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California Still Struggling To Police Stoned Drivers And More Local News

Unlike alcohol, California doesn’t have a legal limit for drugged driving. So it’s up to drug recognition experts. But how do they evaluate someone they think may be under the influence? Hear the last story in KPBS’s five-part series: “High Hopes: California's Pot Experiment.” Plus, Jingle Bells, Silent Night and Joy to the World. Find out how these songs are helping veterans with lung disease get better. And meet Jonathan Hunt, librarian for the San Diego County Office of Education. He’s going to share his top 12 kids books of 2019. He says younger audiences have become more willing to address difficult topics.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 It's Monday, December 23rd I'm Andrew Bowen and you're listening to San Diego news matters from KPBS coming up. A bit of good news on San Diego's efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and California police are still figuring out how to control drug driving. Two years after the sale of recreational marijuana was legalized. Now that people that smoke marijuana and now we're seeing crashes, DUI crashes in the morning, that and more San Diego news stories coming up.

Speaker 1: 00:33 San Diego cut its carbon footprint by 3% in 2018 according to a city report released today, this means the city met its 2020 climate goals two years ahead of schedule, but other targets the city laid out and its climate action plan remain elusive and even city officials caution. One year of data is not much to celebrate. San Diego sustainability director Cody Huvane says some of the city's climate strategies like planning for compact walkable neighborhoods near public transit would take some time to bear fruit. You won't see the impacts of those policy changes for several years because you now have to build things under that new policy directive. So it'll take some time, but I think we're going to see huge benefits from those policies that we've been moving forward lately. One of the city's biggest problem areas is waste reduction San Diego owns that sent more waste to landfills in 2018 than they did the year before. A new report alleges that some parts of the United States have become asylum free zones. KPBS reporter max Rivlin Adler explains that the lawsuit aims to completely transform the immigration court system.

Speaker 2: 01:38 The plaintiffs of the lawsuit are a group of immigration legal service providers who believe that under the Trump administration, the immigration court system has become a deportation machine. It was filed in federal court in Oregon, but challenges the immigration court system nationwide. It focuses on immigration courts like the one in Atlanta which denied 95.7% of asylum claims adjudicated between 2014 and 2019 instead of acting independently and judging cases on their merits. The lawsuit alleges that immigration judges who work for the justice department are simply carrying out the orders of the administration. It argues the system is stacked against immigrants who rarely have a lawyer representing them. Test Hugin is an attorney with innovation law lab who along with the Southern poverty law center, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs.

Speaker 3: 02:27 In many cases, you have an unrepresented individual appearing opposed by a government attorney and judged by effectively another government attorney who ultimately answers to the attorney general.

Speaker 2: 02:37 Plaintiff's state immigration court needs judges that are independent of the department of justice, which has not yet responded to our request for comment max and Adler KPBS news.

Speaker 1: 02:47 If you need to do some last minute Christmas shopping for your kids, you're in luck. KPBS education reporter Joe Hong spoke with the San Diego County office of education's head librarian about this year's top for kids books.

Speaker 4: 03:00 I'm just looking for something that captures a unique perspective, something that resonates that that creates an emotional response in the reader.

Speaker 1: 03:10 Jonathan hugs has books for young audiences, can teach empathy in a time of political polarization. One of his favorite books this year is called the far away brothers by Lauren Markham. A true story about twin brothers from El Salvador. Living as an undocumented immigrant.

Speaker 4: 03:23 And I think this is a really important book in helping us, you know, especially when you consider the heated political situation that we're in to actually put you in the shoes of somebody who's gone through that. Um, and their motive,

Speaker 1: 03:39 whether it's a picture book or a 400 page novel. Hunt is always looking for books that teach us about our own world or transport us into others. Joe Hong K PBS news for the time that national guard troops serving along the border will earn credit toward GI bill benefits. KPBS military reporter Steve Walsh says, the change comes after an intense lobbying effort. Even though the Trump administration authorized sending troops to the border guard troops were not earning credit towards receiving federal benefits. As Frank Yocum executive director of the enlisted association for national guard troops,

Speaker 5: 04:13 nobody is complaining about the duty. Nobody's complaining about, uh, serving your country. It's just the fairness. If we're going to serve side by side with people on active duty with the same benefits they have

