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KSBR News Briefs on Friday, Nov.17, 2017


California pot rules open way for potentially larger fields

Our state has released long-awaited rules that will govern our state's emerging legal marijuana industry, while potentially opening the way for larger-scale cultivation that some fear could strangle small-farm growers.

The thicket of emergency regulations will allow our state to begin issuing temporary licenses for growers, distributors and sellers on Jan. 1, when recreational sales become legal.

They provide a regulatory roadmap for business operations, from licensing fees to establishing guidelines for testing, growing and distribution of marijuana in what is projected to be a $7 billion economy, the Nation's largest.

According to a summary of the rules, "edible products can’t be shaped like a human, animal, insect, or fruit."

And if you are thinking about alternative transportation for that pot, don't: It's banned to use "aircraft, watercraft, drone, rail, human-powered vehicle and unmanned vehicle."

The regulations have been in development for months and in some cases covered familiar ground: At first, our state will issue only temporary licenses to growers and retailers, provided they have a local permit to open for business.


California 'Obamacare' enrollment up slightly from last year

Our state’s health insurance marketplace says enrollment is up slightly from the same period last year despite President Trump's efforts to roll back the federal health care law.

Covered California officials say 48,000 new consumers used their service to sign up for health coverage during the first two weeks of the annual enrollment period. That's up from 39,000 new customers last year.

The agency boosted its marketing budget to $111 million this year after the Trump administration scaled back federal outreach spending.

Covered California is our state's insurance marketplace created under former President Obama's health care law. It allows consumers who don't get coverage from their employer or the government to compare plans and find out whether they qualify for federal subsidies.

The enrollment period ends Jan. 31.


University of California regents chastise system president

The University of California's governing board chastised UC President Janet Napolitano in a rare public rebuke and asked her to apologize for her office's interference in a state audit last year.

Napolitano issued a prompt apology, which did little to quiet criticism that has erupted over her office's meddling in what was supposed to be a confidential state auditor's survey of UC campuses.

Napolitano, who has previously apologized and vowed to prevent any future interference in the work of the state auditor, says she exhibited poor judgment and deeply regrets this mistake and sincerely apologizes.

The regents' admonishment came after the board met for a five-hour, closed-door session to discuss an independent fact-finding report conducted by former state Supreme Court justice Carlos Moreno and a Southern California law firm, Hueston Hennigan.

The investigation found that Napolitano's top aides had sought to suppress campus criticism of her office in surveys that were supposed to be confidential and sent directly to the state auditor.

The board said in a statement, investigators found that Napolitano approved of the plan to review the survey responses but there is "insufficient evidence" to conclude that she knew the full range of what her staff was up to or that she directly approved of any interference. It added, however, that she is ultimately responsible for the conduct of her staff.

Board chairman George Keiffer said in a statement Napolitano's actions "reflected poor judgment and set in motion a course of conduct that the Board of Regents finds unacceptable." Nonetheless, the board "continues to have confidence in and fully supports her continuing leadership."


USC partners with media giants to expand diversity project

The Walt Disney Company, NBC, Universal Music Group and others are helping the University of Southern California lead an expanded effort to drive diversity in the entertainment industry.

The university's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism has announced its broadening the mission of its Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative to include the music world as well as television and movies and renaming the project the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative.

In addition to Disney, NBC and Universal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, HBO and talent agency WME are also joining the effort.

The initiative releases an annual study on various issues surrounding diversity. Last year, it ranked media companies on their inclusion records.


Laguna Woods

The Laguna Woods City Council has agreed to have a Dog Park Advisory Committee which will guide the Council in the creation of the new dog park.

Mayor Shari Horne says there will be seven members and each one must own at least one dog.

She says the new dog park will be legal and about the same size as the previous dog park.

She anticipates the new dog park on Ridge Route Drive opening in about six months.

Horne says in other business, the Council passed a resolution to join the Mayors’ Compact to combat hate, extremism and bigotry and supporting related efforts.

She says Laguna Woods is the 333rd city to join.