In summary

Hospitalizations tied to cannabis vaping. California to offer child care help for parent-students. Will new use-of-force law protect mentally ill?

Good morning, California.

“I have spent 52 years of my life being an environmental leader and champion, and I’ll take a backseat to no one in terms of my advocacy.”—Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday morning. 

Public health vs. cannabis vaping

Cannabis vaping billboard in West Sacramento

The number of Californians hospitalized because of vaping-related lung disease has increased to 100, and 30% had to be placed on ventilators, the California Department of Public Health said in an updated health advisory.

Almost all sickened people say they vaped cannabis products. Two people have died in California. State health authorities urge people to refrain from vaping.

This is the first cannabis-related health issue to emerge since voters approved a 2016 initiative legalizing commercial sales, and it will test how lawmakers react to what now is a powerful lobby force

The government does not ensure the safety of any vaping products but tests ones sold in licensed pot shops. Many people who became ill reported buying cartridges from unlicensed dealers.

  • On Sept. 16, when there were 70 reported vaping-related hospitalizations, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered a $20 million ad campaign warning kids against vaping nicotine or cannabis products.

Newsom led the 2016 legalization initiative campaign.

Before placing the initiative on the ballot, Newsom established a “blue ribbon commission” that reported on “policy options for regulating marijuana.” The report used the term “public health” 63 times.

  • For example: “The experience of tobacco and alcohol control shows that large corporations with resources for political influence … will promote widespread and heavy use to increase sales and profits. Legislative behavior in this context is often incongruent with public health goals.”

Meanwhile: L.A. City Councilman Paul Krekorian, citing public health concerns, last week proposed a one-year prohibition on cannabis vaping product sales in the city.

Marijuana Business Daily quoted the head of the California Cannabis Manufacturers Association, a lobby group, as saying a ban would “have a chilling effect on capital markets.”

Help for parent-students

Bianca Rojas and her partner Jose Yat with their children Adeline, 2, and Jasper, 18 months. They are both enrolled full-time as college students, Jose at Cal Poly Pomona and Bianca at Cal State Long Beach and after a long day at school trying to get the kids fed and bathed and ready for bed. Jose says he tries to get his schoolwork done during breaks at school during the day. He is too tired to do any schoolwork after the kids get to bed. Their day starts around 6am as they get ready for school and to drop their kids at daycare on the way to school. They live in the renovated garage behind Jose's parents home in South Gate.
Student-parents Bianca Rojas and Jose Yat at their South Gate home

California is offering up to $6,000 to help cover child care costs for parents attending public universities and community colleges, but delays and funding limitations are making clear that needs are going unmet.

CalMatters’ Adria Watson reports that 300,000 students are supported by the state’s main financial aid program, known as Cal Grant. That includes 32,000 parents attending University of California, Cal State and community colleges.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2019-20 budget added $200 million to the $2.1 billion Cal Grant program. By increasing grants to $6,000 for students with kids, Newsom hoped to provide “real relief to our parents who are getting an education at the same time.”

Now the challenge is to deliver those grants. 

  • Rules are written in such a way that it still makes it hard for parent-students to qualify.
  • Glitches in the new program mean that the grants won’t go out until November or December.

Nontraditional students, who are completing degrees later in life, have become a policy focus as California faces a projected shortfall by 2030 of 1.1 million bachelors-degree-holding workers.

To read Watson’s full story, please click here.

Use of force and mental illness

photo of Teresa Sheehan
San Francisco police shot Teresa Sheehan in 2008 (photo courtesy of Patricia Sheehan).

Now that California has passed new laws meant to reduce police shootings, a key question is how much difference they’ll make in the ways officers respond to calls involving people in a mental illness crisis. 

That’s the focus of the latest episode of CalMatters’ Force Of Law podcast, in which reporter Laurel Rosenhall follows California’s attempt to curb police shootings. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom told Rosenhall:

  • “Signing a piece of paper doesn’t make a difference in terms of ultimately addressing how we train our officers, specifically to address the issues of people that are self medicating. … We need to train those officers in ways we haven’t.”

To listen to Episode 6, an exploration of what may and may not change as a result of the new laws, please click it on Apple Podcasts or other podcasting platforms.

A different kind of house call

Shawnda Thornton, who has been homeless for about three years, lives in Venice, CA. Photo courtesy of Coley King.
Shawnda Thornton, who has been homeless for about three years, in Venice

California’s homelessness crisis has a bodycount, as KPCC reporter Matt Tinoco writes in the latest installment of the CalMatters collaboration, The California Dream.

To confront it, health care workers are making house calls to Californians who have no home other than the streets, providing basic care and psychiatry, arranging transportation to clinics, and enrolling people in Medi-Cal.

  • Homeless people die three decades sooner than people who have homes, at a median age of just 52. 
  • Nearly twice as many homeless people die on the streets of Los Angeles than are killed in homicides in the City of Angels, L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez wrote recently.

Dr. Coley King, of the Venice Family Clinic: “This is about the individuals who are sicker than the rest of us, and who are dying sooner than the rest of us.”

Take a number: 635,000

Ivonne Vargas loads her truck with food.

In Los Angeles County, where 635,000 people are considered food insecure, food banks distribute about 80 million pounds of food per year, Jorge Macías reports in La Opinión for The California Divide, a collaboration by news organizations including CalMatters.

Of the people who receive food aid: 

  • 12% are seniors.
  • 24% are under age 18.

Commentary at CalMatters

Kim Delfino, Defenders of Wildlife: In his State of the State speech, Gov. Newsom said that to protect our water supply and delta fisheries, we “have to get past the old binaries.” After the veto of SB 1, the question is whether the governor and his administration will break the “old binaries,” and demand from the water users what is truly necessary to ensure a future that includes a healthy Bay Delta for all.

Dan Walters, CalMatters:  Can a nine-county regional agency in the San Francisco Bay Area solve its chronic and acute shortage of housing?

Please email or call me with tips, suggestions and insights,, 916.201.6281. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up here

See you tomorrow.

We want to hear from you

Want to submit a guest commentary or reaction to an article we wrote? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact CalMatters with any commentary questions:

Dan Morain joined CalMatters in March 2018. He is the former editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee. Morain also spent 27 years at The Los Angeles Times, and has covered the Capitol since 1992.