Essential California: Deadly shooting at a Las Vegas concert

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, Oct. 2, and here’s what’s happening:


A deadly shooting in Las Vegas

More than 50 people were killed and at least 200 others injured after a gunman opened fire Sunday night at a country music festival opposite the Mandalay Bay hotel and resort on the Las Vegas Strip, authorities said. Police reported that the suspect, a Las Vegas resident, was dead. “Right now we believe it’s a solo act, a lone wolf attacker,” Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Sheriff Joe Lombardo said during an early-morning news conference. Concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival said they heard a burst of weapons fire as singer Jason Aldean performed on stage. “I thought it was like bottle rockets going off,” Seth Bayles of West Hollywood said. “Then we saw people dropping. We saw someone get hit and then we started running.” Los Angeles Times

The investigation: With the gunman dead, Las Vegas police made an urgent appeal to find two vehicles and the suspect’s companion. Los Angeles Times

Video: Chilling videos on social media captured the scene and its aftermath. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Aldean was scheduled to be the final act of the three-day festival, while dozens of others had played, including Eric Church, Sam Hunt and Maren Morris. In numerous tweets, artists communicated with fans and followers, expressing their sorrow and prayers for anyone injured and telling loved ones that they were safe. Los Angeles Times

And: The mass shooting temporarily shut down nearby McCarran International Airport‏. Los Angeles Times

The newlyweds and the suspicions

Debra Newell was a well-known Orange County interior designer who, at 59, had met a man with whom she thought she could spend the rest of her life. But her family was suspicious, and those seeds of doubt would reveal a shocking truth. Over the next week Times reporter Christopher Goffard will chronicle the twisted tale of “Dirty John” in a series of stories and a podcast. As each installment hits, you’ll be the first to know by reading Essential California.

Chapter One: Los Angeles Times | Chapter Two: Los Angeles Times | The Podcasts: iTunes

Ask the author anything: Have questions about our “Dirty John” series? Join Goffard for a Facebook Live Q&A on Wednesday, Oct. 11, at noon. Leave your questions in advance here: Los Angeles Times

Tell us your story: Have you ever tried to convince a loved one to leave a toxic relationship? Los Angeles Times

Where did all the pot go?

California produced at least 13.5 million pounds of marijuana last year — five times more than the 2.5 million pounds it consumed. Where did all that extra pot go? The answer, experts say, is that much of it ended up in other states, including some where marijuana is still illegal. As California prepares to allow cannabis sale for recreational use, that surplus has become a problem. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Los Angeles might restrict who can lodge appeals when marijuana businesses get city licenses, blocking challenges from people who do not live, work or own property nearby. The controversial idea was tucked into draft rules that would lay the groundwork for what is widely expected to be one of the hottest marijuana markets in the country. The industry could pump more than $50 million in tax revenue into city coffers next year. Los Angeles Times

This city’s big influence

“Sure, there was once an East Coast attitude of belittling the arts in La La Land, the Land of the Plastic Lotus, or whatever. But that’s as old as an early Woody Allen film,” writes Times classical music critic Mark Swed. “Indeed, Los Angeles has been a mecca for classical music since the 1930s, a place where art can invent away from, as well as absorb, old-world traditions. (Let’s not forget that even Allen, with witty irreverence and a wink to Hollywood, directed an opera in — and only in — L.A.) For fresh proof of just how stale those old pop-culture stereotypes have become, look to the new classical season.” Los Angeles Times


In Highland Park: The Prestons are accomplished artists, the kind of creative types who came to California not to make a lot of money but to pursue their passions. Now, they cannot afford their rent. Is that kind of California dream still affordable? Los Angeles Times

Gearing up for a big push: Up to 600,000 people are expected to apply when L.A. reopens the list for Section 8 housing vouchers this month for the first time in 13 years. Los Angeles Times

Fatal plunge: Federal investigators said Sunday that a man apparently jumped from a helicopter to his death off the coast of Malibu on Saturday afternoon. Los Angeles Times

Rams win! The Rams are no illusion. They proved it Sunday by going into AT&T Stadium and defeating the Dallas Cowboys, 35-30, before a crowd of 91,869. Los Angeles Times


