Ethereal Collective

Most Sedating:

Flower                                                                       Extract

Sherbert             Ethereal Collective                       Sour OG:                  Talking Trees Farm

Butter OG          Ethereal Collective                       Girl Scout Cookie   Talking Trees Farm

Silly Strawberry Sunboldt Grown                          Blood Orange          Nexus Alchemy

Finally we awarded a “Best of Show” for flower and extract.                                        One grower, Ethereal Collective, swept the flower category with 1st, 2nd and 3rd placings for Chemdog x SFV, Butter OG and Sherbert. Best of show for an extract went to Nexus Alchemy for Blood Orange, 2nd place was for Oil Spill by Humboldt Oil Cartel, and 3rd was for Girl Scout Cookie by Talking Tree Farms.

           Women Swept the Awards at the Terpene Tournament™!! From left, Dirt Ninja Farms, Karyn Wagner of Paradigm, Sunshine Johnson of Sunboldt Farms and Ethereal Collective.

It was notable this year that so many women won awards, and in fact swept the awards for terpenes and for the judge’s categories!   Some of the comments from the judges for the Ethereal Collective’s flower entries were: “Beautiful nuggets of intense flavorable terps”; “well-rounded”; “lushed well and cured well”; “amazing terps from the dry drag to the clean burn”; and “hats off to this farmer!”.

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 Dr. Dominic Corva with the trophies awarded to the winners.  Winners also received the laboratory analysis from SC Labs along with judges’ comments that they can use for marketing.  

One take-away message from the event is:   “don’t let your cannabis selection be defined just by the cannabinoid profile”.   The terpene profile needs to be used along with the cannabinoid profile for the end-user to be an educated connoisseur.  Our entrant took home the complete cannabinoid and terpene profile analysis from SCLabs along with judges’ comments that can be used for constructive feedback and product marketing.  There is a growing trend in the cannabis industry to make efforts at preserving the terpenes during extraction, as well as during curing of the cannabis flower.  We urge those who are producing these extracts to use laboratory analysis for process monitoring.  If you know the terpenes in the flower, then this can guide the extraction process. Quality has always been defined to the growers by the terpenes and the same should apply for extracts!

Our deepest gratitude goes out to all of those who worked so hard to organize the event, among them Allison Edrington, who did a spectacular job as the event coordinator, and Rick Pfrommer who rallied for the judging process- performing the tedious tasks of dividing up and delivering samples to the judges. We are grateful to all of the sponsors and vendors who took their time to participate and make the event a success! Thanks to all who entered their products and for those who attended the event. CASP appreciates you and says a big “thank you” for the ongoing support of our organization and the work that we do at CASP!  And a special thank you to Dr. Dominic Corva who had the vision and impetus to found the organization and carry on in spite of the challenges around raising financial support for the sometimes controversial work that we publish!



Tailoring Terpenes for Flavor and Effect

Aromatherapy was defined and coined in 1936 as the use of essential oils, applied topically, orally, or by inhalation to promote health, hygiene and psychological wellbeing.  Aromatic-PlantsAll kinds of aromatic plants such as lavender, frankincense and rosemary have been used since antiquity for these purposes!

Terpenes and terpenoids are the primary components in essential oils, with about 300 of these traded on the world markets, estimated in 2013 to be worth over $1 billion. They are used in the flavor industry, in cosmetics, the pharmaceutical industry (a German company synthesizes THC from limonene), cleaning products, hair and skin care and for aromatherapy.   They have their own pharmacological activity, penetrate the skin, and also can be toxic to the skin, neurons, and reproduction.

Terpenes are what the compounds that we smell in Cannabis, and the upcoming event: Terpestival™ Terpene Tournament and Festival on July 23rd in Hopland, CA will provide a platform for the industry to further discover and define what :terps” mean for the bottom line, and for specific medical conditions.

The Terpestival™ Terpene Tournament and Festival will host three expert panels discussing these topics in detail:

1) Terpenes in extraction/product making. How does this translate to the market?

