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Kelvin Kuo 

Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio looks on during the second half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)


California pot: Smoke 'em (or eat 'em) if you can get 'em

OAKLAND (AP) — It wasn't exactly reefer madness Monday as California launched the first legal retail sales of marijuana, but those who could find the drug celebrated the historic day, lining up early for ribbon cuttings, freebies and offerings ranging from joints to gummy bears to weed with names like Red Dragon.

Jeff Deakin, 66, his wife Mary and their dog waited in the cold all night to be first in a line of 100 people when Harborside dispensary, a longtime medical pot shop in Oakland, opened at 6 a.m. and offered early customers joints for a penny and free T-shirts that read "Flower to the People — Cannabis for All."

"It's been so long since others and myself could walk into a place where you could feel safe and secure and be able to get something that was good without having to go to the back alley," Deakin said. "This is kind of a big deal for everybody."

Harborside founder Steve DeAngelo used a giant pair of scissors to cut a green ribbon, declaring, "With these scissors I dub thee free," before ringing up the first customer at a cash register.

Sales were brisk in the shops lucky to score one of the roughly 100 state licenses issued so far, but customers in some of the state's largest cities were out of luck. Los Angeles and San Francisco hadn't authorized shops in time to get state licenses and other cities, such as Riverside and Fresno, blocked sales altogether.

Licensed shops are concentrated in San Diego, Santa Cruz, the San Francisco Bay Area and the Palm Springs area.

California voters in 2016 made it legal for adults 21 and older to grow, possess and use limited quantities of marijuana, but it wasn't legal to sell it for recreational purposes until Monday.

The nation's most populous state now joins a growing list of states, and the nation's capital, where so-called recreational marijuana is permitted even though the federal government continues to classify pot as a controlled substance, like heroin and LSD.

The signs that California was tripping toward legal pot sales were evident well before the stroke of midnight. California highways flashed signs before New Year's Eve that said "Drive high, Get a DUI," reflecting law enforcement concerns about stoned drivers. Weedmaps, the phone app that allows customers to rate shops, delivery services and shows their locations, ran a full-page ad Sunday in the Los Angeles Times that said, "Smile California. It's Legal."

The state banned what it called "loco-weed" in 1913, though it has been easing criminal penalties for use of the drug since the 1970s and was the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes in 1996.

Travis Lund, 34, said he'd been looking forward while working the graveyard shift to buy weed legally for the first time since he began smoking pot as a teen.

"I'm just stoked that it's finally legal," he said after purchasing an eighth of an ounce of "Mount Zion" and another type of loose leaf marijuana at Northstar Holistic Collective in Sacramento, where the fragrance of pot was strong. "I'm going to home and get high — and enjoy it."

Lund previously purchased marijuana on the black market through friends and said that may continue, given the high costs of the legal weed, which is heavily taxed. But he said he would indulge in retail pot occasionally because of controls being phased in to ensure a higher-quality product.

Shops will be able to sell marijuana harvested without full regulatory controls for six months but will eventually only be able to sell pot tested for potency, pesticides and other contaminants, and products that have been tracked from seed to sale.

The Bureau of Cannabis Control was not aware of any problems or complaints about the first day of sales, but it didn't have inspectors in the field, spokesman Alex Traverso said.

Employees at the bureau on the holiday continued to process 1,400 pending license applications for retail sales, distribution and testing facilities.

Traverso said they expect a flood of applications from LA and San Francisco after those are approved locally. Because Los Angeles is the biggest market in the state, some of those shops will be approved more quickly than others waiting in line, he said.

The status of the Los Angeles shops highlights broad confusion over the new law.

Los Angeles officials announced late last month that the city will not begin accepting license applications until Jan. 3, and it might take weeks before any licenses are issued. That led to widespread concern that long-established businesses would have to shut down during the interim.

Attorneys advising a group of city dispensaries have concluded those businesses can legally sell medicinal marijuana as "collectives," until they obtain local and state licenses under the new system, said Jerred Kiloh of the United Cannabis Business Association, an industry group.

It wasn't immediately clear how many of those shops, if any, were open.

"My patients are scared, my employees are scared," said Kiloh, who owns a dispensary in the city's San Fernando Valley area.

In Orange County, shops in Santa Ana received the green light over the weekend to open and a steady flow showed up at ShowGrow.

Ellen St. Peter, 61, shopped with her son, Bryce St. Peter, 23, both medical marijuana users.

She said she smoked pot for years — at times taking great risks to get it — but stopped once she started having kids.

"In high school my guy friends would fantasize about shops we could go into and just buy weed," she said. "I couldn't have dreamed of this place."


National
AP
Perils abroad, full plate at home, as Trump opens 2nd year

WASHINGTON — The glamour of his holiday break behind him, President Donald Trump returned to the White House on Monday night to face a hefty legislative to-do list, critical midterm elections and perilous threats abroad.

Trump is starting his second year in office after a lengthy sojourn at his private Palm Beach club, capped by a New Year's Eve bash. Before his departure, he fired angry tweets at Iran and Pakistan, slamming Islamabad for "lies & deceit" and saying the country had played U.S. leaders for "fools," a reference to frustrations that Pakistan isn't doing enough to control militants.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif tweeted that his government was preparing a response that "will let the world know the truth."

Meantime North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Monday the United States should be aware that his country's nuclear forces are now a reality, not a future threat. To that, Trump only said: "We'll see."

The president is hoping for more legislative achievements after his pre-Christmas success on taxes. He plans to host Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin at Camp David this weekend to map out the 2018 legislative agenda.

