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How will California's new cannabis laws help state reach goal of full legalization?

 September 21, 2022 at 4:52 PM PDT

S1: The Governor signs a host of new laws regulating the cannabis industry.

S2: These laws are intended to write what many consider to be rules.

S1: I'm Maureen CAVANAUGH with Dave Heineman. This is KPBS Midday Edition. It's hoped care courts will fix some of the problems with conservatorships. We get back the collateral damage when they are let out of a hospital too soon and then they're again arrested again. It's us having to run to court hearings. Nobody shows up for that. The ultimate green form of burial could be human composting. And a surfing film from Australia debuts in San Diego. It's called Facing Monsters. That's ahead on Midday Edition. Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a slew of new bills aimed at the state's cannabis laws. The laws are focused on bolstering the state's legal cannabis industry while also protecting employees who use marijuana away from the workplace , sealing past marijuana convictions and expanding access to medical marijuana. Here to talk more about the new cannabis laws is San Diego journalist and managing editor of San Diego magazine , Jackie Bryant. And Jackie , welcome.

S2: Hi , Maureen. Thank you for having me.

S1: Now , you've been covering cannabis in California for quite a while.

S2: I think the thing that most people probably don't know is that at any given moment , there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of bills coursing through the legislature or at least being introduced and sitting there or what have you. Right. The same as for cannabis. And at any given moment , there are dozens in play , either quietly or or , you know , whatever the case was. So a number of these had been introduced some time ago in during the previous legislative session and one's before that even. And he just decided to sign a bunch of them in one fell swoop. So I'm not surprised at all. But it and also he has a lot of political pressure right now. The industry isn't really doing so well. And so I think it is expedient for him , politically speaking , to get a few of these out of the door.

S1: Now , the focus of at least some of these bills is aimed at criminal justice reform.

S2: We said , sure , you can buy it. You can consume it in the privacy of your own home. You can even grow up to six plants. But the truth is that there are many prohibitive things in everyday life. Like if you're renting a property you pretty much everyone has in their lease clause. They can't smoke in their own home , for example. So if it is it really legal , then if you can't actually do it. And so these laws are intended to write what many consider to be wrong. So employee use outside of work is a huge point. And in the past companies have been able to drug test any employees. They're allowed to do that. There wasn't too much prohibiting them from doing it. AB 2188 is a quirks bill and it would make it unlawful for an employee employer to discriminate against a person in hiring , termination or any term or condition of employment or otherwise penalize a person solely because of off duty marijuana use. So this prohibits employers not to incentivizes. It prohibits them from any disciplinary action , including firing if they test positive for THC. There are exceptions for certain positions. Obviously , federal employees are still subject to that. You know , a lot of people think of the same way you're allowed to drink off the clock. Why shouldn't you be able to smoke weed ? So that's a huge one for consumers or for consumers rights ? Definitely. And the other one is really fascinating. AB 1706 is the absence of legislation , and that forces the courts to seal cannabis records for qualifying cases up until June 2020. So anything before that , if you apply and you meet the criteria , you will have your records automatically sealed. And so advocates say that this is really important because again , if weed is legal , but you have a prior conviction on your record for it , you can still be penalized. It can preclude you from having certain jobs from housing , etc.. And so now with those record sales , it goes hand in hand with actual legalization and actually making it okay for people to consume this and no longer be penalized for it.

S1: You know , when cannabis was legalized in California in 2016 , as you mentioned , many had hopes of creating a thriving legal cannabis industry. But the reality is that the legal cannabis industry has struggled and the illegal drug trade remains.