2) Terpenes in Growing: How does this translate to the market?

3) Terpenes in Health and Ritual

There is a growing trend in the Cannabis industry to make efforts toward preserving the terpenes during extraction, as well as during curing of the cannabis flower. These compounds are also concentrated with supercritical CO2 extraction. Whenever the plant is heated in extraction, the terpene ratio dramatically shifts away from the lightest weight compounds, the monoterpenes to the heavier and more complex terpenoids or sesquiterpenes.

Plants of the same genus that are almost identical in appearance can produce profoundly different chemotypes, as evidenced by Cannabis species.  This unique “fingerprint” of each species or varietal is why a particular one may be your favorite.

For example, a top-selling variety on the West Coast (where it was bred) and in Colorado is Blue Dream.   This strain came from a cross of a Blueberry, reported to be heavily “indica” with Super Silver Haze, a “sativa”. One of the reasons that this may be a popular strain is due to the unique balance of the terpenes: pinene and myrcene.  Here is the terpene profile from 11 Blue Dreams grown in Washington State:Blue Dream

When the afghanica strains (came with the “purples”) were introduced and bred into the genetics, beginning around the mid 1990’s, the terpenoids were resurrected and also began to dominate the industry. When the purples were introduced, there was an explosion of smell (floral and fruity), and these were the first truly branded varietals. This was because the quality has always been defined to the growers by the terps! Does the smell attract you? Then go for that variety!

Terpenes are affected by growing conditions, plant genetics, nutrient availability and plant “stress” such as heat, drought and water. Plant stress is actually what may increase the production of these chemicals. In addition, when harvest occurs and how the plant is handled and cured after harvest are important factors for preserving the individual terpene profile of each plant.

When the terpenes from essential oils are inhaled, we have specific receptors in our nose (olfactory bulb) for recognizing scent. When these receptors are bound by a terpene, electrical signals are sent to the brain. Linda Buck with Richard Axel won a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2004 for this discovery. These “chemoreceptors” are also found in the lining of the gut on what are called enteroendocrine cells, that may signal hormonal or neuronal pathways.

The take-away message is:   “don’t let your cannabis selection be defined just by the cannabinoid profile”.   The terps need to be used along with the cannabinoid profile for the end-user to be satisfied. One way to tell whether your bud is fresh and pleasing, is to smell it!  This is also one indicator for medical use and how a patient may know if a product is going to work for them! This scent is what is going to drive the market!   Start requesting the terpenoid profile from your dispensary or supplier and compare the varietals.  Pinene and terpinolene are two that are more rare, and you should be on the look-out for. Why?  Come to the Terpestival and find out!!

The growing demographic of sophisticated Cannabis connoisseur cares about much more than the THC or CBD content. 

To enter the Terpene Tournament

To buy tickets to the Terpestival


“Everything is being re-imagined. We are shaking the world with a new dream.” _Grace Lee Boggs : Medical Cannabis and pediatric patients.

The title quote from Grace Lee Boggs, a 98-year old philosopher, feminist and political activist who has been labeled “An American Revolutionary”, is passed on from the mother of a child who suffers from seizure and other diagnoses.  What, might you wonder is the cause of her pronoia? (defined as the opposite state of mind as paranoia)  Because of access to medical Cannabis in Washington State, she has some hope for her child.   She has begun to administer a non-psychoactive Cannabis extract to her daughter under an act passed by voter initiative in 1998. Her attitude, like that of many other families in this same circumstance, is one of expectation that there may be the chance to have improved in the quality of life for her family.

In a contemporary manifestation of the Underground Railroad, parents are turning out to be the heroes/heroines in a struggle against the abolitionist policy regarding Cannabis as medicine. Their children, who suffer from debilitating disorders, are the figurative fugitives in this story, and the parents are accessing local “safe houses” that provide the relief from Cannabis that they have sought for years from pharmaceutical drugs.

