Dispensaries are preparing to enter the New York market once the law is approved

One dawn, nine years ago, José Cruz stopped seeing his brother Marcos in the streets of Mott Haven, in the Bronx. Officers at the New York City Police Department (NYPD) explained that “Che,” as his friends fondly called him, had been stabbed while trying to break up a fight outside a restaurant on 149th Street and Grand Concourse. A few hours later, these same officers told Cruz, 40, single and without children, and several media outlets, that his brother “was not a saint” and that he had been arrested at least 12 times for selling cocaine and marijuana.

The case was never solved, but now, in the middle of a cold winter afternoon, Cruz contemplates with sadness, and at the same time passion, the tree he planted in March 2010, after the burial of his brother. He and his community decided to be reborn after the farewell of “Che.” Adults and children joined in a project to rescue Brook Park, located on Brook Avenue between 140 and 141 East streets, just behind the building where their parents settled after arriving from La Perla, Puerto Rico.

The death of his brother “Che” marked a before and after in the life of José Cruz, who currently dedicates a large part of his time to his organization Young, Fresh and Conscious.

Brook Park, also known locally as Alexander Burger Park, in honor of a Lithuanian immigrant who settled in the area, serves today as a setting for community meetings, planting tomatoes and strawberries during the spring, and activities for young people and seniors. It is also the place where Cruz continues to promote its community work through its organization Young, Fresh and Conscious, an initiative that was born with the purpose of not only helping young people affected by drug addiction but also to those who have received the adverse effect of the war on drugs in this community.

Although today the park is a site worthy of showing, in the past it was the opposite. As Cruz grew, the place was the epicenter of illegal drug trades. He used to peek through the window of his apartment and see how neighboring buildings were used entirely as hallucinogenic factories, but he did not understand why.

Brook Park has become a meeting point for children and adults in the Mott Haven, The Bronx.

“I had many questions that people could not answer, so I decided to do my research, go to school, to communities, take sociology, history classes,” Cruz said. “But that did not work for me, so I decided to study everything related to addiction and worked for 15 years as an addiction counselor in a hospital.”

He thought that his life was going well, until that day when his brother passed away. It was like going back in time and reliving those afternoons in the window of his house. This time it was different: his brother was not only one of the victims of this war on drugs, but it was also the result of, he says, the criminalization of communities of color.

“I thought at the time: all this pain that I have, all this anger, but here I am, doing good things for my family, for my community and I lose my brother like that,” Cruz said, while holding a teaching material full of images about the history of the Puerto Rican and African-American community in the Bronx, which he uses in the workshops he teaches in organizations and schools in the south of this county.

War on drugs

Mott Haven, a community where Latinos are on every corner, mostly Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, and Dominicans, is currently undergoing a process of gentrification, after decades of poverty, violence, and crime. In the 1940s, when the Bronx generally divided into the East and West, a group of social workers identified a poverty zone on 134th Street, east of Brown Place, and named it the “South of the Bronx.

This area of poverty would be extended in part due to an illegal practice known as “blockbusting,” a commercial process that real estate agents and building developers used to convince white homeowners to sell their homes at low prices, through the creation of fear in those homeowners that racial minorities “would soon move into the neighborhood.” Then, the agents sold those same houses at much higher prices to black and Hispanic families desperate to escape from other areas.

José Cruz grew up in a time when the war on drugs plunged his neighborhood into constant persecution.

These real estate practices, coupled with the decision of Robert Moses, known as the “master builder” of New York City in the mid-twentieth century, to build 17 public housing projects in this area, created the perfect setting for a system of surveillance and apprehension, a direct path to prison. A cycle that Cruz hopes will finally end.

