12-11-2019  3:40 am   •   PDX Weather    •   SEA weather  
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NORTHWEST NEWS

San Francisco Aims to Rein in Tests of Tech Ideas on Streets

Entrepreneurs would not be allowed to test their products in San Francisco's public space unless the tech in question is declared a "net public good."

Portland-area Residents May Vote on Funding for Homeless

There may be a measure on the November 2020 ballot to fund likely hundreds of millions of dollars for increased social services

Black Food Professionals See Opportunities to “Scale Up” in School Cafeterias and on Store Shelves

Two Portland women are addressing disparities in the local food scene with Ethiopian and Haitian flavors, ingredients

Portland Fire Chief Sara Boone Climbing Historic Ladders

In 1995, Boone was the first African American woman hired by Portland Fire & Rescue; this year she became its first African American Chief

NEWS BRIEFS

EPA Approves Funding for Oregon and Washington to Improve Drinking Water, Wastewater Infrastructure

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Conservation Breakthrough for Endangered Butterfly

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Meet 80 Local Authors at OHS 52nd Holiday Cheer Book Sale and Signing

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Need for Blood Doesn’t Stop for Holidays – Donors Needed

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North Carolina Court Decision Upholds Removal of Confederate Monument

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Tacoma liquefied natural gas site gains permit approval

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Former GOP gubernatorial candidate Buehler runs for Congress

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Republican Knute Buehler, who unsuccessfully ran for Oregon governor in 2018, announced his candidacy Tuesday for a congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Greg Walden. In a video, Buehler criticized what he called Portland liberals and elites in Washington D.C. He said...

New Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz predicts success

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Eli Drinkwitz was saying all the right things after being introduced as the new football coach at Missouri, laying out his vision for the once-proud program with unwavering confidence and bold proclamations.Then the former Appalachian State coach made a minor...

LSU's Burrow, Auburn's Brown named AP SEC players of year

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OPINION

Will You Answer the Call for Moral Revival?

In embracing and expanding the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Revs. Barber and Theoharis have asked Presidential candidates to consider a debate that focuses exclusively on poverty ...

What I’m Thankful For This Season

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Congressional Black Caucus Members Visit U.S.-Mexico Border: “Mistreatment of Black Immigrants is Another ‘Stain on America’”

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Portland, I'm Ready

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AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Congress finalizes bill restoring black college funding

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Trump to sign order targeting anti-Semitism at colleges

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In South Carolina, Steyer investing in black voters

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — In the waning weeks before South Carolina's presidential primary, Democrat Tom Steyer is renewing his focus on the black voters who play a pivotal role in the first-in-the-South state, rolling out a proposal to improve historically black colleges and institutions.The...

ENTERTAINMENT

NFL, NCAA football fuel Fox TV's win of the prime-time week

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Fueled by both college and pro football, Fox won a rare title as champ of the broadcast week among networks. Fox's Thursday night NFL airing of the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears was the week's top show of any kind with 18.23 million viewers, and its broadcast of the Big...

The Associated Press picks the top moments on TV from 2019

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Adam Sandler on plunging into the Safdies' 'Uncut Gems'

TORONTO (AP) — Adam Sandler was waiting to be thrown into a midtown fountain on Sixth Avenue for a scene in Josh and Benny Safdie’s “Uncut Gems” when he noticed a familiar face on the sidewalk.The Safdies like to capture as much authentic New York energy as possible in...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

AP source: Yanks land ace Cole on record 4M, 9-year deal

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California considers calling THC in pot a risk to moms-to-be

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The people sing: 'Les Mis' soothes, breaks Hong Kong hearts

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Volcanoes an ever-present, if usually distant danger

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Swiss Greens fail to enter government despite election gains

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The Hague court questions Kosovo's outgoing speaker

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McMenamins
Don Thompson the Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Federal prosecutors announced an aggressive crackdown against California pot dispensaries Friday, vowing to shut down dozens of growing and sales operations and saying that the worst offenders are using the cover of medical marijuana to act as storefront drug dealers.

Officials described it as the first coordinated statewide offensive against marijuana dealers and suppliers who use California's 15-year-old medical marijuana law as legal cover for running sophisticated drug trafficking ventures in plain sight.

"California's marijuana industry supplies the nation," said U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner, citing a 2009 federal study that 72 percent of marijuana plants eradicated nationwide were grown in California. "Huge amounts of marijuana grown here in this state is flowing east to other states, and huge amounts of money are flowing back in the opposite direction."

The actions were geared toward stopping a trend that has seen hundreds of pot shops open their doors across the state.