S2: And that started ramping up in earnest during the 1980s when , you know , the federal government ramped up the so-called war on drugs. So the industry has always been based here. There have always been people growing here and that cannabis has been exported all over North America and certainly all over the country. That's not going to disappear overnight , even with the best laws in place. And so that's one thing that I that everyone needs to take into consideration when bringing something from the dark to the light as legalization is intended to do. It's a process. There's going to be a lot of gray areas. And so that that industry , which was several billion dollars strong and eclipses the size of the legal industry in the state by many billions of dollars. Actually , it was. Never going to go away overnight. That being said , there are a number of significant challenges for this industry. Success and survival number one is very high taxation. Again , if people are used and they have they have a connect where they can get cannabis on the street or illegally , they're not paying taxes on that. So now you're slapping about 35% taxes in most cases. People are not really incentivized , especially when that market is mature and existing. And it's it's really not hard to get weed in California , let's be honest , whether legally or not. The other thing is that there are layers of taxation on businesses and regulations that require a lot of money upfront for would be cannabis professionals to to meet. It's expensive to get license. It's very expensive. And in most cases , especially for small companies or small growers , it's prohibitively expensive and they're not able to do it.


S2: Right. So every state legal cannabis industry in the United States has to be contained solely within that state because we do not have federal legalization. And so that obviously creates limitations for business owners. If you can't get your product out of state line , you only have to work with a certain a very specific population. So while interstate commerce for cannabis is by no means legal federally , Newsom did sign into law a bill that would get that ball rolling , basically saying that it's okay for California cannabis companies to be able to reach out of state. This helps small growers and small business owners , especially because larger , more well-capitalized companies are allowed to stack their licenses. And it's really hard for the smaller guys to compete with that. It's the same as in any other industry. Right. And this gives them the opportunity , hopefully one day to be able to sell their wares outside of state. It sets the stage for interstate commerce of cannabis , even though it's a little one sided , but it's basically California leading the way in that , if that makes sense.


S2: I can say from experience that you may not want to use THC products with with dogs and cats. They don't always react well to it. But CBD has been it's been widely used and quietly recommended by veterinarians for a very long time now , for the same reason that humans use it. Dogs and cats have the same endocannabinoids system that humans do , so in the same way we might use it , their bodies would respond in a similar way. So for inflammation , anxiety or other things like cancer treatments. So that's , that's a pretty cool one because it now allows , you know , licensed veterinarians to be able to make more holistic recommendations for for pet owners who are seeking alternative treatments.

S1: Now , finally , there have been some recent rumblings of Governor Newsom's presidential ambitions , if he were to run.

S2: So Biden , although he did campaign on , you know , nobody should be in jail for cannabis , etc. , etc. , he has not really done a good job in many people's eyes with with moving that agenda forward , to say the least. He hasn't really done anything. And to be fair , there are big issues going on in this country right now. Right. So a lot of people are not happy with the Democrats at the federal level or even the state level. So while Newsom did , he is sort of the father of legal weed , governmentally speaking in California , many advocates and business owners are very , very disappointed with the way the industry has gone because , again , they do find the regulations to favor big business and not honor the legacy of the black market that came before it. People who were criminalized and now don't really have the financial ability to participate in this new legal world , and they're getting shut out while bigger corporate entities are taking over. The general opinion is that Newsom has not been a friend to the industry , even though he did legalize it. They don't think he did a great job. So it's like anything with cannabis , it's not so black and white and it's a bit more complicated than it seems. But I do think ultimately it would probably be a good thing , at least for making it federally legal. The way the rush shakes out definitely remains to be seen.

S1: I've been speaking with Jackie Bryant , journalist and managing editor of San Diego magazine. Jacki , thank you so much.

S2: Thank you for having me.

S1: Elected leaders across the state have a homeless crisis on their hands , and some are turning to one possible solution mental health. Conservatorships. But an investigation by our partners at Eye News Source found major gaps in the system and frustration from family members say they've tried for years to get help for their severely ill loved ones. I news source investigative reporter Jennifer Bowman has the details.

S3: Anita Fisher has been here before.

S1: I'm sad to say that he decided not to get his monthly injection.

S3: Anita son has schizophrenia. He's been kicked out of the army , spent several months homeless and cycled in and out of jail. For years , Anita tried to convince officials and her son that he was so sick he needed help , even if it meant treating him involuntarily in 2014. There was some action. Her son was placed on what's known as a conservatorship , but it was short lived. He was released after just two weeks.