New times, new opportunities

After years of work in the community, Cruz, who lives with his mother in an apartment near the Brook Avenue Subway station, with whom he speaks Spanish and dances salsa in honor of his father, a musician dedicated to the art of playing Congas, a Puerto Rican percussion instrument, is hopeful that with the possibility that marijuana will be legalized this year in New York, communities like his will “finally see a way to repair the damage left by racism in the war on drugs“, taking into account that more than 800,000 people have been arrested and imprisoned for marijuana-related crimes in the last 20 years, mostly Latinos and African-Americans.

Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged in mid-December that the legalization of commercial cannabis at the state level could inject large sums of money into communities that historically have been at the center of the war on drugs.

“I am convinced that we can establish a regulatory framework that keeps our streets safe, resolves the mistakes of the past and offers economic opportunities to the communities most affected by the war on drugs,” De Blasio said.

For Cruz, who has closely followed the process in states where recreational marijuana use is already legal, such as California and Oregon, the opportunity presents a way of business for him and his community.

“With this process of legalization there will be many people who smoke it for recreational reasons, but it is important that we offer more education, and most importantly: we want to be part of the business of sowing and harvesting,” said the community leader, who, for several weeks has been researching alternatives on how to become an essential part of this industry that could generate up to $ 670 million in taxes annually for New York.

Green investment

The first weeks of 2019 seem to be the prelude to what will be a controversial and lengthy analysis in Albany, however, for many New Yorkers like Cruz, the legalization of cannabis is inevitable, and that’s why more and more companies dedicated to the commercialization of the green products decide to establish in the Big Apple, awaiting the day of the law approval.

One of them is The People’s Dispensary, a cannabis company created in 2016 in California, after, they say, the market was not serving the needs of people of color, women, members of the LGBT community, veterans, former incarcerators and people with chronic diseases.

“96% of Cannabis business owners in California are white men,” said Christine De La Rosa, founder of The People’s Dispensary, who changed the template California climate for the cold in New York two months ago when she decided to settle in Brooklyn. “I came to New York as an advocate for all marginalized employees and to make sure that New York is part of the conversation and can create a path to the formal economy without criminalizing.”

Christine De La Rosa, co-founder of The People’s Dispensary, one of the cannabis companies that make their way in New York before possible legalization of the herb.

For De La Rosa, the opportunity is “unique,” in part, because it is possible to learn from the difficulties that have arisen in other states where communities of color have not been able to benefit from its legalization. On the one hand, they have not become accredited investors; and on the other, they do not have access to capital to invest, nor training in business development to build their own companies.

“We have a truly unique moment in which we can legislate and also ensure that our communities of color are part of this multibillion-dollar industry,” said the CEO, who stressed that, in addition to the financial involvement, which at the industry level could reach the $ 500 billion, cannabis also “saves lives”.

The business

According to De La Rosa, The People’s Dispensary has a customer base of almost 4,000 members, with a monthly retention rate of 84%. Once it is legal to do so in New York, small and non-accredited investors can legally invest between $ 1,000 and $ 50,000 in their local dispensary.

With the opening of one of these dispensaries, which resembles a store, where clients can buy cannabis products, including medical aids or relaxing, there would also be an increase in jobs in the area, which includes, according to De La Rosa, not only works in the same location, where 80% of employees are expected to be Hispanic or African-American, but also in real estate and private security.

“Right now we are about to open a center in Los Angeles [California] where 80 people will be hired to work in this store that offers services from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm,” she added.

Apart from the business opportunity for citizens, it is a benefit for the City, at least as explained by a report from City Hall that said that almost $ 1,7 billion in marijuana could be sold legally in just one year, and the City could charge a fee on sales taxes.

That is why, even though there is not an official plan, De Blasio recommended state legislators to take into account the creation of loans specifically for Hispanic and African-American investors.

Community says NO

The division in the Hispanic community continues to increase. Although the Mayor and the Governor continue to explain how legalization will bring benefits for Hispanics and African Americans, in areas like Washington Heights, where most of its residents are Dominicans, rejection is alive.

