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California Today: After Legalization, Dr. Dre’s ‘Weed Man’ Is Thriving

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Virgil Grant can now talk about it — the illicit deals that went down at his family’s grocery store in Compton in the 1980s and ’90s. Mr. Grant would stuff bags of marijuana into empty boxes of Lucky Charms and hand them to his clients, a drug deal made to look like a trip to the bodega. He vacuum sealed the cash he received and buried it in his backyard, hundreds of thousands of dollars guaranteed to stay fresh.

The years of marijuana prohibition in California are over, and people like Mr. Grant straddle two eras, the criminal past and the legalized future.

Mr. Grant spent more than eight years in federal and state prisons for marijuana dealings. He now has three licensed cannabis businesses in Los Angeles.

As the state debates how to reconcile the legacy of the war on drugs with the new realities of legalization, San Francisco, San Diego and Alameda County have all announced that they will clear thousands of criminal records involving marijuana-related crimes.

Mr. Grant lived through years of prohibition and, notwithstanding the continued federal ban, is now thriving in a multibillion-dollar marijuana industry.

During an interview at the grocery store, which Mr. Grant now rents out, he rattled off a list of his better-known customers, a red carpet parade of rap and hip-hop stars: Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Coolio and Tupac among them.

For his celebrity clients, he made special deliveries to music studios.

“I was the weed man,” Mr. Grant said. “They smoked my weed.”

Mr. Grant talks about his old business as a reminiscence. He recounted how for years he would drive north to Humboldt County and stuff marijuana in Samsonites for the return journey — the suitcases kept the potent smell from seeping out.

He has a vision of opening legal marijuana stores in his old neighborhood, but the residents of Compton voted in a special election in January to ban marijuana businesses within the city.

Mr. Grant says he will try to push through another vote in Compton within the next year.

“It would create hundreds if not thousands of jobs,” he said of his plan. “Watch how ‘no’ will become a staunch ‘yes.’”

California Online

(Please note: We regularly highlight articles on news sites that have limited access for nonsubscribers.)

Los Angeles County Sheriff Deputy Lisa Jansen setting up a photo of weapons and ammunition found at a Whittier teenager’s home. Credit Sarah Reingewirtz/The Orange County Register, via Associated Press

• Just 48 hours after the school shooting in Florida, a high school student in Whittier was overheard threatening another school shooting. Hours later, investigators searched the teenager’s home and recovered several guns, including two semiautomatic AR-15 rifles. [The Los Angeles Times]

• The YouTube video that fueled false conspiracies about the survivors of last week’s school shooting featured a student being interviewed by the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles. Conspirators had suggested the survivors were not students, but “actors.” [The New York Times]

• A man suspected of raping a 14-year-old girl killed himself on Highway 101 in Ventura while fleeing the authorities. He had ingested cyanide poisoning during the chase. [The Ventura County Star]

• California lawmakers have announced two proposals that would spend more than half of the state’s $6.1 billion budget surplus on fixing the state’s homeless crisis. Mayors from the state’s 11 largest cities had collectively asked state lawmakers to do something. [The Mercury News]

• San Francisco also has a vehicle break-in crisis on its hands. Now District Attorney George Gascón is proposing a task force dedicated to finding and prosecuting offenders. [The San Francisco Chronicle]

• In recent months, San Francisco’s public defenders have been busy challenging hundreds of bail rulings they find excessive. Now California’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, is also publicly supporting bail reform. Could systemic change be on the way? [SF Weekly]

• A new national online survey reports that 81 percent of women and 43 percent of men say they have experienced sexual harassment or assault over their lifetimes. The survey sought to illustrate the scope of the #MeToo movement. [The New York Times]

• BART officials are starting to study a second Transbay Tube. It would be the biggest Bay Area infrastructure project in decades and cost at least $12 billion. [The San Francisco Chronicle]

• Forget the drought. These photos from Central California show what it’s like for people there to continue living with toxic tap water. [BuzzFeed News]

• A state lawmaker has introduced a bill that would let drivers take more than one photo at the Department of Motor Vehicles and then choose the one that will go on their license. Fees charged for additional photos would fund driver’s education. [Capital Public Radio]

And Finally …

In a new study, people who ate lots of vegetables and whole foods rather than processed ones lost weight without worrying about calories or portion size. Credit Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

Perhaps you have been told that losing weight is as simple as burning more calories than you consume.

A new study pokes a hole in that prescription.

As The Times’s Anahad O’Connor reported this week, the new research supports the idea that “diet quality, not quantity, is what helps people lose and manage their weight most easily in the long run.”

In other words, the study found that if you cut back on added sugar, refined grains and highly processed foods but eat plenty of vegetables and whole foods instead, you can lose significant amounts of weight — even without limiting portion sizes.

The research was led by Christopher D. Gardner, the director of nutrition studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center and carried out on adults recruited from the Bay Area.

So thank your neighbors for the revelation.

“This is the road map to reducing the obesity epidemic in the United States,” said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University who was not involved in the new study. “It’s time for U.S. and other national policies to stop focusing on calories and calorie counting.”

California Today goes live at 6 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see:

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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