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Gov. Newsom Vetoes Cannabis Café Bill

In his veto message, Newsom said he appreciates the author’s intention to support cannabis retailers, many of them struggling to make a profit. However, he is concerned that the legislation “could undermine California’s long-standing smoke-free workplace protections.”

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Cannabis entrepreneurs would have been able to sell food at their cafes to diversity their income. Image courtesy California Black Media.
Cannabis entrepreneurs would have been able to sell food at their cafes to diversity their income. Image courtesy California Black Media.

By Lila Brown | California Black Media

On Oct. 8, Gov. Newsom vetoed Assembly (AB) Bill 374.

This legislation would have allowed business owners to operate cannabis cafés in California, like those in Amsterdam, where non-marijuana food products can be served and consumed. This is despite the existing federal ban on the entire industry.

The bill, authored by Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco), would have also allowed café owners to host and sell tickets to live events.

In his veto message, Newsom said he appreciates the author’s intention to support cannabis retailers, many of them struggling to make a profit. However, he is concerned that the legislation “could undermine California’s long-standing smoke-free workplace protections.”

“Protecting the health and safety of workers is paramount. I encourage the author to address this concern in subsequent legislation,” wrote the Governor.

Responding to Newsom’s decision to return AB 374 unsigned, Haney drew parallels to California’s wine industry in a statement released Sunday.

“Californians are proud of our state’s wine culture, and we do everything we can to make sure that our winemakers receive the support they need — we need to be doing the exact same thing for cannabis,” he wrote. “If we don’t start better supporting these businesses, we are going to lose decades of being at the forefront of the cannabis movement and other states will be ready to swoop in and take it from us.”

Throughout the legislative process the bill has attracted both praise and criticism with some applauding it for the business opportunities it presents and others expressing strong disapproval because of health concerns such as second-hand smoke.

“Lots of people want to enjoy legal cannabis in the company of others,” said Haney. “And many people want to do that while sipping coffee, eating a scone, or listening to music.”

For owners of cannabis product stores, AB 374 presented opportunities to scale up their businesses.

Nina Parks is a co-founder of Equity Trade Network, a non-profit collective that provides small businesses with supply chain business resources within the cannabis industry in California.

She also served on the Cannabis Oversight Committee in San Francisco where she advocated for more equity as regulation was being developed. She said her cannabis lifestyle brand, Gift of Doja was set to resume hosting live, curated events that promote safe social spaces.

Parks told California Black Media (CBM) that AB 374 is a step in the right direction.

“The ability to at least have non-cannabis foods being able to be sold at dispensaries also gives dispensary owners an opportunity to put another revenue stream in their business.

“Being able to have non-cannabis related sales in your establishment really allows for another revenue stream for store owners. It is also an opportunity for cannabis businesses to remove the stigma and normalize consumption,” says Parks.

In cities like Los Angeles where programs are in place to help people affected by the War on Drugs — and other low-income entrepreneurs — launch cannabis-related businesses, the legislation was seen as offering hope.

Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass is working to expand business licensing and compliance for Social Equity applicants and licensees to receive guidance from marijuana industry experts.

A Social Equity Individual Applicant is defined as an individual who fulfills at least two of the following three criteria: (1) Low-income; (2) a prior California cannabis arrest or conviction; (3) 10 years’ cumulative residency in a disproportionately impacted area.

While consuming cannabis on-site at cannabis retailers is technically legal in California, selling non-cannabis-infused products is not permitted.

Supporters of AB 374 said the bill would have allowed cannabis retailers to diversify their operations and transition away from the limited dispensary model by selling non-cannabis-infused foods.

“It should have happened a long time ago. We let Colorado and other states go before us and California should’ve been the state to have already perfected this, says Brian Johnson, 51, an entrepreneur in Orange County.

As a shop owner and cannabis advocate, Johnson is eagerly waiting for his vision to become a reality. He blames red tape and excessively high taxes as obstacles to progress. However, like most cannabis entrepreneurs, he remains enthusiastic.

“Those who were criminalized and got their record expunged can get back to their entrepreneurial spirit,” says Johnson.

The strongest opposition to AB 374 came from advocates who argued that the legislation would erase decades of health safeguards put in place for businesses to protect employees by maintaining smoke-free work environments.

“Workers should not have to choose between their health and a good job. California has fought hard to protect workers and ensure a safe, healthy, smoke-free work environment,” the American Cancer Society, Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association wrote in a letter of opposition to the legislation.

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Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌

More Segregated Than Deep South: ACLU Releases Report on Calif. Public Schools

The 2024 State of Black Education: Report Card was recently published by the American Civil Liberties Union California Action (ACLU California Action). It states that California is the third most segregated state for Black students.  Co-author of the report, policy counsel Amir Whitaker from ACLU Southern California explained the criteria the ACLU use to rank California during the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown vs. Board of Education held at the State Capitol the day after the Memorial Day holiday.

