How a Democratic effort to ensure abortion rights backfired, and a sharp rise in illegal pot seizures

Good morning, California.

“Illegal cannabis grows are devastating our communities.”—Attorney General Xavier Becerra, announcing local, state and federal law enforcement have seized almost 1 million illegal pot plants in 2018.

A clash of rights, and a price paid

David Daleiden walks outside of a courtroom in San Francisco, Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. Planned Parenthood has made an unusual legal demand to join California's criminal prosecution of two anti-abortion activists charged with invasion of privacy for secretly making videos as they tried to buy fetal material from the organization.(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Anti-abortion activist David Daleiden (photo by Jeff Chiu/AP)

In 2015, California Democrats passed a state law aimed at ensuring pregnant women get a complete picture of their options, including the right to an abortion. 

Little did they know that, four years later, their push would yield a $2 million windfall for conservative legal campaigns to restrict abortion and LGBTQ rights, CalMatters reports, with help from the San Francisco-based First Amendment Coalition.

Court documents show that reproductive rights advocates have paid a steep price for the failure of the Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency, or FACT Act, which sought to compel anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers to disclose their licensing status and let women know that public family programs provide abortions.

The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the law on free speech grounds. As is customary, the winning side in the civil rights case received attorneys fees. Those fees are helping to underwrite conservative litigation and lawyers. 

Among them: the defense of anti-abortion activist David Daleiden and the nonprofit law firm headed by one of President Donald Trump’s best-known lawyers, Jay Sekulow.

The First Amendment Coalition obtained the settlement documents via a California Public Records Act request detailing the attorneys fees paid to four legal aid groups that challenged a 2015 California statute, and provided them to CalMatters.

To read my full report, please click here.

Sharp jump in illegal weed seizures

Voters approved legalizing commercial marijuana in 2016 (photo from Creative Commons).

Authorities have seized more than 950,000 illegal marijuana plants from nearly 350 growing operations this year, up from the 614,000 plants uprooted from 254 sites in 2018, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra reports.

Voters approved Proposition 64 in 2016 legalizing commercial marijuana sales, in large part based on the promise that it would end the black market. It hasn’t.

  • The L.A. Times’ Patrick McGreevy: “California is the largest supplier of marijuana to the rest of the country, yet it is illegal to sell cannabis outside the state from licensed California farms. A new study by the research group New Frontier Data estimates that California produces 58% of the cannabis grown in the United States.”

Meanwhile: The Bakersfield Californian reported that law enforcement officials bulldozed hemp fields near Arvin in Kern County after tests showed the roughly 10 million plants were actually marijuana.

Hemp has industrial uses and produces CBD but doesn’t have the intoxicating level of mind-altering chemical THC found in marijuana. However, the supposed hemp plants turned out to have concentrations of THC far beyond the limit allowed for hemp.

With more than 7,000 registered acres in cultivation, Kern County has emerged as a leading producer of hemp.

Mass shooters’ common thread

California Surgeon General Nadine Burke Harris

Gunmen in mass shootings share a common trait: adverse childhood experiences, also referred to as “ACES,” California’s first surgeon general, Nadine Burke Harris, told the Sacramento Press Club on Monday.

ACES? There are 10 categories for the adverse experiences, including physical, emotional and sexual abuse, and growing up in a household with a parent who is mentally ill, substance dependent or incarcerated.

  • People experiencing four or more adverse childhood experiences are 30 times more likely to attempt suicide than someone without any experiences.

Gov. Gavin Newsom created the position of surgeon general and appointed Burke Harris, a pediatrician and author of “The Deepest Well: Healing the long-term effects of childhood adversity.”

  • Burke Harris: “[Newom] pulled me aside and he’s like, ‘Do you know this? That the one thing…the one thing that they all have in common is ACES?’…He really sees the connection between this work, not just ACES and health, but also ACES and public safety, and how it ties into so many of the other priorities for his administration.”

Psychologist Jillian Peterson and sociologist James Densley compile the Mass Shooter Database, and wrote in an op-ed for The L.A. Times:

  • “The vast majority of mass shooters in our study experienced early childhood trauma and exposure to violence at a young age.”

Take a number: 4.3 million

Many homicides go unpunished.

The Trace, an online publication focused on firearms and gun violence, has released a massive amount of data—4.3 million records of gun-related homicides and assaults in cities nationwide, including 10 California cities.

In a partnership with Buzzfeed News, Trace journalists Sarah Ryley, Jeremy Singer-Vine and Sean Campbell found

  • Shooters who kill someone with a gun have more than a 1 out of 2 chance that their crime will go unpunished. 
  • If the victim survives, shooters’ chances of getting away with the shooting increase to 2 out of 3.
  • In 2016, Los Angeles made arrests for just 17% of gun assaults.
  • San Francisco made arrests in just 15% of the city’s nonfatal shootings in that year. 

The reporters found some police departments don’t assign detectives to nonfatal shootings:

  • Oakland, where more than 40% of the Felony Assault Unit’s cases were not assigned in 2017.
  • San Jose, where the police department’s 2017 annual report said the investigations bureau assigned detectives to 40% of cases.

Senior park discounts at risk

The Merced River in Yosemite Valley. Photo by bluejayphoto, istock.com
The Merced River in Yosemite Valley (photo by bluejayphoto, istock.com)

The Trump administration is considering ending senior discounts at national parks and adding more wi-fi, food trucks and Amazon deliveries, The L.A. Times’ Louis Sahaguns reports.

The changes would apply to such destinations as Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon. They’re being recommended by the Interior Department’s “Made in America” Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee, which includes representatives of park service concessionaires.

Each year, 1 million Americans purchase senior passes, which give people 62 and older free access to national parks and discounts inside those public lands. In 2017, the Trump administration increased the cost of a lifetime senior pass from $10 to $80. Now, it’s mulling limiting the pass’ use by, for example, disallowing discounts on July 4.

Other ideas pending or approved: electric bikes on National Park Service trails, and boats on Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which is part of Yosemite National Park and the source of drinking water for San Francisco.

Commentary at CalMatters

Mike Gatto, former assemblyman: A comprehensive solution to homelessness would address people who are homeless for reasons that diminish logical behavior, like addiction or mental illness. I won’t be drawn into a debate about what percentages of homeless people are so. But even if it is 40% or 30%, what are we doing to reach them? That is why I have proposed a ballot initiative that would treat certain existing crimes as opportunities to engage the homeless. 

Dan Walters, CalMatters: The financial woes of a small fire district in Stanislaus County  demonstrate the effects of rapidly rising pension costs.

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See you tomorrow.

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