Republicans are eager to make progress before attention shifts to the midterm elections. The GOP wants to hold House and Senate majorities in 2018, but must contend with Trump's historic unpopularity and some recent Democratic wins.

The president concluded 2017 with his first major legislative achievement — a law to cut taxes, beginning this year, for corporations and individuals at an estimated cost of $1.5 trillion added to the national debt over 10 years. The tax overhaul also will end the requirement, in 2019, that all Americans buy health insurance or pay a fine. That's a key component of the Obama-era health law that that Republicans have been unable to repeal; other features of the law remain intact.

The White House has said Trump will come forward with his long-awaited infrastructure plan in January. Trump also has said he wants to overhaul welfare and recently predicted Democrats and Republicans will "eventually come together" to develop a new health care plan.

Ryan has talked about overhauling Medicaid and Medicare and other safety-net programs, but McConnell has signaled an unwillingness to go that route unless there's Democratic support for any changes. Republicans will have just a 51-49 Senate majority — well shy of the 60 votes needed to pass most bills — giving leverage to Democrats.

Congress also has to deal with a backlog from 2017. It must agree on a spending bill by Jan. 19 to avert a partial government shutdown.

In addition, lawmakers have unfinished business on additional aid for hurricane victims, lifting the debt ceiling, extending a children's health insurance program and extending protections for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Trump has said he wants money for a border wall in exchange for protecting those immigrants.

Trump spent his last day in Florida as he spent most other days — visiting his golf course and tweeting.

On Pakistan, he said: "The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!"

It was not immediately clear why the president decided to comment on Pakistan. The U.S. has long accused Islamabad of allowing militants to operate relatively freely in Pakistan's border regions to carry out operations in neighboring Afghanistan. In August, the United States said it would hold up $255 million in military assistance for Pakistan until it cracks down on extremists threatening Afghanistan.

On Iran, Trump kept up his drumbeat in support of widespread anti-government protests there. He tweeted Monday that Iran is "failing at every level" and it is "TIME FOR CHANGE."


Local
New Year, new rules

While people make New Year’s resolutions to better themselves personally, legislators have been working to make new laws they hope will better the state and its people.

California has adopted a slew of new laws that took effect Jan. 1, including:

Rules on agricultural pesticide use near schools and day-care centers

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation has adopted new rules to protect students from pesticide exposure by further regulating the use of agricultural pesticides near schools and licensed child day-care facilities.

"[These rules] build on our existing strict regulations and give an additional layer of protection that is now consistent across the state." Brian Leahy, DPR director, said in a released statement.

Although California already had regulations governing the use of pesticides, the state did not have a consistent, statewide standard. A growing number of situations where schools and day-care facilities were located near working farms increased the potential for unintended exposures to pesticides.

The new regulation:

  • Prohibits many pesticide applications within a quarter mile of public K-12 schools and licensed day-care facilities during school hours, Monday through Friday between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. This includes all applications by aircraft, sprinklers, air-blast sprayers and all fumigant applications. Also, most dust and powder pesticide applications, like sulfur, will also be prohibited during these times.
  • Requires California growers to provide annual notification to public K-12 schools and licensed day-care facilities, as well as county agricultural commissioners, of the pesticides expected to be used within a quarter mile of these schools and facilities in the upcoming year.

According to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, the regulation is expected to affect about 4,100 public K-12 schools and licensed child day-care facilities and approximately 2,500 agricultural growers in the state.

Changes for job seekers

Assembly Bill 1008 stops employers from inquiring about criminal history during the hiring process and prevents employers from considering the candidate’s criminal background until employment is offered.

Once a conditional offer of employment is made, then the employer can look into the criminal history of a potential employee. If any infractions are found and the offer is reconsidered, a process is followed that includes the employer providing written notice to the candidate, who in turn is permitted a response.

Assembly Bill 163 prohibits employers from asking about prior pay history during the hiring process and using the potential employee's past salaries to determine the salary for a new job.

However, the candidate is allowed to voluntarily disclose past salary information.

Also, the law also requires businesses to respond to reasonable requests for a general pay scale for an open position; meaning no more vague salary estimates in job postings.

Changes for employers and undocumented immigrants

In 2018, employers will be forbidden from:

  • Providing federal immigration enforcement agents access to nonpublic areas without a judicial warrant.
  • Providing federal immigration enforcement agents access to employee records without a subpoena or judicial warrant.

However, a different set of rules apply for Form I-9 inspections. Form I-9 is used to verify the identity of individuals hired for employment.

Under AB 450, employers must:

  • Post a notice to all current employees informing them of any federal immigration agency’s inspections of Form I-9 or other employment records within 72 hours of receiving a notice of inspection.
  • Provide a copy of the notice to an affected employee upon reasonable request.
  • Give each affected employee a copy of inspection results and written notice of the employer’s and employee’s obligations arising from the inspection within 72 hours of receiving the results.

Changes for employers and new parents

Under Senate Bill 63, new parents can now take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to spend time with their child within the first year of the child’s birth, adoption or foster care placement.

In order to get the leave, the bill states an employee must:

  • Have worked for the employer for more than 12 months.
  • Have worked at least 1,250 hours during the prior 12-month period.
  • Work at a site where there are at least 20 employees within a 75-mile radius.

Businesses with over 50 employees already follow these requirements under the California Family Rights Act, so this change applies to businesses with between 20 and 50 workers.

Rules on gun ammunition purchases

Under new gun control laws passed by voters in 2016, all gun ammunition must be purchased in person through a vendor licensed by the Department of Justice.

This prohibits online sales or other purchases that require delivery — though you can still get it delivered to the vendor for pick-up —, any transfers between people who purchased ammunition independently, or any personal transportation of ammunition from out of state.