Pot initiative draws industry bucks

Aug 29, 2016

As the debate over marijuana legalization heats up, one thing is clear: Major backers of the pro-legalization initiative are big industry donors.


From the Bee's Chris Cadelago and Jim Miller: "Proposition 64’s passage would create a burgeoning new economy in California, from growing operations to delivery services, and those who stand to profit are pitching in to ensure it succeeds. Weedmaps, which helps connect cannabis users with dispensaries, delivery services and doctors, has given $1 million to the fall effort to legalize marijuana in California."


"A web of campaign committees, nonprofits and wealthy individuals has funneled at least $6.6 million so far to the main Yes on 64 campaign committee. The pro-legalization effort involves eight fundraising accounts, at least three of which are linked to corresponding organizations."


"Among the donors are those with obvious existing ties to the issue who could profit immensely from a legal marijuana marketplace."


Meanwhile, hundreds of bills, including some major measures, await action from the governor as the legislative session begins to wrap up. 


The Chronicle's Melody Gutierrez writes: "The fate of hundreds of bills will be decided by Wednesday, when state lawmakers wrap up their two-year session."


"There are already nearly 200 bills on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, including legislation to eliminate the statute of limitation on rape prosecutions, limit the use of solitary confinement at juvenile detention facilities, and eliminate sales tax on tampons and other feminine hygiene products."


"Lawmakers will decide how many more bills will make it to the governor’s desk among the more than 300 bills remaining to be heard in the Senate and Assembly this week. Among those is a bill aimed at increasing voter participation in elections by transforming how people vote."


SEE MORE related to legislative session: Legislature whiffs on major issues like housing and transportation -- Jessica Calefati with East Bay Times


A judge has dismissed lawsuits against Monsanto brought about by the cities of Berkeley, San Jose and Oakland that blame the agricultural giant for water contamination, and demand that the company fix what's been damaged. 


Suhauna Hussain with The Daily Californian reports: "A federal judge dismissed lawsuits Monday filed by Berkeley and two other Bay Area cities that claimed Monsanto Company is responsible for chemical contamination in nearby waters and should pay the cleanup costs."


"San Jose, Oakland and Berkeley filed lawsuits seeking compensation from Monsanto and two subsidiary companies that manufactured products containing polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs — a class of environmental pollutant — between the 1930s and the end of the 1970s, according to court documents."


"The cities argued that the chemical — which was later outlawed because of its potential danger to human and environmental health — polluted stormwater flowing through municipal pipes, forcing them to spend money to reduce the chemical levels in the water."


With California roads falling into disrepair, some lawmakers have authored joint legislation providing nearly $7 billion in funds for repaving and restructuring. 


Jeff Horseman reporting in L.A. Daily News: "As the current legislative session winds down, a long-term fix for California’s inability to fully pay for road repairs and other transportation needs remains elusive despite an ongoing special session that first convened on the matter last summer."


"State Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, and Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, have offered joint legislation that would provide $7.4 billion a year – more than twice the amount in the governor’s plan – to fix crumbling roads and pay for other transportation projects."


"California is facing an impending transportation funding crisis that cannot be ignored,” Frazier said in a news release. “It is time for the Legislature to have a real, adult conversation about finding a comprehensive solution before it is too late."


The Times takes a look at the 14-year legislative career of San Francisco Democrat Mark Leno as his term comes to an end. The lawmaker pioneered more than 150 major bills -- one of the most recent being the $15 minimum wage increase.


L.A. Times' John Myers: "Mark Leno flashes a broad smile when a conversation about his political legacy pivots to an earlier part of his life, when he was a restless young man who abruptly decided to walk away from rabbinical school without any plan for what would come next.


"My friend gave me a T-shirt that year for Hanukkah that said, ‘Rebbe Without A Cause,’” Leno said with a laugh."


"To know him is to get the joke: This is a man full of causes, ones for which the Democrat has patiently and passionately advocated during a 14-year career in the California Legislature that’s now coming to a close."


Transparency in the CPUC still remains a critical issue as private-meetings and backroom whispers continue to influence policy. 


Liam Dillon writing in L.A. Times: "For years, state lawmakers have been trying to crack down on private meetings between utility companies and members of the California Public Utilities Commission after revelations that top officials and industry executives had frequent dinner dates, shared talking points and even sketched out details of the multibillion-dollar closure of a Southern California nuclear power plant during a secret rendezvous in a luxury hotel in Poland."


"The push culminated in a deal announced in June between Gov. Jerry Brown and legislators to force both agency and utility leaders to disclose more details of their contacts and stiffen penalties if they don’t."


"But the measure, part of a package of bills reforming the commission that remain under discussion in the final few days of this year’s legislative session, has worried some advocates and observers that it won’t do enough to break up the close relationship between power companies and those overseeing them."


As the federal government begins to cut ties with private prisons, states around the country still use them


The Chronicle's Bob Egelko reports: "The Justice Department recently decided to phase out the confinement of federal inmates in private prisons, but tens of thousands of state prisoners — including 10,700 from California — will remain in the corporate-owned institutions that a government report has criticized over safety and security."


"California has transferred prisoners to private institutions, some of them in other states, for more than five years to relieve overcrowding in state prisons, but state, and local, use of them is beginning to be questioned. One Bay Area lawmaker has called for the state to stop sending inmates to prisons far from their families or California inspectors, and another legislator is moving to stop cities and counties in California from contracting with private prisons to hold federal immigration detainees."


"Our state and local governments should not be complicit in this awful practice of profiting off of human suffering,” said state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens (Los Angeles County), whose bill on immigration detention is nearing final legislative passage."


Farmers across the state are beginning to use drone technology to assist them in maintenance, preparation, and a whole slew of other tasks--including battling drought. 


AP's Scott Smith writes: "A drone whirred to life in a cloud of dust, then shot hundreds of feet skyward for a bird's-eye view of a vast tomato field in California's Central Valley, the nation's most productive farming region."


"Equipped with a state-of-the-art thermal camera, the drone crisscrossed the field, scanning it for cool, soggy patches where a gopher may have chewed through the buried drip irrigation line and caused a leak."


"In the drought-prone West, where every drop of water counts, California farmers are in a constant search for ways to efficiently use the increasingly scarce resource. And Cannon Michael is putting drone technology to work on his fields at Bowles Farming Co. near Los Banos, 120 miles southeast of San Francisco."


The CSU system is trying to bolster four-year education completion rates, despite data pointing towards most students taking an average of 6 years to complete their schooling.


Andrew Edwards and Larry Gordon report in L.A. Daily News: "The concept of a “four-year university,” at least at Cal State University campuses, has long been something of a polite fiction for many students."


"The reality is, a majority of students still need at least six years of schooling to attain an undergraduate degree, and it’s something educators across the CSU system are being pressured to change."


"The CSU system has seen some improvement in graduation rates in recent years; during the 1980s and early 1990s, fewer than 10 percent of first-time freshman managed to graduate within four years. Just 19 percent of Cal State freshman who entered college in 2011 managed to earn a degree in four years, while 57 percent of those who started in 2009 graduated in six years."


SEE MORE related to Education: How good is your kid's school? A new color coded system will tell you -- Beau Yarbrough with O.C. Register