Beach life: Los Angeles is heading toward another collision over its 30-year-old beach curfew that could decide who rules the city’s segments of the coastline after dark. In a court settlement, the city agreed to go before the California Coastal Commission to defend its midnight-to-5 a.m. closure of 11 miles of shoreline within its limits from Pacific Palisades to San Pedro. Los Angeles Times

Major milestone: About 2 million California homeowners are lucky enough to be living in their homes mortgage free. Orange County Register

Time to vote again: A flood of candidates are seeking to fill the Assembly seat once held by Jimmy Gomez, who left the California Legislature to serve in Congress this year, and Los Angeles voters have a chance to start sorting through them in Tuesday’s primary. Los Angeles Times


Flute investigation: Two Southern California school districts were giving conflicting messages over the weekend as they attempted to guide parents through a scare touched off last week by a state and federal investigation of a music specialist suspected of contaminating musical instruments with semen. Los Angeles Times

Simpson goes free: Former football star O.J. Simpson was released from a Nevada prison early Sunday after serving nine years for a 2007 armed robbery and kidnapping in Las Vegas. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Simpson’s release launched a renewed effort to collect from him a 1997 civil jury award that held him liable in the deaths of his estranged wife and her friend, a family attorney said. Los Angeles Times

Another celebrity heist: Jewelry, watches, cash and high-end purses are missing from the home of former Lakers coach Byron Scott after a burglary of his Hermosa Beach residence Saturday, police said. Los Angeles Times

See you in court: Performer Cher filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday, alleging that Los Angeles billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong and others duped her into selling her shares in a promising drug company at a fraction of the stock’s value. “The lawsuit has no merit. We intend to vigorously defend against it,” Soon-Shiong’s spokesman, Michael Sitrick, said in a statement. Los Angeles Times


An ancient tree is threatened: For thousands of years, wind-whipped, twisted bristlecone pines have been clinging to existence on the arid, stony crests of eastern California’s White Mountains, in conditions inhospitable to most other life. But the world’s oldest trees may never have experienced temperature increases as rapid as those of recent decades. Los Angeles Times

Something stinks along the coast: A recurring foul odor that some residents say causes headaches and nausea is a serious issue and needs more focus, says a Huntington Beach city councilman who wants a special committee to be formed on the issue. Los Angeles Times

Scary stuff: Harrowing stories are emerging about two massive rockfalls at Yosemite National Park that killed one man and injured at least two others. Los Angeles Times


Unwrapped: After 27 years in a warehouse, a once-censored mural rises in L.A.’s Union Station. And the artist is glad she stood her ground for all those years. Los Angeles Times

Music man: L.A.’s beloved musical master Randy Newman on how President Trump has changed, and not changed, his work. San Francisco Chronicle

Time for the playoffs: In a meeting with Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw in the middle of September, manager Dave Roberts informed Kershaw that the team does not intend to use him on short rest in the first round of the playoffs, bucking a trend from the last four postseasons. Los Angeles Times

#PRstrong: The Cal State L.A. women’s volleyball team has been rallying around its Puerto Rican teammates and coach since Hurricane Maria destroyed the island. Los Angeles Times

About the Olympics: “In 2017, encampments for the homeless again line the streets of L.A. There are tent cities all over downtown, as Skid Row, the historic neighborhood for the homeless, cannot support the size of its growing population.” Yet the Olympics are still coming. The New Yorker

“Curb” is back: J.B. Smoove has become such a favorite of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” fans, it’s easy to forget that his character, Leon Black, Larry David’s eminently quotable sidekick/seemingly permanent houseguest, only joined the HBO series in Season 6. Los Angeles Times


Los Angeles area: Partly cloudy, 77, Monday. Partly cloudy, 73, Tuesday. San Diego: Partly cloudy, 72, Monday and Tuesday. San Francisco area: Sunny, 71, Monday. Sunny, 73, Tuesday. Sacramento: Sunny, 80, Monday and Tuesday. More weather is here.


This week’s birthdays for those who’ve made a mark in California:

Actress Julie Andrews (Oct. 1, 1935), Padres bench coach and former slugger Mark McGwire (Oct. 1, 1963), Rep. Devin Nunes (Oct. 1, 1973) and Rep. Karen Bass (Oct. 3, 1953).