Current Washington State law states: “Humanitarian compassion necessitates that the decision to use cannabis by patients with terminal or debilitating medical conditions is a personal, individual decision, based upon their health care professional’s professional medical judgment and discretion”.

With the support of a compassionate doctor in Washington State, this mother is able to access Cannabis for her child under the voter initiative, and has now become an expert in many aspects of Cannabis as medicine.  She has learned how to dilute a cannabidiol-rich (CBD) concentrate so she can give a precise milligram dose of CBD, she is aware of potential drug interactions, how to monitor the weaning from the harmful anti-epileptic drugs her daughter has been on, and what to monitor her daughter for regarding any potential side-effects.  So far, the side effects have been mostly beneficial, such as improved sleep and improved behavior. The seizure reduction will likely follow as she slowly titrates the dose upward, as many other families like hers are teaching her to do.  She is learning that whole plant medicine works where single-agent compounds have largely failed her child.

This is Samuel, age 9. He has a diagnoses of Mowat-Wilson syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and is a medical Cannabis patient in Washington

For now this mother has a level of legal protection under the Washington State law: “Persons who act as designated providers to such patients shall also not be arrested, prosecuted, or subject to other criminal sanctions or civil consequences under state law, notwithstanding any other provision of law, based solely on their assisting with the medical use of cannabis”. Like the original Underground Railroad, these families don’t know what their next move will be, or whether it might be to another State where they can continue to provide medicine for their children, to either grow themselves, or access from a qualified facility.  Not unlike the original cargo, their journey has been fraught with confusion, a perceived danger of reprisal from their doctors, child protective services or family members, as they have “come out” on this new “Upperground Railroad” as Frederick Douglass coined a term.  Now not even Canada is  a safe haven, as it was for slaves, for parents such as these who might want to grow their own medicine. (Patients can no longer grow Cannabis in Canada)

However, as in the gospel lore “the wheels keep on turning”, and this gospel train of liberation from human suffering keeps chugging along, parent-to-parent, family-to-family!   How long will it take before Federal Governments won’t be the only legitimate drug dealers for several plants that have the capacity to alleviate human suffering?  How much longer until this plant and others are set free to interact with the human biome as they were likely designed to do, and not be captured and altered by pharmaceutics?

Until that time, it is likely that these parents, empowered by taking healthcare into their own hands with botanical medicine, will continue to “Follow the Drinking Gourd” to their own true north:  the healing of their children, their families and the trickle-down effects to their communities and the planet at large!

This is two-year-old Jackson, who suffers from intractable epilepsy with multiple seizure types as well as infantile spasms second to an undiagnosed yet suspected complex 1 mitochondrial disease. He is a medical Cannabis patient

Here is a quote from another of these brave parents: “Parents have the right to save their children’s lives when conventional medicine isn’t effective and causing more harm than good.   With an open mind, researchers and doctors can discover what is true about this medicine that has been used for hundreds of years.  Anecdotal evidence is everywhere!”

AHP Monograph set for publication!

The American Herbal Pharmacopoeia has finalized the first installment of a Cannabis monograph.  Dr. Michelle Sexton has been an editor and technical advisor on this project.  Pre-order yours now for Christmas!


An herbal monograph is a document produced on the topic of a single plant that describes nomenclature, parts used, constituents, range of application, contraindications, side effects, incompatibilities with other medications, dosage, use, and action of the herb.  The first installment of the monograph, set to go to press this week, is “Standards of Identity, Analysis and Quality Control”.  This document has been adopted by rule to guide, specifically, the quality assurance testing of Cannabis and related products under I502.  The second installment will focus on therapeutic applications and is expected sometime next spring.  This monograph represents the most up-to-date review of topics from nomenclature, Identification, Constituents, Analytical Standards and International Status.  AHP monographs fill the mission to  “promote the responsible use of herbal medicines and ensure they are used with the highest possible degree of efficacy and safety. Our primary way to accomplish this is through the development of standards of identity, purity, and analysis for botanicals, as well as to critically review traditional and scientific data regarding their efficacy and safety”.


