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AP
LA will become largest US city with recreational pot

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles is in line to become the nation's largest city with legal recreational marijuana after the City Council voted Wednesday to license sales and cultivation next year.

The landmark vote came after a hearing in which council members characterized the rules as a work in progress, almost certain to see revisions next year after California launches its recreational pot industry in January.

Under the Los Angeles regulations, residential neighborhoods would be largely off-limits to pot businesses, and buffer zones would be set up around schools, libraries and parks.

City Council President Herb Wesson's office said the rules would take effect immediately after the signature of Mayor Eric Garcetti, which is expected.

"The other cities in this nation, they are looking to L.A.," said Wesson, predicting the city model would become a template for legalization elsewhere.

However, with the new year just weeks away — and the holidays coming — industry experts say it's not clear how many businesses, if any, will be ready to open their doors on Jan. 1.

If demand is not satisfied by legal sales then "you are just giving oxygen to the black market we all want to eradicate," said Adam Spiker, executive director of the Southern California Coalition, a cannabis industry group.

The route to legalization began last year when voters approved Proposition 64, which opened the way for recreational pot sales to adults in the nation's most populous state, home to one in eight Americans.

The state and hundreds of cities have been saddled with the challenging task of trying to govern a vast, emerging industry with a projected value of $7 billion.

The result has been a patchwork.

Some cities have banned all commercial pot activity, while L.A. is among those that have embraced it, in part for the promise of a cascade of new tax dollars.

In San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee signed legislation Wednesday authorizing recreational cannabis sales that could begin in the first week of January, providing local businesses acquire required licenses.

San Jose will allow its 16 medical marijuana dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana starting Jan. 1, providing they acquire required licenses.

In L.A., the dense set of regulations passed Wednesday dictate where pot can be grown and sold in the new marketplace, along with how businesses will be licensed.

Businesses that want to participate in the marketplace need local permits before they can apply for state licenses required to operate in 2018.

The rules include provisions intended to benefit those convicted of a marijuana-related offense and lower-income residents who live, or have lived, in neighborhoods marked by high marijuana arrest rates. The program aims to reduce the barriers to ownership of cannabis businesses through access to training programs, employee training and technical assistance.

The uncertainty around the emerging market was highlighted throughout the council meeting, with members expressing concern about the potential for shops to inundate neighborhoods or shady operators to slip into the legal industry.

Councilman Paul Krekorian said illegal pot "grows" threatened to push out businesses in industrial sections of the city's San Fernando Valley. Councilwoman Nury Martinez said she feared the city would fail to sufficiently fund enforcement, leaving rogue operators to flourish.

California is among 29 states where pot is legal, either for medical or recreational use.

Los Angeles has long been an unruly frontier in the pot industry, where hundreds of illegal dispensaries and cultivators proliferated.

Earlier this year, city voters endorsed another attempt to regulate the local pot businesses, leading to the new rules.

The legal marketplace is seen as a way to impose order, hopefully squeezing out illegal operators while raising a cascade of new taxes for City Hall.


Insurance claims for Northern California wildfires reach $9B

SACRAMENTO (AP) — The wildfires that ravaged Northern California wine country two months ago have generated $9 billion in insurance claims, far more than the single costliest fire in U.S. history, officials said Wednesday.

The figure is not likely to increase much more, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said. It represents residential, commercial, automobile and other property claims filed with 260 insurers by Dec. 1.

"And behind those staggering numbers are personal stories of tragedy and loss, and 44 individuals whose lives were lost," Jones told The Associated Press.

A 1991 fire in Oakland Hills is the costliest single fire in U.S. history, prompting $2.7 billion in claims in today's dollars, according to data from the Insurance Information Institute.

Nearly two dozen fires broke out in Northern California in mid-October. The state hasn't provided a cost breakdown by each fire, but officials say one of the largest damaged far more buildings than the 1991 blaze.

People have filed insurance claims on more than 18,000 homes that were partially or fully destroyed, most of them in Sonoma County, where a blaze decimated several neighborhoods, Jones said. There were nearly 2,300 business property claims, nearly 5,000 vehicle claims and 650 claims for other property, including boats.

Despite the staggering losses in a short period of time, Jones said there's "no question" insurers have the money available to pay claims.

Some Californians have reported receiving inaccurate information from their insurance companies, Jones said. He also warned that people should vet any contractors they plan to work with on rebuilding.