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. Send us an email to let us know what you love or fondly remember about our state. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to Benjamin Oreskes and Shelby Grad. Also follow them on Twitter @boreskes and @shelbygrad.

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Las Vegas Police: 1 Suspect Down, Dozens Shot

Las Vegas police say one suspect is ‘down’ after shooting at country music festival that has left at least two people dead and dozens wounded. Authorities don’t believe there are any more shooters. (Oct. 2)
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Nevada pot sales bigger than first months in other states

Marijuana plants are grown at Essence Vegas’ 54,000-square-foot marijuana cultivation facility on July 6, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

RENO, Nev.  — The first month of legal sales of recreational marijuana in Nevada significantly outpaced the opening month of sales in other states where it’s legal for adult use.

The state Department of Taxation says Nevada dispensaries sold $27.1 million worth of pot in July. That compares with about $14 million in each of Oregon and Colorado, and $3.8 million in Washington in the first year of legalized recreational sales in those states.

The combination of a 15 percent wholesale tax and a 10 percent retail tax generated $3.68 million in state tax revenue, Nevada Department of Taxation spokeswoman Stephanie Klapstein said Thursday. The numbers are consistent with projections legal pot sales will bring in $120 million over the next two years, she said.

Some of that tax money is headed to the state’s rainy day fund this year. But the vast majority going forward is dedicated to schools.

The $120 million projection anticipates $5 million in monthly tax revenue. But Klapstein said officials actually projected zero revenue for July because of uncertainty surrounding licensing and local zoning ordinances.

“I’d discourage anyone from dividing up the total projections by month,” Klapstein said. “The numbers are good. There’s nothing to suggest we are not on track with the biennial projections.”

The ballot measure Nevada voters approved last November legalizing pot required retail, wholesale and distribution licenses to be issued by Jan. 1, 2018.

But Gov. Brian Sandoval proposed in January — and the Nevada Legislature approved — an “early-start” program to launch sales in July, the first month of the state’s fiscal year.

“That allowed us to start getting the revenue right at the beginning of the biennium,” Klapstein said. “We think those wholesale numbers will continue to go up.”

The state has now licensed 53 retail stores, 92 cultivation operations, 65 manufacturers, nine testing labs and 31 distributors. Four-fifths of the 250 total license facilities are in Las Vegas and surrounding Clark County, the department said.

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Carson City supervisors to consider pot stores

The Carson City code allowing retail marijuana stores could be adopted on Thursday by the Board of Supervisors.

The board will hear on second reading two ordinances relating to recreational marijuana businesses.

One ordinance covers zoning and would allow retail stores as a conditional use within general commercial and general industrial zones. The stores must also be co-located with a medical marijuana dispensary. Carson City decided to limit dispensaries to two — currently RISE and Sierra Wellness Connection — so retail outlets will be limited as well.

Other types of recreational marijuana businesses, such as cultivators and production facilities, will be allowed in general industrial and general industrial airport zones if the ordinance is adopted.

So will distributors after the board at its last meeting decided not to grandfather in Paladin, a marijuana distribution business set up by Kurt Brown, manager and owner of the liquor distributor, Capitol Beverages.

The business is currently located in a limited industrial zone, which the board has decided can’t be used by marijuana distributors.

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The supervisors also will hear on first reading an ordinance to raise storm water rates 30 percent.

If approved on second reading, the money raised would go to service debt on a $4.88 million bond, which will be used to pay for six, citywide storm water capital improvement projects.

The board will decide whether to approve a grant application to the U.S. Department of Transportation for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) funds.

Public Works hopes to use TIGER money to fund redevelopment of Carson Street between Fairview Drive and 5th Street.

That portion of Carson Street is the unfunded piece between the already completed downtown and the section between Fairview Drive and the freeway bypass the city took over from the state.

Work on the recently acquired south portion is being funded mostly by $5.1 million the city received from the Nevada Department of Transportation as part of the deal to take over the road.

The Board of Supervisors meets at 8:30 a.m. in the Sierra Room, Carson City Community Center, 851 E. William St.

If You Go

What: Board of Supervisors

When: Thursday, Oct. 5, 8:30 a.m.

Where: Sierra Room, Community Center, 851 E. William St.