S1: We get back the collateral damage when they are let out of a hospital too soon and then they're again arrested again. It's us having to run to court hearings. Nobody shows up for that.

S3: Some San Diego leaders support expanding mental health conservatorships. The legal process means a person's decisions like whether to take medication or to live in a locked facility is placed in the hands of someone else. Sometimes that someone else is the county. But I knew Soares spoke with nearly 40 people and found a system riddled with gaps. Some are frustrated by the lack of resources and what they say is a reluctance by decision makers to pursue conservatorships. Joseph DeVito is a consultant who works with families trying to get help for their loved ones.

S4: You know , as I always tell people , all we can do is we can just we have to keep throwing the truth out there. And you just have to hope that you catch a conscientious person on a good day. Hello , CHP Highway Patrol. Good morning. Yeah.

S3: Hospitals decide whether they should be held longer and if they should recommend conservatorship. And then county officials choose which ones to take to court for ultimate approval. New York University professor Alex Bernard has studied the system extensively.

S4: Everyone in that chain is thinking about something that often is not actually the legal criteria for conservatorship or whether a person would benefit from conservatorship.

S3: Data shows San Diego County has been receiving fewer requests for conservatorship and taking fewer of them to court. But Supervisor Nathan Fletcher says they're focused on early intervention and that they're getting more efficient because the court has been approving petitions more often.

S4: There's no reluctance on our part to pursue them , and we absolutely will. And we'll look for every opportunity we can when it's appropriate.

S3: Now officials have turned to CARE court. The new program sets up people with a behavioral health plan and county supporters. It's meant to offer care earlier. But if a person doesn't complete the program , they could be recommended for conservatorship. Opponents of the hotly debated program worry about forced treatment that will disproportionately affect homeless residents. Supporters like San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria say it's a state mandate to help vulnerable people living on the streets , even if there are still unknowns.

S4: Waiting to collect a bunch of data to address this literally consigns people to die on our sidewalks. And I'm just not willing to wait that long. I don't think most Californians are willing to wait.

S3: Care court will rollout in San Diego by October 2023.

S1: That report was from ABC News source reporter Jennifer Bowman , who joins me now. And , Jennifer , welcome.

S2: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

S1: The woman in the beginning of your report , Anita Fisher , whose son has been in and out of care , also shared her struggles with the mental health system with us when we spoke with her last week. And at the end of your report , Mayor Gloria says there's no time now to collect data before implementing the new care court system. My question is , why wasn't data on conservatorships being collected all along ? Yeah.

S2: You know , so experts and those who work in the field who we spoke with kind of point to this this key problem being the lack of state oversight. And , you know , the many players who are involved in the system , including , you know , privately operated facilities. So you have counties really in charge of the vast majority of conservatorship rules and procedures , you know , but they they have actually a pretty limited role in the entire process. They simply decide which ones go to court. And that's a big step. But but one of many. There's also something I heard over and over again during my reporting. And one lawyer we spoke with who works in this field , you know , kind of pessimistically perhaps talked about how people with serious mental illness don't necessarily have a good lobby at the state level , and that perhaps it's getting more attention now because it really confronts our very visible housing and homeless crisis. And so these problems in conservatorships have been longstanding. They're not new. And advocates tell us actually that these problems have gotten worse.

S1: Since we know so little about this.

S2: You know , how well are conservatorships working as we talk about potentially expanding them ? Unfortunately , because of the lack of data surrounding all parts of this system. That wasn't something we were able to definitively answer. However , you know , there is research that some advocates , such as disability rights , California , they point to evidence that shows that , you know , add adequately resourced , intensive , voluntary outpatient treatment is more effective than what we see ordered by a court.

S1: Much of the problem before the care court system was signed into law seems to be a reluctance to qualify incapacitated people for conservatorships.

S2: You know , they speak about this reluctance. One mother that our reporting highlighted , her name's Anastasia. She spent much of the pandemic trying to track her son as he went through homelessness , psychosis , some really concerning declines in his physical health. And ultimately , he wasn't referred for a conservatorship. We heard multiple stories like this care court really is branding itself as this less restrictive earlier type of intervention and that it specifically is not a conservatorship process. So supporters hope it reaches people before something as restrictive as a conservatorship is needed.