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Asm. Mia Bonta (D-Alameda) was a guest speaker at the State of Black Education report card briefing at the State Capitol on May 29. CBM Photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.
Asm. Mia Bonta (D-Alameda) was a guest speaker at the State of Black Education report card briefing at the State Capitol on May 29. CBM Photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

By Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌, California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌

The 2024 State of Black Education: Report Card was recently published by the American Civil Liberties Union California Action (ACLU California Action). 

It states that California is the third most segregated state for Black students.

Co-author of the report, policy counsel Amir Whitaker from ACLU Southern California explained the criteria the ACLU use to rank California during the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown vs. Board of Education held at the State Capitol the day after the Memorial Day holiday.

“For every state in the Deep South, California (schools) are more segregated,” Whittaker said. “People often think that California is not segregated or unequal as Deep South states and others. The inequalities here (in California) are actually wider.”

New York and Illinois are ahead of California regarding the racial diversity of their student bodies. According to a report May 2022 report by Stanford Graduate School of Education, the Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and New York City school districts are in the top 10 most racially segregated districts for White-Black, White-Hispanic, and White-Asian segregation based on the average levels from 1991-2020.

In bigger school districts, segregation between low-income (students who are eligible for free lunch) and non-low-income students increased by 47% since 1991, according to the Stanford Graduate School’s report.

“That’s why it’s important to look at this data,” Whitaker said. “When you have millions of people living in places like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, the urban areas are a lot more segregated than the south. That’s a big part of it.

A number of factors contribute to the segregation of schools in California such as parents sending their children to private schools, others optioning for homeschooling, and other reasons, Whitaker said.

The Brown v. Board of Education case declared that separating children in public schools based on race was unconstitutional. However, Whitaker pointed to cases after the landmark decision that circumvented that federal law.

According to a 2014 report by the Civil Rights Project, in the 1990s, decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court decision ended federal desegregation orders in San Francisco and San Jose. In addition, court decisions in the state that ordered desegregation in the 1970s were overturned by the 1990s. Legally, California has no school integration policy to adhere to.

“This is why we did this report. There needs to be a report just on this issue (of school segregation),” Whitaker told California Black Media. “Right now, there’s no task force or anything addressing it. I have never seen the California Department of Education talk about it. This is a pandemic (and) a crisis.”

ACLU Northern California hosted an overview of the report and panel discussion at the State Capitol on May 29. California Black Legislative Caucus member Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Alameda) and Sen. Steven Bradford were the guest speakers. Parents, students, educators, and Black education advocates from all over the state attended the 90-minute presentation at the State Capitol.

School segregation is the No. 1 issue listed in among the report’s “24 areas of documented inequality,along with problematic trends of racial harassment, a continuous decline of Black student enrollment, school closures, connection with school staff, chronic absenteeism, low Black teacher representation, and parent participation.

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Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌

Sen. Steve Glazer Vows Redo After Journalism Tax Bill Placed on Hold

Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Contra Costa County) shared his thoughts expressed his views about Senate Bill (SB) 1327 at Capitol Weekly’s “Covering California: The Future of Journalism in the Golden State” conference, which was held in Sacramento on May 30.

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Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Contra Costa) was the keynote speaker at Capitol Weekly's Covering California: The Future of Journalism In the Golden State event held in Sacramento on May 30. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.
Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Contra Costa) was the keynote speaker at Capitol Weekly's Covering California: The Future of Journalism In the Golden State event held in Sacramento on May 30. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

By Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌, California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media

Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Contra Costa County) shared his thoughts expressed his views about Senate Bill (SB) 1327 at Capitol Weekly’s “Covering California: The Future of Journalism in the Golden State” conference, which was held in Sacramento on May 30.

During his keynote speech message at the one-day event, Glazer said admitted he couldn’t get the votes he needed to pass the bill SB 1327 that proposes imposing a “mitigation fee” on major digital technology companies to fund journalism jobs.

Despite the challenges, the Senator vows to keep the Legislation alive.

“We have had setbacks, and we have a lot of work to do to fix this, but I certainly am not giving up,” Glazer said at the event near the State Capitol. Glazer is chairperson of the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee.

In addition to Glazer’s address, Capitol Weekly organized a probing conference that examined three of the most pressing issues facing California reporters.

Media experts, publishers, communications specialists, and political reporters assembled to discuss the preservation of fair, balanced, and accurate journalism. The need for media outlets to deliver high-quality news coverage that bolsters government, the assessment of new business models; and coverage of the State Capitol dominated the 5-hour event.

“It is nothing short of tragic I would say to see what is happening to the journalism industry,” said Tim Foster, Capitol Weekly’s Executive Director. “I’ve been in and around journalism since 1995 and what we are seeing today with the closing of the journalism industry is unprecedented in my lifetime.”

