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Officials in legal pot state vow to fight federal crackdown

WASHINGTON (AP) — Officials in Washington state, where recreational marijuana is legal, vow to fight any federal crackdown on the nascent industry after White House spokesman Sean Spicer said they should expect to see stepped-up enforcement of anti-pot laws.

Bob Ferguson, attorney general in Washington state, which joined Colorado in 2012 as the first states to legalize recreational use of the drug, said he requested a meeting last week with Attorney General Jeff Sessions about his approach to legal, regulated marijuana.

“We will resist any efforts to thwart the will of the voters in Washington,” Ferguson said Thursday.

The comments came shortly after Spicer offered the Trump administration’s strongest indication to date of a looming crackdown on recreational pot, saying “I do believe you’ll see greater enforcement” of federal law. But, speaking in response to a question at a news conference, he offered no details about what such enforcement would entail.

President Donald Trump does not oppose medical marijuana, Spicer added, but “that’s very different than recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice will be further looking into.”

A renewed focus on recreational marijuana in states that have legalized pot would present a departure from the Trump administration’s statements in favor of states’ rights. A day earlier, the administration announced that the issue of transgender student bathroom access was best left to states and local communities to decide.

Enforcement would also shift away from marijuana policy under the Obama administration, which said in a 2013 memo that it would not intervene in states’ marijuana laws as long as they keep the drug from crossing state lines and away from children and drug cartels.

But the memo carried no force of law and could be rewritten by Sessions, who has consistently said he opposes legal marijuana but has not indicated what he might do.

Eight states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for recreational use. The Justice Department has several options available should it decide to enforce the law, including filing lawsuits on the grounds that state laws regulating pot are unconstitutional because they are pre-empted by federal law. Enforcement could also be as simple as directing U.S. attorneys to send letters to recreational marijuana businesses letting them know they are breaking the law.

Kevin Sabet, head of the anti-marijuana group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, said pot enforcement is a matter of public safety.

“The current situation is unsustainable,” he said in a statement. “This isn’t an issue about states’ rights, it’s an issue of public health and safety for communities.”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Ferguson, the state’s attorney general, sent a letter last week to Sessions asking to discuss the issue and laying out the state’s arguments for keeping its regulated market in place.

“Our state’s efforts to regulate the sale of marijuana are succeeding,” they wrote in the letter, which was released Thursday. “A few years ago, the illegal trafficking of marijuana lined the pockets of criminals everywhere. Now, in our state, illegal trafficking activity is being displaced by a closely regulated marijuana industry that pays hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes. This frees up significant law enforcement resources to protect our communities in other, more pressing ways.”

In Washington state, sales at licensed pot shops now average nearly $4.4 million per day — with little evidence of any negative societal effects. That’s close to $1 billion in sales so far for the fiscal year that began last July, some $184 million of which is state tax revenue.

Spicer’s comments came the same day a Quinnipiac poll said 59 percent of Americans think marijuana should be legal and 71 percent would oppose a federal crackdown.

In Pueblo, Colorado, legal marijuana has helped fund college scholarships, parks, jail improvements and school drug prevention programs, County Commissioner Sal Pace said.

“Most Americans agree on this issue; let the states decide,” Pace said.

States have been flouting the U.S. Controlled Substances Act since at least 1996, when California voters approved marijuana for sick people, a direct conflict with federal guidelines barring the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

And presidents since Bill Clinton have said the federal government unequivocally rejects a state’s ability to modify federal drug law.

However, three presidents over the last 20 years have each concluded that the limited resources of the Justice Department are best spent pursuing large drug cartels, not individual users of marijuana.

Nevada state Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford said in a statement Thursday that meddling in recreational pot laws would be federal overreach and harm state coffers that fund education.

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Associated Press writers Kristen Wyatt in Denver and Gene Johnson in Seattle contributed to this report.

India police arrest cheap mobile maker on fraud charges

LUCKNOW, India (AP) — The director of an Indian company that claimed it was selling the world’s cheapest smartphone was arrested Thursday on fraud charges, police said Friday.

Mohit Goel was arrested in the New Delhi suburb of Ghaziabad following a complaint that his company Ringing Bells had not supplied the handsets that a phone distribution company had paid for.

The launch of the smartphone called “Freedom251” and priced at rupees 251 ($3.70) in February 2016 was widely covered by the Indian media. The company’s website on which pre-orders were taken crashed with huge numbers of people trying to access it to book a phone. Many customers who bought the phone said at the time that they were happy with the sleek features of the handset.

Police spokesman Rahul Srivastava said Friday that the arrest was made after the distribution company, Ayam Enterprises, filed a complaint that it had paid Goel 3 million rupees, but had received handsets worth only 1.3 million rupees.

In their complaint, Ayam Enterprises said they had agreed to distribute the phones and had paid Ringing Bells the money in advance.

Ringing Bells had failed to supply handsets or return the money to the distributor despite several reminders, police said.

However, Goel’s company ran into troubles when some 30,000 customers paid for the phone on Ringing Bells’ online site and were promised delivery of the handset by June — a promise the company failed to meet.

Financial frauds are common in India with people falling victim to scams. Mobile phone industry analysts were skeptical about the cheap smartphone and enthusiasm for Goel’s phone faded after supplies stopped.

California senator removed after criticizing late lawmaker

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A California lawmaker was removed from the state Senate floor after refusing to stop delivering a speech criticizing late state Sen. Tom Hayden for his leadership role in the anti-Vietnam War movement of the 1960s.

Republican Sen. Janet Nguyen lived in South Vietnam as a child and fled with her family when its U.S.-backed government fell. She spoke during a portion of the Senate session reserved for memorializing people who have died, and the presiding senator told security to remove her Thursday.