S1: Tell us more about the concerns of mental health experts , about the lack of infrastructure in place that care court conservatorships need. Yeah.

S3: Yeah.

S2: Care core is going to take resources , the same resources that are lacking now housing beds , staff funding , community based treatment programs , all the things that are needed for people who have serious mental illness to recover and to restore their health. And we've seen , you know , very big investments for behavioral health in housing , both here in San Diego and at the state level. But with plans to roll out this first wave of care court by next year in San Diego would like to watch it even earlier. That's an ambitious timeline for an infrastructure that's hurting for these things already.

S1: Some disability rights groups , as you mentioned , oppose mandated treatment for severely mentally ill people because they claim that some people can get stuck in conservatorship. Tell us about that.

S2: We had a New York University professor who studies conservatorships. Had he had a really interesting take on this. He said he's learned from his research that everyone's perspective is actually true. So it is both true that people who could benefit from conservatorship are now being put on them and those who don't need it get stuck. And he goes right back to what we hear about this lack of accountability and oversight. There's so much we don't know about our conservatorship system. Our data is so bad that we don't know how many people in California are on one. There's just no visible statewide strategy on conservatorships. And so how it's being used and applied really varies from county to county. And that can include , you know , for example , which conservatorships are getting renewed. They can be renewed on an annual basis. And one thing we really noticed , and unfortunately , in my own reporting and most reporting on conservatorships , a missing voice is the voice of people who have actually experienced conservatorships firsthand. There are probably likely reasons to that. And I know the challenges I faced in my attempt to do my reporting. But I do wish that we heard from more people who experienced conservatorships firsthand for questions just like the one you have.

S1: I have been speaking with an I news source reporter , Jennifer Bowman. Thank you so much. Thank you. This story was reported with the help of USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. To read more about San Diego Conservatorships , go to our news source , dawg. Eye News Source is an independently funded nonprofit partner of KPBS.

S5: You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen CAVANAUGH. As states across the country pass abortion bans , President Biden and some other Democrats want to ease federal restrictions on the procedure. Federal provisions prevent taxpayer funds from being used for abortions and also restrict abortion access at military hospitals. Carson framed reports for the American Homefront Project.

S6: Air Force reservist Barry Wald was 34 years old and living in Japan when she became pregnant for the first time. She and her Marine husband very much wanted the child a baby boy. But a prenatal test showed severe birth defects.

S3: I got a phone call from the maternal fetal medicine doctor and she asked if my husband and I could come in , which now I know , you know , if you ever get asked to come into the office , that's probably not good news.

S6: The couple decided to terminate the pregnancy at 19 weeks , but because U.S. military hospitals in Japan wouldn't perform the abortion , they went to a local clinic in Okinawa. Wild says the care there was rough and unsanitary and the language barrier made it hard for her to understand what was happening.

S3: I have never felt so much pain in my life. No sedation , no painkillers. Nothing. Blood running down my legs.

S6: Wild would have preferred to go to the Naval Medical Hospital on Okinawa. But for decades , a federal provision has banned abortions at military hospitals , with few exceptions. It's been a particular problem for troops in their families serving overseas , where private medical care is inconsistent. But it's now become a bigger issue for service members in the U.S. A States Ban Abortion. Wald , now a veterans advocate in Indiana , worries for military women.

S3: It's a lonely place to be when you go through something like this , and especially in the military.

S6: Access to abortion has been deteriorating for military women much longer than it has for civilian women. In 1976 , shortly after the Supreme Court decided Roe versus Wade , Congress first passed the Hyde Amendment , which began to restrict the use of federal funds for abortion. Now , federal statute bars military hospitals from performing abortions , except in cases of rape or incest , or if the life of the mother is in danger , people can't self-pay for them either. Freya Freedland is with the Center for Reproductive Rights.