Meeting agenda

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Nevada’s Gaming Past Illuminates The Marijuana Industry’s Future

Jeffrey Barr
Alicia Ashcraft

When the Nevada Legislature legalized gaming in 1931, the publisher of the Nevada State Journal called the act, “legalized liberality.”  The small railroad stop of Las Vegas issued its first gaming license to a woman named, “Mayme Stocker.”  A true pioneer, Ms. Stocker ran the Northern Club along Fremont Street, which had been operating in a gray legal area by offering patrons games of chance and alcohol in violation of federal law. When the Nevada Legislature legalized gaming in 1931, the publisher of the Nevada State Journal called the act, “legalized liberality.”  The small railroad stop of Las Vegas issued its first gaming license to a woman named, “Mayme Stocker.”  A true pioneer, Ms. Stocker ran the Northern Club along Fremont Street, which had been operating in a gray legal area by offering patrons games of chance and alcohol in violation of federal law.

The railroads frowned upon their workers patronizing a speakeasy-like the Northern Club.  It was no accident that Mayme held the Northern Club in her name—her husband, Frank, was a railroad executive who could have lost his job for his association with such vices.  Four generations later, this “legalized liberality” is, of course, Nevada’s number one industry.

Nevada’s present experience with marijuana parallels its past experience with gaming.  Like Mayme Stocker, many of Nevada’s cannabis entrepreneurs have operated in a gray area of legitimacy for years, and the stigma of the plant remains.

Nothing illustrates this stigma more clearly than the results of Ballot Question 2 in 2016, which legalized recreational marijuana use in Nevada.  Though it won the popular vote, Question 2 passed in only three counties:  Clark, Washoe, and Storey.  Similar to gambling in 1931, marijuana sharply divides political opinion in 2017.  But also like the monumental legalization of gaming in 1931, the passage of Question 2 will someday be seen as equally monumental in Nevada history.

The year since Question 2 has seen some remarkable events.
In July 2017, for example, sales of recreational cannabis began.  In those first, few heady days, lines extended out the doors of dispensaries and in some cases, around the block.  National news blared, “Nevada Governor Declares Pot Emergency,” when the Governor authorized emergency regulations as inventories ran low in the wake of a failed lawsuit to block distribution of product during the implementation of the temporary program.  The permanent program goes into effect in January 2018.

When permanent retail marijuana sales begin, estimates for the size of the market vary widely from $400 million per year to $2 billion per year.  These numbers are easy to imagine with a quick, back-of-the-napkin calculation:  Roughly 50 million people visit Nevada every year.  The National Institutes of Health reports “Past Year Marijuana Use” for adults over 26 was 10.4%.  Thus, roughly 5 million visitors are potential customers.  If 5 million visitors spent $100 on one transaction, the market is $500 million on tourist sales alone if this long-term trend holds true.

But we are seeing some short-term trends, too.  Three seems to be emerging:

  1. Publicly-Traded Investments.  Over the summer of 2017, we have seen a trend toward publicly-traded Canadian companies investing in Nevada marijuana establishments.  Regulated by a provincial securities commissions and typically listed on the Canadian Stock Exchange, these investors are showing no signs of stopping.
  2. Tighter Regulatory Control.  In the medical marijuana program, the Division of Public and Behavioral Health did an admirable job of regulating licensed establishments, balancing the needs of an infant-industry with Nevada’s strict regulatory requirements.  Now that the regulation of marijuana establishments (both medical and adult-use) is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Taxation, we expect to see regulators enforcing the rules even more robustly in this maturing industry, including monetary fines for violations.
  3. More Entrepreneurial Opportunities.  The marijuana industry has attracted an amazing number of entrepreneurs directly in the industry.  But there are also seemingly endless opportunities indirectly or around the industry:  security services, lighting companies, delivery services, tourism, software development, payment systems, ventilation and odor control, and mobile applications are just a few of the fertile fields surrounding the marijuana industry.  We expect this trend to continue as the industry matures.
    Four generations ago, no one could have imagined the revolution that Mayme Stocker’s first gaming license spawned.  Here is to hoping that four generations from today, Nevada’s experience with marijuana generates a similarly unimaginable revolution.

Alicia Ashcraft, Managing Partner & Jeffrey Barr, Partner, Ashcraft & Barr, LLP.

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