Essential California Week in Review: Inside California’s pot legalization failures


Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Sept. 24.

Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week

How weed legalization went wrong in California. Six years after pot was legalized in California, the state’s legal weed industry is in disarray, with flawed policies, legal loopholes and stiff regulations hampering longtime growers and sellers. Despite expectations that it would become a model for the rest of the country, the state has instead provided a cautionary tale of lofty intentions and unkept promises.

The state Supreme Court found that California bumblebees can be protected under the law as ‘fish.’ For the last three years, state almond growers, builders and pesticide companies had been arguing that bumblebees were exempt from listing as endangered because the California Endangered Species Act does not mention insects. Now the high court’s ruling could allow a broad range of insects to be considered for endangered species status.

After a string of teen overdoses, L.A. schools will get an OD reversal drug. Los Angeles Unified public schools will stock campuses with naloxone in the wake of a student’s death at Bernstein High School. The move will affect some 1,400 elementary, middle and high schools. Nine students have overdosed across the district in recent weeks, including seven linked to the Bernstein campus and Hollywood High School.


The average gas price jumped 8.5 cents overnight. Los Angeles County’s average gas price rose Wednesday to $5.545 for a gallon of self-service regular, AAA data showed, as refinery problems accelerated increases that began several weeks ago. Nationwide, a 99-day run of falling gasoline prices has ended, with pump prices still much higher than a year ago. The L.A. record was $6.462 in mid-June.

Double-header debate night in Los Angeles. Mayoral candidates Karen Bass and Rick Caruso squared off for nearly an hour Wednesday in a debate that at times turned heated, such as when the candidates threw digs at each other for their respective controversial ties to USC. Before that, incumbent Alex Villanueva and his opponent to be L.A. County sheriff, retired Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna, exchanged harsh words over their records in law enforcement and their ability to lead the nation’s largest Sheriff’s Department.

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Not even a soaking rain will douse this wildfire season. It’s been a summer of drought, extreme heat and deadly wildfires. We’ve had record-setting heat waves that further baked bone-dry landscapes. So recent rains in parts of the state are unlikely to end the threat of wind-driven fires this fall.

Eight bewildered migrants showed up in Sacramento. The Venezuelan migrants were flown to Sacramento last week after crossing the border in Laredo, Texas. They said they had intended to travel to New York, Florida or Utah and didn’t know why they were sent to California or who paid for the flights. The incident came after Republican governors in Florida and Texas bused and flew immigrants to New York, Washington, D.C., and Martha’s Vineyard.

Sherri Papini invented a wild kidnapping hoax. The true story is even stranger. After missing for 22 days in 2016, she reappeared bruised, branded and emaciated. Papini said two Latinas had held her captive at gunpoint. The truth, which emerged slowly, included an ex-boyfriend who had set out to rescue her from an allegedly cruel husband. Papini was sentenced Monday to 18 months in prison.

California workers won’t have to worry about being fired, or not hired, for off-the-clock cannabis use. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill that makes California the seventh state in the U.S. that does not allow employers to discriminate against workers who smoke weed “off the job and away from the workplace.” The law goes into effect Jan. 1, 2024.


Mystery surrounds this Brink’s heist. Key facts remain in dispute around the multimillion-dollar theft of jewelry from a Brink’s big rig at a Grapevine truck stop in July. There’s debate about the value of the stolen goods, from less than $10 million to more than $100 million. There are questions about the timeline, which one attorney said “doesn’t make any sense” with an almost impossibly swift journey for the tractor-trailer.

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ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

Inside the war against Southern California’s urban coyotes. Horror stories about coyotes have fueled the escalating war between people who want to coexist with the animals and those who want them to be eradicated. The conflict is also raising basic questions for cities that have long struggled to manage their coyote populations. Questions include whether local government should be involved at all, and whether an animal as tenacious and adaptive as coyotes can actually be controlled.

Celebs are facing off in Benedict Canyon. A proposed upscale hotel in a neighborhood where home prices range from $3 million to $100 million has pitted some of L.A.’s biggest stars against one another. Celebrities supporting the hotel include Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis. On the other side of the divide are neighbors opposed to the project including the Doors’ Robby Krieger and TV’s Dr. Phil. The proposed hotel has 58 guest rooms and suites, plus eight private residences, a 10,000-square-foot spa, a gym, a private theater and an eight-seat sushi bar, along with a restaurant.

A package deal. Twin brothers Grayson and Gabriel Murphy of UCLA football aren’t inseparable, they’re closer than that. The practically indistinguishable pair does everything together. “I wouldn’t even say we’ve been away from each other for 24 hours our whole lives,” said Gabriel. And as teens, they made a pact that they would play together in college, no matter what it took.

Today’s week-in-review newsletter was curated by Jason Sanchez and Amy Hubbard. Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to

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