Speaker 1: 04:23 in a major change. The secretary of defense, Mark Esper, released a letter saying that national guard troops who served along the border would now earn time towards post nine 11 GI bill benefits, including the California national guard. California was one of the States which ultimately pulled troops from the operation. The ruling is retroactive to February 19 the date of the presidential declaration. Steve Walsh KPBS news, if you're doing some last minute shopping, there were all kinds of ways to get scammed, including one involving puppy fraud. Bob Moffitt with Capitol public radio reports from Sacramento. There are thousands of complaints annually to the better business Bureau scam tracker regarding puppies, birds and reptiles that were purchased online but never arrived. It's one of several ways people are trying to take your money. Alma Galvin is with the BBB and says people are getting fooled by false advertising.

Speaker 6: 05:14 We also have fake endorsements by celebrities, which have tended to be a, you know, a little popular lately. Um, with you know, facial creams that Atlanta generous might've used or vitamins from someone else. And a lot of those tend to be scams.

Speaker 1: 05:27 Galvin says it's not just product websites that are a problem.

Speaker 6: 05:31 A lot of times we tend to go into fake travel websites without even realizing it or not looking to see if someone's licensed. There

Speaker 1: 05:38 are also Christmas popup stores with no way to return a defective product and dear Santa websites that steal your identity on Bob Moffitt in Sacramento. Some military veterans in Florida are putting on a holiday harmonica concert at their local VA, but it's not just to spread some cheer. It's part of a therapy program that takes an unconventional approach

Speaker 7: 05:58 to treating lung disease. Stephanie Calambini reports for the American Homefront project.

Speaker 8: 06:08 [inaudible]

Speaker 9: 06:09 a dozen or so veterans are practicing silent night on their harmonicas at the Tampa VA. It's one of a handful of songs they'll play in a concert for their family's hospital staff and patients. 68 year old Marine Corps veteran Noel Alvarez starts to get a little off track and has to stop to catch his

Speaker 10: 06:28 breath.

Speaker 9: 06:32 Besides military service participants. In this class. Share something else. They have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or cop D commonly caused by smoking or exposure to pollution. Breathing is tough for them. They may wheeze and feel dizzy when they're active or constantly cough. This weekly class uses harmonicas to strengthen the muscles around their lungs and improve their breathing. Instructor de foals has the instruments. Small holes require players to breathe with pursed lips. This mimics a common exercise doctors recommend for CLPD patients.

Speaker 7: 07:07 What we do is we do that with an instrument that makes noises and makes music and they feel the accomplishment and I can't tell you how many have told me they'll sit at home and play the harmonica, but they will not sit at home and personally breathe.

Speaker 9: 07:24 The class is part of the cop deep foundations harmonicas for health program and the Tampa VA has offered it since the summer. BOL Alvarez says it's helping him a lot with his breathing though he says he still struggles with the instrument from time to time.

Speaker 11: 07:38 It's, you know, you can see sometimes in the class. I was trying to play that on silent night. It does intake. Sometimes it, it gets to me, but I'm noticing it.

Speaker 9: 07:50 77 year old Olof Olson says he's been able to clear his lungs more easily and has more stamina when he bikes around town. The former military police officers says he takes his harmonica with him everywhere he goes. Even if he doesn't have time for a tune,

Speaker 11: 08:05 I'd take my harmonica with me and I'll sit down someplace that's comfortable and just make sounds, just make noises, just breathe any type of breathing.

Speaker 9: 08:16 The class encourages veterans to let their guards down and open up to one another. Participants share their challenges with cop D each week, but they also share their accomplishments and anytime someone attempts to solo like this one by Olsen, their comrades are ready to cheer them on. That sense of community is half the benefit of the for yo El Alvarez.

Speaker 11: 08:56 I like it. [inaudible] getting together with other vets because basically I'm almost like a shudder and this has got me to do things.

Speaker 9: 09:07 That's especially the case this holiday season when they'll perform two concerts in the hospital lobby, one featuring patriotic songs for a military celebration and another with the Christmas songs they've been practicing,

Speaker 1: 09:21 try joy to the world.