S3: Essentially , federal law prohibits the Department of Defense from providing abortion services at military treatment facilities. And abortion access should not depend on how much money somebody makes or where they live or if they're a member of the military.

S6: Ryland says the restrictions have taken on new relevance since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade earlier this year.

S3: Service members can't choose where they're based , right ? So they have no choice but to navigate this maze of state restrictions and now increasingly extreme abortion bans to try to access care.

S6: While Congress has re-enacted Hyde every year for more than four decades , both President Biden and Senate appropriators have recently proposed ending it. Claire McKinney is a professor of government and gender , sexuality and women's studies at the College of William and Mary.

S3: The Hyde Amendment is no longer something that progressive Democrats certainly are willing to accept , nor is it something that centrist Democrats are really holding on to.

S6: Still , she says , it'll be a tough political fight to get rid of Hyde and the other more permanent provisions that restrict military abortions.

S3: Even people who think abortion should be legal aren't necessarily in favor of seeing the federal government pay for abortions.

S6: In the meantime , the Defense Department is limited in what it can do to help service members seeking abortions. While the department has said it's committed to ensuring access. Its action so far has taken the form of expanding free contraception at military medical facilities. And some of the service branches have assured service members that leave will be available if they need to travel for abortions. This is Carson free reporting.

S5: This story was produced by the American Homefront Project , a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In California , we're used to home prices going in one direction. That's up. But in recent months , the residential real estate market has cooled. And today , the Federal Reserve announced another real estate hike. The California report host Cal Gonzalez has more. So here in California , a pretty cold blast of air is blowing through what's.

S4: Usually red hot.

S5: Residential real estate markets. Take this example. Property tracking firm G.Q. News says home sales in Southern California dropped 28% from August of last year to August of this year. And in recent months , home values have either stayed frozen or declined by 2 to 6% , depending on the area. UCLA real estate professor Eric Sussman says that in Los Angeles , changes like this can be disorienting to real estate veterans.

S4: We definitely had a softening of the market , which is just shocking to most Los Angelinos who have been used to prices going up , up and away.


S4: The recent spike.

S5: In rates adds about $1,000 in monthly payments to a home that would go for about $740,000. But for those looking for a home , the lower asking prices now and the reduced frenzy in the market are also a welcome relief. L.A. Willie Mack was a. Dishwasher.

S4: Dishwasher.

S5: At an open house in East L.A. over the weekend , where a Spanish style bungalow was going for $850,000. I met Ashley Coley , who's looking for her first home.

S7: I've been told that we're in a better position as a buyer than it than we have would have been in the past couple of years. So that's good for me.

S4: I hope you hope that's good for you.

S7: That's good for me. Yeah.

S5: Yeah. That this.

S4: Trend continues. Yeah.

S7: Yeah. I hope that , you know , I hope that it's not as competitive and that maybe even we'll see lower prices than we have.

S5: Ashley's friend and realtor Rachel Stamann then chimed in , arguing buyers have slightly more clout than sellers compared to the real estate markets recent past.

S7: Yeah , I feel extremely hopeful for for buyers right now , feeling they have a lot more control of their own future. Before it was like if if we were working with Ashley , it was like $1,000,000. You're getting a condo now. We're we're looking at homes.

S4: But here's a reality check. Even with the.

S5: Decline in prices , many Californians are still locked out of the real estate market because of how much homes are still going for. Especially when you add in those mortgage rate increases. Looking into his real estate market crystal ball , UCLA's Eric Sussman predicts modest home declines in the future , but not a freefall.

S4: It's just be a slow down. I've told everyone if they're waiting for a collapse , they'll be waiting for Godot. That just is not going to happen this cycle , as best that I can see.

S5: For many , that means the struggle to find an affordable place to buy a call home.

S4: Will go on for now. I'm Saul Gonzales in Los Angeles.

