State Briefs

Monday October 14, 2002

Marijuana advocate could get up to five years for growing 

SAN DIEGO – A prominent medical-marijuana advocate, who once smoked pot on the steps of City Hall here to draw attention to his cause, is facing at least five years in prison if found guilty of growing marijuana. 

Steven McWilliams, 48, pleaded innocent to federal charges Friday after being arrested by U.S drug enforcement agents. He was later released and pledged to pay a $50,000 bond if he fails to show up for court appearances. 

More than two weeks ago, federal agents uprooted 25 marijuana plants from the yard of McWilliams’ home. 

A Drug Enforcement Administration officer had previously delivered McWilliams a letter signed by interim U.S. Attorney Carol Lam warning him that he might be arrested if he did not stop growing marijuana. 

McWilliams and his partner operate a resource center and help sick and dying people legally obtain the drug under California’s Proposition 215. The state law conflicts with federal drug statutes, which prohibit the use, possession or cultivation of marijuana. 


UC Davis scales back housing plan 

DAVIS – Bowing to community pressure, the University of California, Davis is scaling back plans for a new campus housing development. 

After critics said the original project was too large, school officials released a new blueprint Friday for a compact, bike-friendly neighborhood for students, faculty and staff members. 

Officials said the new plan calls for construction of a 200-acre project on campus agricultural research land that would house 3,700 people. 

University officials have proposed the new development as a way to handle the surge of new students, faculty and staff expected in the next decade. 

University officials hope to present a final development proposal to the UC Board of Regents in November 2003. 

Housing is already a severe problem in Davis, where the rental vacancy rate hovers around 1 percent. 

Activist dies in car accident 

SALINAS – A colorful Monterey County political figure was killed when he was thrown from his car after it veered off Highway 1 near Big Sur. 

Campaign consultant Angel Garcia, 51, a former correctional officer, was a Latino Republican activist who managed numerous political campaigns through his Salinas consulting firm. 

He was the chief fund-raiser for the group fighting a Nov. 5 ballot measure intended to scrap the Salinas utility tax. Garcia also ran unsuccessfully for Assembly in 1988 and was the first Monterey County Latino to serve as a delegate to a national GOP convention — in Houston in 1992. 

California Highway Patrol officials say it is not clear what caused Garcia’s Volkswagen Beetle to swerve off the highway Friday. A witness reported seeing a motorcycle and two cars driving recklessly in the opposite direction moments before the accident. 

Investigators say Garcia was alone in the car and was not wearing a seat belt. The crash remains under police investigation. 


Pollution continues to rise 

LOS ANGELES – California has endured its worst air pollution season in several years, reversing what had been years of improvements to the state’s air quality. 

All of Orange County and parts of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties have experienced 49 days when ozone readings exceeded federal standards, according to data collected by the South Coast Air Quality Management District. That is a 36 percent increase over last year. 

Experts said smog levels were up across the state as a result of hot, dry weather along with a series of wildfires that polluted the air over formerly smog-free places such as Death Valley National Park and the eastern Sierra Nevada. 

In the Sacramento area, air violated the federal ozone standard on 10 days – more than three times as many violations as last year, officials report.