Glazer spoke for 45 minutes about the future of democracy and the role journalism plays in it. However, the Legislature’s failure to advance SB 1327 and why he pulled the bill was the main subject.

If SB 1327 should reemerge and be passed as law, fees collected would provide $500 million in employment tax credits to news organizations across California. The Senate Appropriations Committee voted to pass the bill with a 4-2 vote on May 16, but Glazer still needed a pathway for two-thirds of the votes required to make it off the Senate floor.

Glazer cited several reasons for why SB 1327 is facing opposition from digital tech giants like Google, Meta, Amazon, and publishers. These include concerns about increased advertising, the perceived threat of government influence, discrimination against larger publishers, a fear that the mitigation fee could trickle down to smaller news outlets as they expand, and nonprofit newsrooms that don’t pay taxes getting a share.

“Opponents will always sell the ghost in the closet,” Glazers said of entities that oppose the bill. “The news business is facing an existential threat, and they are fighting with each other over who will be the last passenger on the Death Star.”

California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) vice chair Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood) said on May 16 at the State Capitol that his biggest concern about SB 1327 was whether it would benefit Ethnic Media, including Black media platforms. “They’re usually left and still need more assistance,” Bradford said.

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Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌

Cal African American Chamber of Commerce Holds Annual Gwen Moore Legislative Reception

The California African American Chamber of Commerce partnered with the California African American Action Fund to host its annual “Honorable Gwen Moore California Legislative Reception.” The event took place on May 7 at the Sutter Club in downtown Sacramento. Distinguished guests included business leaders, state officials, and both former and current lawmakers. Notably, members of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC), attended the event.

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Cathy Adams, President and CEO of Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce, received the Aubry Stone Outstanding Business Award at the California African American Chamber of Commerce's Gwen Moore Legislative Reception in Sacramento on May 7. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.
Cathy Adams, President and CEO of Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce, received the Aubry Stone Outstanding Business Award at the California African American Chamber of Commerce's Gwen Moore Legislative Reception in Sacramento on May 7. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media

The California African American Chamber of Commerce partnered with the California African American Action Fund to host its annual “Honorable Gwen Moore California Legislative Reception.” The event took place on May 7 at the Sutter Club in downtown Sacramento.

Distinguished guests included business leaders, state officials, and both former and current lawmakers. Notably, members of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC), attended the event. Former Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, 90, was the keynote speaker. Former state Sen. Roderick Wright and CAACC Executive Director Timothy Alan Simon served as emcees.

“The California African American Chamber of Commerce and the California African American Action Fund represent the African American economy of the fourth largest economy of the world,” Simon said during the introduction of the event. “Therefore, tonight let’s have some fun. We are going to learn how to acquire more power, more financial funding, and more access. We’re opening up those doors to you.”

During the reception, an award ceremony honored individuals for their achievements, innovative ideas, leadership, business acumen, and political contributions.

The CAACC Media and Communications Award was presented to Civil Rights Activist Danny Bakewell Jr., President of the Bakewell Company and Executive Editor of the Los Angeles Sentinel.

The Gwen Moore Legislative Impact Award was presented to Assemblymember Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City), Chair of the CLBC. The Legislator of the Year honor went to Assemblymember Corey Jackson (D-Moreno Valley).

“This is an absolute honor. Especially, with my knowledge and familiarity with Assemblymember Moore’s work,” Wilson said. “It’s just a reminder, honor, and privilege of this space I get to be in. This award holds profound significance for me and those who dedicated their lives to advancing equity, justice, and opportunities for all.”

Cathy Adams, President and CEO of Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce was presented with the Aubry Stone Outstanding Business Award. The Trailblazer Award was presented to the late Linda Crayton, former San Francisco City Commissioner.

Crayton served on the Airport Commission for the City and County of San Francisco from 1996 to 2020.

“She clearly served for almost 25 years, and she was totally sensitive to the need and careful implementation within the framework of all the rules that had been established,” Brown said of Crayton. She was a difference for many.”

Other leaders honored were John Reynolds, California Public Utilities Commission (recipient of the Distinguished Service Award); Hon. Heather Hutt, Councilmember for the City of Los Angeles, representing Council District 10, (Distinguished Service in the African American Community Award); and Thurman White, Senior Advisor ESO Ventures (Distinguished Recognition Award).

Rounding out the special guests and awardees list were Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Inglewood), CLBC Vice Chair, Dennis Thurston, Supplier Diversity Program Manager for Southern California Edison; Angela Gibson-Shaw, President of Greater Los Angeles African American Chamber of Commerce; and Tommy Ross, Pinnacle Strategic Group.

Toks Omishakin, Secretary of the California State Transportation Agency (CALSTA) also attended the two-hour event.

“That’s the nature of how we need to work in the world of politics and, how we need to exercise authority and privilege.”

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