BY RYAN FONSECA STAFF WRITER
JAN. 30, 2023 5:52 AM PT
OG Article: here.
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Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, Jan. 30.
Cannabis has become a multibillion-dollar industry in California, but some parts of that green machine could face new scrutiny from state lawmakers.
Last year, the L.A. Times published Legal Weed, Broken Promises, a series examining the fallout of California’s recreational cannabis legalization in 2016. Times reporters uncovered political corruption, an increase in illegal cultivation, rampant wage theft, and hazardous, sometimes deadly conditions for workers.
Now, some legislators have signaled plans to examine corruption and working conditions within the industry, which one referred to as the “Wild, Wild West.”
As my colleagues Paige St. John and Adam Elmahrek report, some leaders are also calling for “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.”
Last week, a spokesperson for the state’s Department of Industrial Relations told Times reporters that the agency is examining the deaths of 32 cannabis farmworkers uncovered by The Times and never reported to work safety regulators. Many of the workers died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Workers told Times reporters they lived outdoors, without sanitation or sufficient food, and that certain employers had directed them to charity food banks or forced them off farms at gunpoint without pay.
The Times’ investigation documented accusations of exploitation against more than 200 cannabis operations, representing over half of licensed grows in the state.
The series also chronicled rampant corruption within city- and county-level cannabis business licensing, with some officials allegedly accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars from business owners in exchange for permits.
The exploitation was something labor advocates had previously voiced concern about, noting that federal labor protections would probably not help workers when the industry is still illegal at the federal level.
“People dying from harvesting or processing cannabis — it’s just outrageous,” said Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), who chairs the state Assembly’s Public Safety Committee. “It’s very important to me that we finally get a grip on this and start to crack down.”
So far it’s just words from Sacramento. The first step toward official investigations and hearings is committee and leadership approvals that have not yet happened.
And now, here’s what’s happening across California:
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