S5: More and more Americans are considering the climate impacts of the choices they make. It's everything from where you get your food to what kind of car you drive. And when it comes to the delicate matter of end of life options. However , making a climate conscious decision of how you choose to be buried isn't so easy. Traditional burial uses harmful chemicals and a non-biodegradable coffin , while cremation emits significant carbon dioxide emissions. But now , thanks to a new bill signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom , Californians will have a new climate friendly choice of burial , and it's known as human composting. Joining me now with more details on this alternative burial method is Tom Harris , co-founder of Earth Funeral , which currently offers the service in Washington and Oregon. Tom , welcome to the program.

S4: Jerry Thanks for having me.

S5: Yeah , so let's talk about this name first. I think human composting definitely attracts attention.

S4: My first is , yes , it is. That's the underlying science behind the process. We are balancing carbon and nitrogen and then optimizing temperature and moisture levels to create microbial conditions. These microbes , beneficial microbes , break the body down on a molecular level to produce a nutrient rich soil. So absolutely from a scientific perspective , from a consumer perspective , I think there's a little bit of shock factor. I think that's been intentional from some of the people who've been marketing this as a service. And we actually put it so transformation because we think it's a pretty special and beautiful process. And so transformation is more descriptive and has a nicer resonance than human composting , perhaps. So yes or no. Okay.

S5: Okay. So talk a bit about why people opt for this method of burial.

S4: Human composting is an environmentally friendly return to cremation. Instead of being cremated , tended to ash , took gently getting transformed into soil over a 45 day process. Families choose how much so they like returns. You can keep the surface gas , the plant , the soil , much the same as cremated remains and more. And then any remaining soil , at least to an extent , the conservation land that we are purchasing to then restore and protect this land for future generations. The reason I introduce it like that is I think that's the reason people are choosing it. It's gentle , it's natural , it's carbon neutral , but it's also regenerative. There's a certain poetic ness to being returned to nature and having one of your last acts on Earth being something that contributes towards the future prosperity of the planet.


S4: That can be way higher depending upon where you are in the country. Places like San Francisco don't allow new burial grounds. It's not deemed worthy enough use of that. So burial spots in San Francisco are particularly expensive compared to cremation. The average cremation with a service is about $5,000 and a funeral stone transformation is about $5,000 , actually pretty comparable.

S5: So we touched on it earlier , but can you talk a little bit more about how common methods of burial like cremation and casket burial aren't very climate friendly.

S4: The problem with existing practice is completely , as you say , it's not sustainable. There is putting all sorts of harmful places since the ground you have 100,000 tons of steel , 800,000 gallons of formaldehyde , which is just toxic chemical used in the embalming process. At 1.6 million tons of concrete , you have 30 million board feet of non degradable words. And that still , for reference , is more still than was used in the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge. Again , every single year being pressed into the ground. We also do have land availability. 300 million people die over the next eight years in this country. And we can't just keep putting people into the ground. We don't have the land availability. And again , as I say , cities like San Francisco , Seattle aren't permitting new cemeteries. So this is no longer a practical method of funeral actualization. Cremation , then entertainingly , has been considered the more environmentally friendly option and in many ways compared to burial. It is , but the fact of the matter still stands that this is a fossil fuel driven process. It emits £535 of CO2 per cremation. That's equivalent to a six in American. That's like driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles and back. So whether you like it or not , at the moment , your final action Earth is currently one of pollution.

S5: Tell me a little bit more about the composting.

S4: The output is being used for reforestation. The output can be used for wildfire restoration. That output is nourishing ecosystems for wildlife and plant life. Yeah. I think that's one of the beauties of the process. One. The actual process itself is nicer. But two , instead of an end product , you're getting this nutrient rich soil which you can either use for personal memorialization , scattering or planting , and the remainder is being used for these conservation projects.


S4: That hasn't proven to be an issue where the families we've worked with so far. I think they appreciate that it's a natural process. We're using premium materials. We're accelerating nature , cremations a couple of hours. So I'd say that's the major difference. Beyond that , I don't think there is any downsides.

S5: Do you think this option makes the tender subject like death more approachable when people know that they're making a climate conscious choice ? Absolutely.

