Today’s Headlines: Lawmakers want answers on California cannabis industry abuses

A woman waters plants outside
Sabrina, a cannabis worker, waters plants on an illicit grow in the hills around Covelo, Calif.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Hello, it’s Monday, Jan. 30, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:


Lawmakers want answers on ‘Wild West’ of California cannabis and farm work

California lawmakers are calling for a sweeping investigation into corruption in the state’s cannabis industry, legislative hearings on the exploitation of farmworkers and new laws to thwart labor trafficking in response to revelations of rampant abuses and worker deaths in a multibillion-dollar market that has become increasingly unmanageable.


The proposals follow a series of Times investigations last year showing that California’s 2016 legalization of recreational cannabis spurred political corruption, explosive growth in illegal cultivation and widespread exploitation of workers, including rampant wage theft and sometimes lethal working conditions. The Times uncovered the deaths of 32 farmworkers that were never reported to work safety regulators.

Biden bolsters the 9th Circuit, but has yet to match Trump

President Biden is leaving a distinct mark on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals after an aggressive campaign by former President Trump to stack the nation’s federal benches with conservative jurists.

Biden’s six appointments so far are relatively young jurists of color experienced in legal fields important to progressives, including civil, labor and voting rights law. And he is poised to fill two additional seats, though he still hasn’t matched Trump’s 10 appointments to the circuit.

The political makeup of the judges who serve on the 9th Circuit, a massive jurisdiction that includes nine Western states — including California — and two U.S. territories, has broad implications for some of the nation’s most pressing cultural and political issues.


How Las Vegas declared war on grass and set a conservation example

Despite its reputation for excess, the Mojave Desert metropolis has been factoring climate change into its water plans for years, declaring war on thirsty lawns, patrolling the streets for water wasters and preparing for worst-case scenarios on the Colorado River, which supplies 90% of the area’s water.

Las Vegas has emerged as a leader in water conservation, and some of its initiatives have spread to other cities and states that rely on the shrinking river. Its drive to get rid of grass in particular could reshape the look of landscapes in public and private spaces throughout the Southwest.


Victims identified as mystery surrounds Benedict Canyon shooting

Police said three people were shot to death inside a car and four were wounded outside during a gathering early Saturday on a quiet cul-de-sac tucked away in a secluded neighborhood north of Beverly Hills.

The shooting capped a deadly week in California and disrupted a quiet community favored by celebrity residents.


Authorities on Sunday identified the victims as Nenah Davis, 29, of Bolingbrook, Ill.; Destiny Sims, 26, of Buckeye, Ariz.; and Iyana Hutton, 33, of Chicago.

Investigators gave little information about what happened other than to say the attack — during which more than 30 shots were fired — was not random.

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a woman with long red hair plays a harp in a green courtyard at an office complex
Harpist Pheobe Madison Schrafft plays for workers on a lunch break in the courtyard at the Water Garden office complex in Santa Monica in December.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

As many work from home, office landlords roll out entertainment to entice tenants. Farmers markets, concerts, art shows and other attractions for office tenants aren’t completely new, but they have taken on urgency as landlords and executives of companies occupying their buildings strive to get workers enthused about showing up.

Our psychological armor helps us cope with increasing mass shootings, but numbs us to the destruction. “A numbing is happening,” Dr. Paul Nestadt, a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, told The Times. “The normalization of tragedy is human nature. It’s called adaptive psychology: If we allowed these deaths to live in our head, we wouldn’t be able to live ourselves.”



Half Moon Bay farmworkers struggle in ‘deplorable’ conditions. Residents hope the attention focused on the area after last week’s mass killing of farmworkers in Half Moon Bay will prompt political decision-makers and the public to finally listen.

LAPD officers in riot gear face off with protesters after release of Tyre Nichols video. Hours after authorities in Memphis, Tenn., released video of the police beating of Nichols, a protest Friday night in downtown Los Angeles grew tense, with LAPD officers in riot gear in a showdown with about 30 protesters.

Cal State San Marcos to remove founder’s name from building over comment deemed racist. The decision to name the building after a Republican state senator from Oceanside who made racist comments had been controversial for decades.

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Memphis disbands police unit linked to beating death of Tyre Nichols. The announcement came a day after graphic video was released of the incident that fatally injured Nichols, 29. The footage stirred outrage and questions, such as why the unit stopped Nichols in the first place and why medical attention was not given more promptly.

‘Fast-track’ talks underway for missiles and planes, Ukraine says. Ukraine and its Western allies are engaged in talks on the possibility of equipping the invaded country with long-range missiles and military aircraft, a top Ukrainian presidential aide said Saturday.

UK leader fires party chairman over tax bill allegations. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak fired the chairman of the governing Conservative Party on Sunday for a “serious breach” of ethics rules in failing to come clean about a tax dispute he settled while he was in charge of the country’s Treasury.



Apple’s new comedy is the anti-‘Ted Lasso,’ built on a taxingly unlikable protagonist. “Shrinking” is at once watchable, owing to the show’s able cast and largely amiable nature, and taxing, due to Jason Segel’s Jimmy, who makes most any situation about himself, writes Times television critic Robert Lloyd.

Film academy to conduct ‘review’ after Andrea Riseborough’s surprise Oscar nod. Questions are swirling around Riseborough’s surprise lead actress nomination for a film that earned just $27,000 at the box office, though the academy did not mention her by name in its Friday announcement.

Pussy Riot founder uses art and ashes as ammo for an anti-Putin exhibit. As Nadya Tolokonnikova, founder of the Russian band and activist group, expands her art, she found a venue for her work in L.A.’s Jeffrey Deitch gallery.


Elon Musk faces yet another probe, this time into Tesla’s self-driving claims. U.S. regulators are investigating Musk’s role in shaping Tesla’s self-driving car claims, part of an ongoing Securities and Exchange Commission probe of the company’s statements about its Autopilot driver-assistance system.

Amazon will start charging Prime members for grocery orders smaller than $150. The change underscores the challenging economics of getting food to shoppers’ doorsteps. The new fees coincide with the company’s efforts to cut costs and adjust to slower growth in online shopping.


Higher education as a path out of poverty is now more myth than reality. “Instead of alleviating inequality, higher education too often deepens it. We need to admit that, on its own, higher education is not an adequate solution to poverty,” writes an author and research professor.


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‘The best-kept secret in the State Department.’ How sports help U.S. diplomats. The State Department’s sports diplomacy program has sent surfers to Papau New Guinea, taken ambassadors such as Shaquille O’Neal to Cuba and organized sports camps in which Israelis and Palestinians both have taken part. Even in the hyperpartisan political climate in Washington, sports diplomacy has found fans on the blue and red teams.


one man sits on luggage and talks to a standing man in a dense cloud of fog
American Airlines flight engineer Frank Nusser, left, and Capt. Don Young wait by their aircraft for fog to lift at Los Angeles International Airport on Jan. 29, 1958.
(Los Angeles Times)

On Jan. 29, 1958, a thick blanket of fog rolled over Los Angeles, snarling traffic and grounding airplanes until it lifted hours later. The Times reported that Los Angeles International Airport was hit especially hard when the fog “clamped a misty fist” on the area. Visibility was too low to fly from 2:40 until 10 a.m., and at one point, 14 planes were waiting on runways to take off.

Times photographer John Malmin took the above photo, which accompanied the story in the next day’s paper.

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