“I do not see anything positive about that. If politicians legalize marijuana, where are we going to end,” said Maria Hubiera. “Just look at the problem that is happening at the 181st Street station. It’s a huge problem. They are finding the syringes that have been left by those who are going to drug themselves down there. So, what do they want New York to become?”

“It is harmful to health,” said José Valdes. “A boy can be good, be at home quietly, but as soon as they start with that idea of marijuana, they start to steal, to ask for money.”

Finally, the younger voices seem to be more open to the possibility. Yimbert Remigio, a community leader who is part of several organizations that offer services for the Hispanic community in the area, recognized that religion plays a fundamental role in the opinions for Hispanics.

“As this community is very Catholic and very conservative, many will say no, but it may be that the younger ones can say yes, especially for the medical issue because some use it for bad things, but others can use it for good things,” concluded the young Hispanic.

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The state Capitol in Kentucky filled with teachers protesting pension changes and demanding generous school funding Monday, and thousands of Oklahoma educators walked out of classrooms in the latest evidence of teacher rebellion in some Republican-led states.

Many Oklahoma schools were closed Monday, and districts announced plans to stay shut into Tuesday with teacher demonstrations expected to last a second day.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation last week granting teachers pay raises of about $6,100, or 15 to 18 percent. But some educators — who haven’t seen a pay increase in 10 years — say that isn’t good enough and walked out.

The state’s largest teachers union has demanded a $10,000 pay raise for educators over three years, $5,000 for support personnel and a $75 million increase in funding this year.

“If I didn’t have a second job, I’d be on food stamps,” said Rae Lovelace, a single mom and a third-grade teacher at Leedey Public Schools in northwest Oklahoma. Lovelace, among many teachers who moonlight for extra pay , works 30 to 40 hours a week at a second job teaching online courses for a charter school.

Fallin on Monday praised the Oklahoma’s GOP-led Legislature’s achievement in approving part of what teacher’s want.

“Significant revenue-raising measures were approved to make this pay raise and additional school funding possible,” the Republican said in a statement. “We must be responsible not to neglect other areas of need in the state such as corrections and health and human services as we continue to consider additional education funding measures.

But Democratic lawmaker Collin Walke said teachers should keep up the pressure. Two separate bills pending in the Legislature to expand tribal gambling and eliminate the income tax deduction for capital gains could generate more than $100 million in additional funding each year.

“I think the Republican strategy is to wait the teachers out,” Walke said.

Oklahoma ranks 47th among states and the District of Columbia in public school revenue per student while its average teacher salary of $45,276 ranked 49th before the latest raises, according to the most recent statistics from the National Education Association.

The demonstrations were inspired by West Virginia, where teachers walked out for nine days earlier this year and won a 5 percent increase in pay. Teachers in Arizona are now considering a strike over their demands for a 20 percent salary increase. Many Arizona teachers wore red clothes to school Monday in solidarity with protests in Oklahoma and Kentucky, said Joe Thomas, president of the Arizona Education Association.

National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia spoke to thousands during the rally in Oklahoma, saying lawmakers need to do more.

“We are through correcting their mistakes.”

In Frankfort, Kentucky, teachers and other school employees chanted “Stop the war on public education.”

“We’re madder than hornets, and the hornets are swarming today,” said Claudette Green, a retired teacher and principal.

Schools across Kentucky were closed, due either to spring break or to allow teachers and other school employees to attend the rally.

Amid a chorus of chants from teachers rallying in the Capitol, Kentucky lawmakers considered a new state budget that includes higher spending for public education.

Budget negotiators unveiled a spending plan Monday that includes increased spending for the main funding formula for K-12 schools and restored money for school buses that the state’s Republican governor had proposed eliminating.

The additional education spending would be paid for by a 6 percent sales tax on a host of services that had previously been tax-free. The spending and taxing proposals cleared the Senate on Monday and went to the House, which was expected to vote on the measures later Monday.

Language arts teacher Lesley Buckner was reluctant to give lawmakers much credit.

“We’re sending a message,” she said. “If we continue to stay united, they cannot turn away from us, they cannot turn their backs on us.”