This publication is significant because for the first time since Cannabis was removed from the Us pharmacopoeia in 1942, this “red-headed step child” of a plant now has a home!  Additionally, the American Herbal Products Association  has developed documents to guide regulators and the industry in providing quality assurance and quality control.   Together, the monograph and AHPA standards have guided Americans for Safe Access in development of a Patients First Certification Program.   Despite the fact that I502 regulations will not at this time require medical Cannabis to have the same level of quality control as that marketed in retail stores for adult use, it is hoped that in time the quality of medical products will exceed that of adult use products.

Good Agricultural Practices are addressed in both AHP and AHPA documents and cultivation and processing guidelines are included.  If you want more information about either of these organizations, contact them and we encourage you to join the AHPA if you are involved in any area of production or distribution of Cannabis and related products.  The Chair of the Cannabis Committee at AHPA is Tim Smale.

Gardening, An Inalienable Human Right!


By Michelle Sexton ND

Recently I had the serendipitous occasion to have a long conversation with Dr. Jonathon Page, who published “The Draft Genome and Transcriptome of Cannabis sativa”.  We were on a bus traveling to the Bedrocan growing facility in The Netherlands.  (Bedrocan is the only licensed company by the Ministry of Health to grow medical grade Cannabis).  It turns out that plants have amazing “genomic resources” (not unlike humans) and Jonathan’s way of summing this up was in the statement “It’s ggod to be weedy, if your’re a crop!”  (Dr. Page published the discovery of olivetolic acid synthase (OAS), an major enzyme in the metabolic pathway of cannabinoids). 

In essence, what this means is that adaptability is important for change.  Plants must be able to survive year after year, in quite variable growing extremes (drought vs. flood; heat vs. freeze etc. . . )  I guess this could be likened somewhat to individuality in humans.  Individuality is an important factor in adapting, especially as we age or deal with disease, for refining our values and “wants”.   When faced with chronic pain or a debilitating disease, simple things may become more valued, just as in times of drought a plant will selectively conserve resources, and only produce the metabolites that are necessary for staying alive.

One factor important for humans’ quality of life, especially during illness is having a source of joy.  It turns out that such a common source reported by those who are ill is nature, specifically, gardening.  Avoidance of a sedentary lifestyle, even if this is by engaging in leisure activity has the potential to increase lifespan.  This has been termed “biopsychosocial benefits, meaning there are benefits to several aspects of well-being.  A reduction in mortality by all causes, enhancement of pain management in nursing home residents, improved happiness, less loneliness, greater life satisfaction, and enhanced psychologic well-being has been reported.  Gardening experiences by women in a homeless shelter, “interupted negative ruminations” and provided stress relief.  This type of “spiritual care” seems to be discounted and often entirely ignored in the current healthcare debate at large.  Healing gardens are used in France to enhance quality of life in Alzheimer patients.  

Obviously, the interactions between humans and the natural environment are complex and always one affects the other.  Tending our environment is a form of therapy, both for ourselves and plants!   The point of writing all of this is to address the recent Draft Recommendations of the Medical Marijuana Work Group from the Washington State Liquor Control Board.  From a perspective of a gardener (with a formal horticulture degree), herbalist and doctor, it is alarming me that the right to grow a medicinal plant may be forbidden.

At the recent International Association of Cannabinoid Medicines meeting in Cologne, Germany, growing one’s own Cannabis was a common theme,  was summed up by Raphael Mechoulam who stated something to the effect of “people smoking Cannabis that we don’t know what is in it, is not medicine”.  It is this sort of thinking that has long frustrated me, since I first became interested in natural medicine at the age of 17.  It has always made sense to me to “live naturally”, peacefully co-existing with the environment,  growing my own food, leaving no trace, etc. . . Our environment has undergone massive change, and we as humans have had to adapt, as has the environment.  

tinctureThe political environment surrounding Cannabis is now changing, and those of us intertwined with the plant must change, just as we have changed this plant.  It’s time for us “weedy” individuals to become more “weedy”!  This may be a time for opportunistic expansion and the development “refined niches” for the cultivation of medical Cannabis plant material.   It will take the collective creativity of us all to not follow a narrow path such as the one in The Netherlands (single-grower system) nor to merge paths with the “adult use” system (I502).  I see the patients who grow and use their own medicine as empowered individuals, and there is no simple scale by which to measure the benefits of empowerment on quality and quantity of life.  We simply can’t let the current climate  lead to the extinction of such a basic human right as the right to garden.