Speaker 9: 09:31 If these rehearsals are any indication, the vets may not nail every note

Speaker 11: 09:36 perfectly,

Speaker 9: 09:39 but instructor Dave [inaudible] is. That doesn't matter. So long as they're working on their breathing. It's a job well done. I'm Stephanie Calambini in Tampa.

Speaker 1: 09:48 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. It's been two years since California legalized recreational marijuana, but KPBS science and technology reporter Shalina chat, Lani says, law enforcement is still figuring out how to police people who drive when they're high. She brings us today's final installment of our week long series, high hopes California's pot experiment. Once you close your eyes, I want you to think 30 seconds in your head. Why don't you think 30 seconds pass open your eyes and let me know. Do you understand the test? Yes. [inaudible] demonstrates what you would do if you pulled over a driver under the influence of a drug like marijuana. Drugs will make the eyelids flutter. He's a police officer with the California highway patrol and a drug recognition expert or a Dre for short

Speaker 12: 10:44 drug recognition experts have additional training in detecting and determining whether the determining whether or not a person is under the influence or a specific category of drugs.

Speaker 13: 10:56 Memorial says in the two years since the sale of recreational marijuana became legal, he's seen a rise in vehicle crashes.

Speaker 12: 11:03 Now that people that smoke marijuana, they tend to smoke marijuana before they go to bed and then immediately after they wake up and now we're seeing crashes. DUI crashes in the mornings.

Speaker 13: 11:16 Marijuana is hard to police. THC, the compound in marijuana that gets you high affects everyone differently. So traditional tools used on drunk drivers like breathalyzers don't work and California doesn't have a legal limit for drug driving, like with alcohol. So it's up to Marielle and other DRES to decide whether someone is under the influence. Morrill says California has about 1400 DRDs that's the most in the nation. But he thinks the state needs a lot more. That's because cannabis consumption has become normalized in West Hollywood. The original cannabis cafe opened in October. It's the first eatery in the nation where customers can consume marijuana products but their meals. Ricardo Baca is a renowned

Speaker 14: 11:59 independent marijuana journalist. There is open consumption happening all around us. It just says that we're finally entering an era of normalization. Fuck it says marijuana has become

Speaker 13: 12:13 she and drug much like alcohol, and it's still unclear how to regulate it, but he says, relying on drug recognition experts opinions instead of a scientific tool,

Speaker 14: 12:22 be unfair. They're using the roadside sobriety tests that were familiar from black and white movies. It's like touch your nose and that's how they're telling. Are you high or are you not? So there's no scientific objective and that's problematic.

Speaker 13: 12:39 So San Diego researchers are trying to address drugged driving at the UC San Diego center for medicinal cannabis research. Tom Marcott hits the gas and drives down a busy road to the next intersection. At first it's an easy trip, but soon

Speaker 15: 12:57 I think the interactive simulator with gas and brake pedal steering will

Speaker 13: 13:03 Mark Cod is the co director of the center. He uses his machine to research how people behave when they're stoned. These types of studies have been happening for a while, but my card says they have their limitations. For example, people often use different amounts of pot.

Speaker 15: 13:17 Well, one of the things that our study looks to do is to say, if we take people who are regular users, the people most likely to go on the road and tell them to smoke a joint as they normally would to get high. Uh, we want to see well what would that look like on the road?

Speaker 13: 13:31 The study also tests other tools that might tell if someone is too high, like a memory test on an iPad. Marcotte says, we've long studied how people behave when they're drunk, but not so much when they're high.

Speaker 15: 13:42 The impression is, and most research is that with cannabis people tend to become more cautious, tend to drive slower.

Speaker 13: 13:47 Marco says, close to 200 regular pot smokers have gone through his driving simulation. He's excited to see what the data show, but he says the study will not be a catchall solution for law enforcing,

Speaker 15: 13:58 lifted edibles. So dabbing where someone gets a highly concentrated form of GHC. We can't do that kind of research because those materials aren't available from the federal government. So there are a lot of questions when it comes to public health and safety, that researchers right now just are not able to openly address,

Speaker 13: 14:15 and law enforcement won't be able to use any new technologies from this research until they're approved by the state, which can take time. Shalina Celani KPBS news.

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San Diego News Matters

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