The rally happened after hundreds of teachers called in sick Friday to protest last-minute changes to their pension system. Teachers have rallied several times during Kentucky’s legislative session to protest the pension bill, but Monday was by far their biggest event.

Republican lawmakers in Kentucky passed a pension overhaul Thursday that preserves benefits for most workers but cuts them for new teachers. The move was done in response to chronic underfunding of the state’s teacher retirement system and in defiance of a powerful teachers union that vowed political retribution. Opponents objected that the pension changes were inserted into an unrelated bill without a chance for public input, and worry that the changes will discourage young people from joining the profession.

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has not yet signed the bill, but last week tweeted his support, saying public workers owe “a deep debt of gratitude” to lawmakers who voted to pass it.

During Monday’s rally, some teachers, angry at lawmakers who supported the bill, chanted “Vote them out.”

Melissa Wash, a first-grade teacher form Gallatin County who has been teaching for 19 years, said she voted for Bevin, but now plans to become a Democrat. To the lawmakers who voted for the pension overhaul, she said: “You better not count on another year in office.”

___

Schreiner reported from Frankfort, Kentucky. AP writers Tim Talley in Oklahoma City and Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico, contributed to this report.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Coffee sellers in California should have to post warnings because the brew may contain an ingredient that’s been linked to cancer, a judge has ruled.

The culprit is a chemical produced in the bean roasting process that is a known carcinogen and has been at the heart of an eight-year legal struggle between a tiny nonprofit group and Big Coffee.

The Council for Education and Research on Toxics wanted the coffee industry to remove acrylamide from its processing — like potato chip makers did when it sued them years ago — or disclose the danger in ominous warning signs or labels. The industry, led by Starbucks Corp., said the level of the chemical in coffee isn’t harmful and any risks are outweighed by benefits.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle said Wednesday that the coffee makers hadn’t presented the proper grounds at trial to prevail.

“While plaintiff offered evidence that consumption of coffee increases the risk of harm to the fetus, to infants, to children and to adults, defendants’ medical and epidemiology experts testified that they had no opinion on causation,” Berle wrote in his proposed ruling. “Defendants failed to satisfy their burden of proving … that consumption of coffee confers a benefit to human health.”

The suit was brought against Starbucks and 90 companies under a law passed by California voters in 1986 that has been credited with culling cancer-causing chemicals from myriad products and also criticized for leading to quick settlement shakedowns.

The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, better known as Proposition 65, requires warning labels for about 900 chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects. It allows private citizens, advocacy groups and attorneys to sue on behalf of the state and collect a portion of civil penalties for failure to provide warnings.

“This lawsuit has made a mockery of Prop. 65, has confused consumers, and does nothing to improve public health,” said William Murray, president and CEO of the National Coffee Association, who added that coffee had been shown to be a healthy beverage.

Scientific evidence on coffee has gone back and forth for a long time, but concerns have eased recently about possible dangers of coffee, with some studies finding health benefits.

In 2016, the cancer agency of the World Health Organization moved coffee off its “possible carcinogen” list.

Studies indicate coffee is unlikely to cause breast, prostate or pancreatic cancer, and it seems to lower the risks for liver and uterine cancers, the agency said. Evidence is inadequate to determine its effect on dozens of other cancer types.

Coffee companies have said it’s not feasible to remove acrylamide from their product without ruining the flavor.

But attorney Raphael Metzger, who brought the lawsuit and drinks a few cups of coffee a day, said the industry could remove the chemical without impairing taste.

“I firmly believe if the potato chip industry can do it, so can the coffee industry,” Metzger said. “A warning won’t be that effective because it’s an addictive product.”

Many coffee shops have already posted warnings that say acrylamide is cancer-causing chemical found in coffee. But signs that are supposed to be posted at the point of sale are often found in places not easily visible, such as below the counter where cream and sugar are available.