S4: My background was selling cremation. The company that I started Ran was their largest home in California by number of families we worked with each year , and we were selling cremation only. No one was very excited about cremation , cremations , very functional. This resonates with people. As I say , I use these words often , but gentle , natural , carbon neutral. You're being returned to nature. You're protecting and restoring land for future generations. It's a complete reframing of death care. Death care is currently functional. It's traditional. This is a new way of thinking about it. It's exciting.

S5: Tell me more about what the response to this kind of burial has been. Has anyone been critical of it so far ? Yeah.

S4: So there's been a little bit of criticism from the Catholic Church. I think that's at an institutional level versus an individual level. We've actually had a lot of Catholics themselves very interested and pre purchasing are actually going through our service in Washington and Oregon already. But so as it's a question of consumer choice. You can choose to be buried. You can choose to be cremated. You can choose to be tended to. So we're not saying you have to go down this route. We think this route is the best route , but it really is a question of consumer choice. So , yeah , there's always going to be criticism. I think some of the people who are pissed off by it perhaps are more put off by the thought of their own mortality and actually any death corruption more so than this process specifically.


S4: So when cremations initially introduced , they were anti cremation , but they have subsequently come out in the past decades now supportive of cremation. So I think it's just people will become more familiar with this. It will become more accepted in society. I think we'll look back in ten years time and think that was obvious.


S4: We are excited to launch in northern and southern California when the law fully comes into effect. We think Californians will love this as an option. Big lovers of the outdoors into environmental goods and services. So absolutely , yes.

S5: I've been speaking with Tom Harris , co-founder of Earth Funeral. Tom , thanks for joining us today.

S4: Thanks , Jade.

S1: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen CAVANAUGH with Jade Hyneman. The Salento Surf Festival kicks off tomorrow at the LA Paloma Theater with Facing Monsters. The documentary profiles surfer Kirby Brown , who tackles the intimidating slab waves of West Australia. These waves move fast through deep water and then slam down in shallow reefs at full speed. KPBS arts reporter Beth ACCOMANDO spoke with Brown and cinematographer Rick Rafiki , who were still in Australia waiting for a connecting flight about making the film.

S6: Facing Monsters is going to be screening at the Salento Surf Festival , which takes place at the La Paloma Theatre. It's a festival founded by Taylor Steel. And Kirby , before we start talking specifically about the film. Tell us a little bit about yourself and about the particular kinds of waves that you seek out.

S4: Basically , I'm chasing these different unique slab waves like Western Australia on such a raw exposed coastline and it's got these mutant crazy pieces of water and these waves that come out of really deep water onto these really shallow rock ledges and they're really quite unpredictable and rogue , I guess you would call them. And I'm looking for these different pieces of water to try and try and ride , basically.


S4: A big one is just kind of removing yourself from everything. And these waves are so remote , they're just in the middle of nowhere. And that really appealed to me. Getting away from day to day life and just removing yourself completely and then just being amongst this raw power of the ocean and especially in Western Australia , those swells come travel all the way up and hit the bottom of Australia there. And it's so exposed and it's just it's crazy amount of water and loading and rig.


S8: Everything's so far away yet it's so beautiful. So he'd surf these waves without cameras , and then we'd just go along and shoot for fun and capture our adventures. And we just thought the quality and the resolution was just too good to put on the Internet. So we decided to sort of compile the footage and and just , you know , stock it up until we had had a purpose for it. And that's when Cave's decided to tell his story and in the hope that it could help someone down the line and , and take them from a dark place to a to a better place. And fighting monsters began.

S6: And , Kirby , for you , I assume you've seen the film. The finished film. Yeah.

S4: So to commit to this scale of project and to put myself out there was it was a big thing for me. And I guess , like to make a movie about your life , you really have to probably look at things in your life that maybe you wouldn't have before and dive a bit deeper into why you do things and the reasons behind them. And kind of all this gets unravelled within the doco. But yeah , to see all that and see your family and , and your life on the screen and then obviously the waves and , and everything that comes with that , all the drama and the wipe outs and , and that in such and the way recaptures it captures it so well , it's it's pretty cool to see like the finish result in the end.