One person reported to Jones' office that they were told insurance money could only be used to rebuild on the same property. The law allows for using that money to build or buy a home anywhere, Jones said. Another was told they had 12 months to resolve their claims, not 24 as the law allows for a declared disaster like the wildfires.

The inaccuracies may stem from the fact that insurers have brought in staff from other states to handle the influx of claims, he said.

"If one person is told the wrong thing by an insurance company, it's not acceptable," Jones said.

Disputes over claims are likely to increase in the coming months as consumers move through the process, Jones said.

The FBI has created a task force to work with state and local agencies to investigate and prevent fraud in relief efforts. Intelligence gathered about fraudulent activities in other natural disasters this year, including hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, will help serve as a guidepost for ferreting out schemes in California, the FBI's San Francisco division said in a statement.

Consumers in other areas of California claimed an additional $400 million in wildfire-related losses in October, including 376 residential property claims totaling $71 million from a fire in Orange County.


State
AP
Relatives, others want remains of cult leader Charles Manson

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The body of murder mastermind Charles Manson was barely cold when competing bids began for his remains and belongings among relatives and longtime associates.

Their plans have not been divulged, but some fear they might create a shrine for those who are still fascinated by the man behind the bizarre celebrity slayings that terrorized Los Angeles nearly a half-century ago.

The value of Manson's belongings — said to include music, artwork, writings and at least two guitars — is unclear. But probate attorneys said the real value of his estate could be in controlling the use of his image and the power to authorize any biographies or documentaries.

"It's going to be a food fight," said probate attorney Adam Streisand, who is not involved in the Manson case but was involved with Michael Jackson's estate and currently is representing the estate of Hugh Heffner.

"You have to sort of worry about creating a monument that becomes a focal point for people to exercise their extremist views," he said.

At the very least, it seems, Manson devotees want to prevent his ashes from being anonymously interred with other indigent inmates.

One person seeking control of Manson's estate is his purported grandson, Jason Freeman, who flew into California with a documentary film crew after Manson died last month.

His effort is challenged by Manson associate Michael Channels, who exchanged letters and visited the killer in prison. Channels has filed a two-page will in court dated Valentine's Day 2002 that purportedly leaves everything to him.

Freeman's attorney, Dale Kiken, said there might be a third claim by Los Angeles musician Matthew Roberts, who has described himself as Manson's son. His bid is backed by Ben Gurecki, who has done YouTube videos focused on Manson and told several media outlets that he obtained a January 2017 will from Manson naming Roberts as his heir.

Kiken said prison officials told him Manson left no will and he disputes the validity of the ones that have surfaced.

Kiken provided The Associated Press with a copy of a 1986 Ohio court ruling saying Freeman is the son of Charles Manson Jr., and a 1993 Colorado death certificate showing Manson Jr. as the son of Charles Manson and his first wife, Rosalie Willis.

Manson, 83, died Nov. 19 of natural causes after spending decades in prison for orchestrating the 1969 killings of actress Sharon Tate, who was pregnant, and eight other people. Prosecutors said the slayings were intended to trigger an apocalyptic race war.

Tate's sister, Debra, fears those seeking control of Manson's remains and belongings hope to profit from his dark legacy.

"Whatever he was in life, in death he deserves dignity," she said, asserting that the only way to ensure Manson is undisturbed is to have his body cremated and placed at an undisclosed site.

Freeman said he is a man of faith who wants to have his grandfather cremated and his ashes properly placed.

"It won't be in the media, it will be a private family matter from that point," he said, adding that he won't disclose his plans until the release of his planned documentary.

Freeman, a Florida resident, and his film crew traveled last week to Corcoran State Prison, where Manson was housed in a special protective cell because of his notoriety. Freeman was accompanied by Manson associate John Michael Jones, who said he wants to ensure "that Mr. Manson's death wasn't turned into a spectacle like his life was."

Joe Townley, chief operating officer and executive producer of MY-Entertainment, said the company has been filming for about six months.

At one point, Freeman requested $3,000 each time the AP published an article about him, to provide "assistance in my time of hardship being away from my family and taking care of my grandfather." He dropped the request after it was refused.

He exchanged letters and phone calls with his imprisoned grandfather in recent years, and said he is determined to be present for his own children to break the cycle of fatherless upbringings that he believes doomed both his father and grandfather.

"It was almost as if he had a shield in front of his heart and I tried to share personal stuff with him about my father and about my children so he could understand that in my lifetime I brought the family tree full circle," Freeman said of Manson.

Gurecki and Roberts did not return repeated telephone messages, and Channels could not be reached despite repeated telephone calls.