Customers at shops that post warnings are often unaware or unconcerned about them.

Afternoon coffee drinkers at a Los Angeles Starbucks said they might look into the warning or give coffee drinking a second thought after the ruling, but the cup of joe was likely to win out.

“I just don’t think it would stop me,” said Jen Bitterman, a digital marketing technologist. “I love the taste, I love the ritual, I love the high, the energy, and I think I’m addicted to it.”

Darlington Ibekwe, a lawyer in Los Angeles, said a cancer warning would be annoying but wouldn’t stop him from treating himself to three lattes a week.

“It’s like cigarettes. Like, damn, now I’ve got to see this?” he said. “Dude, I’m enjoying my coffee.”

The defendants have a couple weeks to challenge the ruling before it is final and could seek relief from an appellate court.

If the ruling stands, it could come with a stiff financial penalty and could rattle consumers beyond state lines.

The judge can set another phase of trial to consider potential civil penalties up to $2,500 per person exposed each day over eight years. That could be an astronomical sum in a state with close to 40 million residents, though such a massive fine is unlikely.

California’s outsized market could make it difficult to tailor packaging with warning labels specifically to stores in the state.

That means out-of-state coffee drinkers could also take their coffee with a cancer warning. Cream and sugar would still be optional.

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Associated Press writer Amanda Lee Myers in Los Angeles and AP Chief Medical Writer Marilynn Marchione in Milwaukee contributed to this story.

Un hombre que era transportado por el Servicio de Inmigración y Aduanas de Estados Unidos en el Aeropuerto John F. Kennedy escapó de la custodia de los oficiales el martes por la noche, dijo la policía de la Autoridad Portuaria.

El hombre, que fue arrestado previamente por un cargo armado y es descrito como un “deportado violento”, se separó de los agentes de ICE en una de las puertas de la Terminal B alrededor de las 8:30 p.m., informó el Daily News.

Funcionarios de ICE identificaron al hombre como Mohamadou Lamine Mbacke, de 31 años.

Mientras que los agentes llevaron a Mbacke a través de un examen de rayos X, le quitaron sus esposas, según Daily News. Mientras lo transportaban a un vuelo de conexión, salió corriendo.

Las autoridades fueron notificadas sobre su escape. Funcionarios de la Autoridad Portuaria dijeron que el hombre fue visto en video de vigilancia en un taxi.

Los funcionarios dijeron que ningún pasajero estaba en peligro.

Mbacke fue visto por última vez con una camisa negra o morada, jeans y zapatillas de deporte. Él mide 6 pies y 3 pulgadas y pesa alrededor de 190 libras.

NEW YORK (AP) — Published reports say Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is planning to testify before Congress about how his company collects and uses people’s data.

Citing unnamed sources, CNN said in a report Tuesday that Zuckerberg has “come to terms” with the fact that he’ll have to testify in a matter of weeks. A Facebook representative said the company has received invitations to appear before congress and is talking to legislators but would not confirm Zuckerberg’s attendance.

Zuckerberg said last week in a CNN interview that he’d be “happy to” testify if he is the right person to do it. The company is facing unprecedented scrutiny following reports that a data mining firm used ill-gotten data from tens of millions of its users to try to influence elections.

A spokeswoman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee said Tuesday that reports of Zuckerberg’s confirmed attendance are “incorrect.” But she added that the committee is “continuing to work with Facebook to determine a day and time for Mr. Zuckerberg to testify.”

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Three Facebook Messenger app users have filed a lawsuit claiming the social network violated their privacy by collecting logs of their phone calls and text messages.

The suit, filed Tuesday in federal court in northern California, comes as Facebook faces scrutiny over privacy concerns.

Facebook acknowledged on Sunday that it began uploading call and text logs from phones running Google’s Android system in 2015. Facebook added that only users who gave appropriate permission were affected, that it didn’t collect the contents of messages or calls, and that users can opt out of the data collection and have the stored logs deleted by changing their app settings.