S6: Well , in terms of capturing what that experience was like , I have to say that some of those aerial shots where you saw how shallow that water was from above , like seeing how close those rocks and and reefs were , were. I mean , those shots were very impressive in terms of conveying what what what that feeling must have been like.

S8: And it was an angle that kids really spoke of. And it really shows the danger and the challenges of the reef. It's a it's a really hard angle to capture from where you can't shoot land because we're so far out to sea , so no long lens will reach that far. Helicopters are super expensive and you've got a time limited with field to drones with the well I join with the obvious and so forth. And it just really shows that , you know , the shallowness and also the thickness of the life gives it a really good perspective.

S4: I guess the drone , you know , obviously shows. Is that how shallow the waves are ? But that's more what I'm staring at. When I'm surfing the waves. I'm staring at the reef and it's cool to get that aerial view so people can kind of appreciate what's going on , I think.


S4: And I'm really in that moment and I'm not really thinking about what Rick is doing at all. You know , I don't want to be thinking about that. I'm just trying to to synchronize with the ocean and do what I'm doing. So and I just trust that , you know , Rick's going to get the shots.

S8: And , you know , there is a time where you're rolling on it and you'll see Kirby wipe out and you're sort of waiting for him to pop out. And it's like you're rolling on it , and it's like , I got to put the camera down now and jump in easy coming up. And then , you know , nine out of ten times you always pop off , you know , and he'd be okay. So I think we're we're very fortunate. I mean , he's a very experienced and calculated surfer. But as I mentioned before , these waves are just , you know , they're unforgiving. And every every waves different , nothing breaks in the same spot. So they're really hard to calculate and ride. But as you see in the documentary , there's the perfect example there where where things don't go to plan. But that was one of those moments where , okay , it's time to go into survival mode almost , you know , like I feel feeling a bit. And then it was time to go to a bit of a rescue mode. So yeah , things can go go wrong pretty quick. So you do get a good adrenaline rush out of it , which I love.

S6: This film is going to be playing at a surf festival , but it seems like for both of you it's a lot more than just capturing what surfing is about.

S4: I think we wanted to make something , not your stock standard surf , just repetitive waves. We wanted wanted it to have meaning , wanted a story behind it. We're hoping to appeal to more than just surfers. And I think it really is a , you know , a raw , honest look with all the relationships in my family. And I think people can relate to this in some kind of way in many aspects of this documentary.

S8: For me , I was just fortunate that the ocean such a beautiful canvas to work with. Then you surf or a slab surfer just allowed me to. And I work with the most beautiful environment possible. The ocean , I think it's been nearly close to a year , been released in Australia and it's still selling at cinemas here , which is which is really good.

S4: The feedback in Australia has been awesome , so hopefully that continues.

S8: So you guys enjoy it over there too.

S6: Well , I want to thank you very much for talking about Facing Monsters.

S8: Thank you , Beth , and thanks for sticking up for us.

S4: Thanks for having us.

S1: That was Beth ACCOMANDO speaking with Kirby Brown and Rick Rafiki. Their film Facing Monsters launches its U.S. theatrical run tomorrow at the Cilento Surf Festival in and cinemas.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a slew of new bills aimed at strengthening the state’s cannabis laws. We talk about why the legal cannabis industry has struggled in California and what has to happen before cannabis becomes fully legal in California. Then, elected leaders across the state have a homeless crisis on their hands, and some are turning to one possible solution: mental health conservatorships. But an investigation by our partners at inewsource found major gaps in the system. Next, as states across the country pass abortion bans, President Biden and some other Democrats want to ease federal restrictions on the procedure. Beginning in 2027, a new form of burial will be allowed in California. We’ll hear about the method, which transforms a human body into nutrient-rich soil over a 45-day period, is already available in Washington, Oregon, Vermont and Colorado. Finally, the Solento Surf Festival kicks off Thursday at the La Paloma Theater with Facing Monsters. The documentary profiles surfer Kerby Brown, who tackles the intimidating slab waves of West Australia.