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Today, my colleague Jack Healy brings us a dispatch from the future — sort of.
He’s based in Colorado, America’s first capital of legal weed, and he recently wrote about how five years of legal marijuana have reshaped life there. So I asked him to tell us about what we might expect here in the Golden State:
As a reporter in Denver, I’ve heard endless jokes about Denver being a different kind of Mile High City and gotten accustomed to pointing curious visitors to dispensaries. The lessons of Colorado’s ups and downs with regulated marijuana have plenty to teach California as it tries to wrap its arms around the unintended consequences of legalization.
Some in Colorado’s marijuana industry feel as if the focus of the legalization debate is veering away from the Rockies and toward California. California is already a vastly larger market — about $2.5 billion in sales last year, compared with Colorado’s $1.5 billion. California has moved faster to clear marijuana convictions from people’s criminal records — a process that has been halting and frustrating for some in Colorado.
And while Colorado spent years debating where people should be able to socially consume the cannabis they had just legally bought, West Hollywood and cities in the Bay Area are allowing cannabis social clubs.
“We were the only game in town,” said Sam Kamin, a law professor at the University of Denver who studies legalization. “Boy, is that not true today.”
If Colorado is any guide, California’s problems with black-market marijuana aren’t going to vanish anytime soon. In California, a huge surplus is fueling an illicit market of illegal shops and backcountry pot farms. In Colorado, law enforcement is still carrying out huge raids on traffickers who are growing marijuana in homes or industrial spaces and shipping it out of state to sell.
After five years of legalization, there has not been an increase in teenage marijuana use in Colorado. That’s good news to educators and public-health officials, and it’s a number many will be watching in California.
Colorado’s experiment with recreational weed shows that voting for legalization is just the beginning. Colorado had to overhaul the rules about the shape, packaging and marking on edibles over concerns they were falling into children’s hands. Lawmakers here are still dealing with questions of who should be able to invest in or own marijuana businesses, where people should be able to smoke, how to do lab tests on marijuana and countless other questions.
Here’s what else we’re reading
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• A Wall Street Journal investigation found that Pacific Gas & Electric knew for years that much of its massive system was dangerously outdated, but didn’t make necessary repairs. [The Wall Street Journal]
• A federal judge ordered PG&E, the state’s largest utility, to respond to the report line by line. [The San Francisco Chronicle]
• The news came as lawmakers weigh legislation that would create a $21 billion fund to help utilities pay for wildfire damage. Here’s more about Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposal. [The New York Times]
• And here’s what you need to know about PG&E’s role in the deadly Camp Fire. [The New York Times]
In other news:
• A nonprofit shelter for migrants in San Diego is almost empty. That’s because June saw a sharp decline — 28 percent — in migrant apprehensions along the southern border. Here’s why. [The New York Times]
• Speaker Nancy Pelosi made an extraordinary closed-door plea for unity among her House colleagues after tensions between Ms. Pelosi and “the squad” boiled over this week. [The New York Times]
• The world champion U.S. women’s soccer team had its celebratory parade in New York City on Wednesday. Megan Rapinoe, pride of Redding, won the internet. “I deserve this,” she said. And fans agreed. [Record Searchlight]
• Reformation, the eco-conscious, Instagram-famous clothing brand that started in L.A., has sold a majority stake in the company to a global private equity firm. It’s part of a trend. [The New York Times]
• Necessary innovation to prevent fare evasion or weird guillotine-like contraption that won’t help? BART’s new double-decker fare gates are getting mixed reviews. [The San Francisco Chronicle]
• In Venice, a “vanlord” is renting out 14 vans to people who might otherwise be homeless. But many of them don’t run. Predictably, neighbors are not happy about them. [Santa Monica Daily Press]
• Fresno is a hotbed of — K-pop fans. [The Fresno Bee]
And Finally …
The latest big name to bet on pot, though, is Jay-Z, who signed on to become the “chief brand strategist” for Caliva, which is based in San Jose.
“Anything I do, I want to do correctly and at the highest level,” Jay-Z said in a statement on the company’s website. Rolling Stone reported that the husband of Beyoncé picked the brand after a search for a cannabis partner that aligns with his ethos.
According to Bloomberg, Jay-Z follows Joe Montana in partnering with Caliva. (Yes, that Joe Montana.)
Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, went to school at U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.