The suit seeks class-action status.

A message seeking comment from Facebook on Wednesday was not immediately returned.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that the Second Amendment “WILL NEVER BE REPEALED” and called on voters to elect more Republicans in this fall’s congressional elections because the GOP “must ALWAYS hold the Supreme Court.”

Trump’s statements came a day after retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in an essay in The New York Times that repealing the amendment would make it easier for Congress to enact gun control legislation.

Last month’s shootings that killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida, have galvanized young people, liberals and Democrats for a renewed push to curb firearms. That has included demonstrations that have drawn hundreds of thousands of marchers in cities across the country.

“THE SECOND AMENDMENT WILL NEVER BE REPEALED!” Trump tweeted early Wednesday. “As much as Democrats would like to see this happen, and despite the words yesterday of former Supreme Court Justice Stevens, NO WAY. We need more Republicans in 2018 and must ALWAYS hold the Supreme Court!”

There is no current, major push to repeal the Second Amendment. Any effort to do so would be unlikely to succeed in today’s divisive political climate. Under the most common way to amend the Constitution, the House and Senate would both need to approve the proposal by two-thirds majorities. It would then need to be ratified by three-fourths of the states.

Political parties do not technically “hold” the Supreme Court like they control Congress.

Justices are nominated by presidents and must be confirmed by the Senate. It is true justices often reflect the political views of presidents who select them, but that is not always the case.

Of the current nine justices, the four considered to comprise the court’s conservative wing were appointed by GOP presidents and the four more liberal judges were selected by Democratic presidents. The ninth, often considered the crucial swing vote, is Anthony Kennedy, who was nominated by Republican President Ronald Reagan.

Trump would have an easier time filling the next Supreme Court vacancy if Republicans can expand their current 51-49 Senate majority in November’s elections.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the Second Amendment lets people own guns for self-defense.

Una escena brutal se presentó en una bodega en Brooklyn, donde la policía dice que una mujer fue apuñalada hasta la muerte el lunes por la tarde.

Los investigadores dicen que Ebony Young, de Brooklyn, de 20 años, fue apuñalada en el pecho por otra mujer en la entrada de 1076 Broadway en Bushwick justo antes de las 4 pm.

Young fue llevado rápidamente a NYC Health + Hospitals / Woodhull, donde fue declarada muerta, según la policía.

La policía dice que el agresor huyó de la escena en un BMW gris.

Los testigos dicenque la pelea comenzó en el hotel de al lado.

No se han realizado arrestos porque la investigación continúa.

By Joe Otterson via Variety

One Day at a Time” has been renewed for Season 3 at Netflix.

The reboot of the classic sitcom will return for a 13-episode third season in 2019. Returning cast includes Justina Machado, Rita Moreno, Todd Grinnell, Stephen Toblowsky, Isabella Gomez, and Marcel Ruiz.

The series follows three generations of a Cuban-American family. A newly-single mom and military veteran (Machado) journeys through the triumphs and tribulations that come with raising two strong-willed, mega-millennial children (Gomez, Ruiz), all the while enlisting the “help” of her old-school mother (Moreno) and her building manager-turned-invaluable confidante (Grinnell).

The series was co-created Gloria Calderon Kellett and Mike Royce, who also serve as co-showrunners. Norman Lear, who developed the original series, serves as executive producer along with Michael Garcia and Brent Miller. Sony Pictures Television produces for Netflix.

Fans of the series began a social media campaign calling for a third season after the second season bowed. Variety‘s Maureen Ryan joined the call for the series renewal, writing in her column “Why Netflix Should Renew ‘One Day at a Time:’”

“It’s one of TV’s best shows, without question, and most of my peers appear to agree. In a world in which critics and TV reporters barely have time to keep up with the flood of new shows, many TV writers took time out of their busy schedules to write about ‘One Day at a Time’s’ return — and those same writers would no doubt set the internet aflame if Netflix kicked it to the curb.