One example cited by the prosecutors Friday: In one Orange County strip mall, eight of the 11 second-floor suites are occupied by dispensaries and doctors' offices for doctors where healthy individuals obtain "sham" recommendations to use medical marijuana.

It is "a Costco, Walmart-type model that we see across California," said Andre Birotte Jr., U.S. attorney in the Los Angeles-area. Some people making money from medical marijuana openly revel in what some have called "the new California gold rush," he said.

Landlords leasing property to dozens of warehouses and agricultural parcels where marijuana is being grown and retail spaces where pot is sold over the counter are receiving written warnings to evict their tenants or face criminal charges or seizure of their assets, the state's four U.S. attorneys said.

"The intention regarding medical marijuana under California state law was to allow marijuana to be supplied to seriously ill people on a nonprofit basis," said U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, the top federal law enforcement officer for the San Francisco Bay area. "What we are finding, however, is that California's laws have been hijacked by people who are in this to get rich and don't care at all about sick people."

The crackdown comes a little more than two months after the Obama administration toughened its stand on medical marijuana. For two years before that, federal officials had indicated they would not move aggressively against dispensaries in compliance with laws in the 16 states where pot is legal for people with doctors' recommendations.

The Department of Justice issued a policy memo to federal prosecutors in late June stating that marijuana dispensaries and licensed growers in states with medical marijuana laws could face prosecution for violating federal drug and money-laundering laws. The effort to shutter California dispensaries appeared to be the most far-reaching effort so far to put that guidance into action.

The crackdown will likely unify marijuana growers and sellers in a drive to change federal policy, National Cannabis Industry Association spokeswoman Melissa Milam said.

"We're not going anywhere. We're mothers, we're patients, we're family members of patients," she said. "We want to pay taxes, we want to be able to make deposits at our bank, we want to be a business."

Not all of the thousands of storefront pot dispensaries thought to be operating in the state are being targeted in the crackdown, which also involves new indictments and arrests of marijuana growers throughout the state over the past two weeks, said Wagner, who represents the state's Central Valley.

The strategies they are using vary somewhat, with warning letters issued by the U.S. attorney in San Diego giving recipients 45 days to comply and property owners in Los Angeles and the Central Coast given just two weeks to evict pot dispensaries or growers.

Haag said she is initially going after pot shops located close to schools, parks, sports fields and other places where there are a lot of children.

Wagner, who represents the state's Central Valley, also is targeting what he termed "significant commercial operations," including farmland where marijuana is being grown. Birotte is prioritizing dispensaries in communities where local officials have been trying unsuccessfully to shut down marijuana businesses.

Moreover, the four said their warnings were aimed at cities and counties that have started licensing and taxing marijuana shops.

"The ordinances are illegal under federal law," Haag said, citing an appellate court ruling this week against Long Beach's ordinance that charged shops fees to operate.

The California Board of Equalization has estimated medical marijuana generates between $53 million and $104 million in annual sales taxes on sales of between $700 million and $1.3 billion.

Three of the four prosecutors declined to reveal how many dispensaries are subject to closure orders, saying only there were dozens in each of their four districts. Birotte said 38 property owners in his district were sent warnings.

Birotte said his office already had initiated property forfeiture proceedings involving three properties whose owners had received prior warnings.

The effort was criticized by two Democrat state legislators who represent San Francisco.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano said the crackdown "means that Obama's medical marijuana policies are worse than Bush and Clinton. It's a tragic return to failed policies that will cost the state millions in tax revenue and harm countless lives."

"I don't understand the politics of it, and certainly if we haven't learned anything over the past century, it's that Prohibition does not work," added State Sen. Mark Leno, who has worked to safeguard and regulate medical marijuana in California.

Haag said the move is not designed to clamp down on patients who grow their own marijuana for medical use. But dispensaries that were not part of the initial wave of warning letters "shouldn't take any comfort," she said. "They are illegal under federal law."

"I understand there are people in California who believe marijuana stores should be allowed to exist, but I think we can all agree we don't need marijuana stores across the street from schools and Little League fields," she said.

Wagner said individual U.S. attorneys general in other states including Nevada, Oregon and Washington state have also coordinated actions with the U.S. Department of Justice.

But Justin Williams, the manager and marijuana grower at Mayflower Wellness in downtown Denver, said he believes Colorado's regulations on growing marijuana makes the state less of a target than California.

"I think their main concern is the lack of regulation in California with the explosion that's happened," he said.

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Associated Press writers Lisa Leff in San Francisco and Catherine Tsai in Denver contributed to this report.

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