Tantamount to Freedom


Tantamount to Freedom

© Michelle Sexton ND 2013

Thus far in my lifetime, I have become involved in two different movements that I realized have several common threads.  The first movement for me was the becoming a midwife and participating in homebirth. This “becoming” was partially as a result of my own hospital surgical birth and the desire to be more self-empowered, and partially to help other women realize the same.  (Later it had nothing to do with this for me, but was solely about nonviolence for the new arrivals!)The second movement was natural health and herbal medicine (which has gone hand-in-hand with homebirth) and subsequently led me to become a naturopathic doctor and researcher of Cannabis as medicine.  One thing common to both of these interests is that they used to be considered “hippy”, counterculture phenomenon and today they have both become more mainstream.  And in the end, both of these choices are tantamount to freedom!  

Here are what I see to be a few elemental similarities between homebirth and Cannabis as medicine:

1) Affordability- there is a relative lowcost for both homebirth and Cannabis as medicine compared to hopsital/pharmaceuticals and this applies whether or not one has access to healthcare insurance. 

2) Risk/benefit ratio- there is a relative measure of safety at a homebirth that is due to the lace of hospital intervention.  Likewise, there can be a risk reduction when discountinuing a number of pharmaceutical drugs in favor of using Cannabis.  The effects of a treatment that produce a negative outcome are called “iatrogenic”, so in alignment with the idea of “not messing with Mother Nature” both homebirth and Cannabis and medicine are more aligned with this value;  

3) Effectiveness- if measured by empowerment, quality of life and outcome, both homebirth and Cannabis as medicine have these in common.

To describe a couple of other abstruse analogies between these two movements, consider both of these practices from a more anthropological perspective.  The first method common to both homebirth and medical Cannabis is the attempt to dismantle hegemonic authority. What does this mean??  This means that people are questioning what the perceived “authorities” attempt at domination over others by forcing certain prescribed rituals or medicine.

The medicalization of childbirth and the medicalization of health have parallels in the emergence of “Western” medicine.  Both homebirth and alternative health and healing could be considered as ethical challenges to the status quo.  However, contemporary homebirthers and medical Cannabis users (or adult users) are no longer necessarily “radicals” or “extremists” rather just educated and empowered people living their lives as they see fit.  

Second, both groups could be considered to be engaged in a more ritualistic form of living, of bringing meaning to and carefully considering how to engage: the body, the spirit, the soul.

Third, the acts of ‘giving’ birth and choosing/preparing/titrating/ one’s own medicine bring meaning and empowerment to the individual.  In this  sense, they could both be considered to be “manipulated rituals of technocratic subversion”.

levi baby

The real common thread between these two involvements of mine is the people!  Both movements are filled with folks that may have at one time been considered ‘counterculture’.  But wait, just because wanting to participate fully in the birth of your child, you’re not counterculture anymore!   And wait, if you think you are going to be all culturally deviant by using Cannabis for pain relief, or to treat irritable bowel syndrome, or depression or just to alter your consciousness, you’re not!  The dominant values and behavior of society are changing!  If you think you could have either homebirth or medical Cannabis (or other natural medicine) in a system of collaboration and mutual respect, you can!

You are now just a member of the emerging culture, deliberately peeling away at the fiction of the medicalization of LIFE.   Our health and our life, how we live and how we die, do not need legitimacy in political and medical theaters.  To territorialize how we are born, how we die, and how we live the ‘dash’ in between our date of birth and date of death inscribed on a tombstone (or urn!) is tantamount to freedom!