Several sergeants-at-arms surrounded Nguyen and gently nudged her toward the door. Nguyen dodged them and continued yelling passages from her speech for nearly a minute as the presiding Democrat repeatedly told her to stop.

“I have every right to speak on behalf of the 500,000” Vietnamese-Americans living in California, Nguyen yelled before leaving the chamber as another senator said her comments were disrespectful and inappropriate.

Nguyen represents a portion of Orange County known as Little Saigon, home to the largest Vietnamese population outside Vietnam. Many fled South Vietnam and blame the U.S. anti-war movement for undermining American forces and contributing to the victory by the communist North.

The Senate confrontation drew an angry rebuke from Nguyen’s fellow Republicans, who said she was being silenced.

“I very seldom get enraged, and I am deeply enraged at this moment,” said Minority Leader Jean Fuller of Bakersfield.

Democrats said Nguyen violated the Senate’s parliamentary rules with her criticism and could have delivered the same comments if she had waited until later in the session and made a motion.

“She got exactly what she wanted, which wasn’t to speak. She wanted to create a scene for her district,” said Dan Reeves, chief of staff to Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat.

De Leon said he’s “troubled” by the conflict and will conduct an internal review. He said the rules were explained to Nguyen and her staff beforehand.

Nguyen, the first Vietnamese-American woman elected to the California Legislature, was born in Saigon and fled with her family on a small wooden boat, according to her legislative biography. After passing through a series of refugee camps, her family arrived in California in 1981.

Hayden was a student radical in the 1960s and helped organize protests against the war. He later became a legislator and elder statesman of the country’s left. He died in October, and the Senate held a memorial for him Tuesday.

On Thursday, Nguyen began her speech in Vietnamese before switching to English. When Majority Leader Bill Monning said she was speaking out of order, her microphone was shut off. She kept speaking as the presiding Democrat, Sen. Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens, repeatedly told her to take her seat and eventually ordered her removed.

According to a written copy of Nguyen’s speech provided by her office, she planned to say that Hayden “sided with a communist government that enslaved and/or killed millions of Vietnamese, including members of my own family.”

After she was escorted from the Senate, Nguyen’s Republican colleagues said she chose not to criticize Hayden while his family was in attendance during the memorial two days earlier, saving her criticism for the next floor session.

The conflict echoed a dust-up in the U.S. Senate earlier this month, when Republicans ended a speech by Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, saying she violated Senate rules and impugned the character of then-Sen. Jeff Sessions as she criticized his nomination for U.S. attorney general.

It also adds fuel for conservatives who have seized on instances they say represent right-leaning speakers being silenced by liberals in the pursuit of political correctness. Many on the right were outraged three weeks ago when the University of California, Berkeley, canceled a speech by controversial commentator Milo Yiannopoulos when a campus protest organized by critics turned violent.

Mayor ‘deeply disturbed’ over incident between cop and teen

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Anaheim officials pressed for calm after raucous protests followed an incident in which an off-duty policeman scuffled in his front yard with a boy, drew a weapon and fired a shot into the ground after another teen pushed him over a hedge and others surrounded him.

Mayor Tom Tait said he was “deeply disturbed” and angered by what he saw on video of the incident, but he also denounced violence and damage caused by demonstrators.

“The video shows an adult wrestling with a 13-year-old kid, and ultimately firing a gun,” Tait said Thursday. “This has been a blow to our community.”

The street demonstrations five years after unruly protests over two fatal police shootings served as a reminder that the home of Disneyland, dubbed “The Happiest Place on Earth,” has the problems of any city with 350,000 residents.

No one was hurt in the scuffle on a residential street that started Tuesday after the Los Angeles officer took action in an ongoing dispute with students walking after school. The officer had reported the problem in the past to local police, said Anaheim Sgt. Daron Wyatt.

Police Chief Raul Quezada defended his department’s decision to arrest two teens, but not the officer, who detained the 13-year-old boy after believing the boy threatened him. The investigation continues and the chief wouldn’t rule out charges against anyone involved.

Videos shot from different angles and posted on YouTube show the officer clenching the boy’s sweatshirt and pulling him across the lawn as they argued about what precipitated the incident.

The 13-year-old believed the officer, who was not named, had cursed at a teenage girl who had walked across his lawn in the area of single-family homes, many with tidy flower beds and well-pruned trees, about 2 miles west of Disneyland.

Michael Carrillo, an attorney representing the teenage girl, said she had “grazed” the officer’s lawn when he began shouting expletives at her. Carrillo said the altercation turned physical after the boy stepped in and told the officer he shouldn’t curse at a child.

In the video, the officer said he had heard the boy say he was going to “shoot” him, but the teen insists he said he was going to “sue” him.

At one point, the teen said, “Let me go. … I’m only 13.”

Another youth rushed the officer, who stumbled back through a low hedge, still holding the 13-year-old.

A teen then took a swing at the officer. Other kids approached, and the man — still gripping the 13-year-old with one hand — pulled a gun from his waistband, crouched and fired a shot.

Teens shooting video began running down the street and cursing.

The 13-year-old, who is the stepson of an Anaheim police officer, was booked on suspicion of making a criminal threat and battery. A 15-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of assault and battery.

Both boys, who weren’t named because they’re juveniles, were later released, Quezada said.

The union representing Los Angeles police officers said the officer had a right to self-defense after being physically assaulted.

If he mistakenly thought the boy said “shoot” instead of “sue,” he had a reasonable basis to fear for his safety, said Jon Shane, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“You can always be mistaken about the facts, but you must be right about the law,” Shane said. “Shooting and suing are two different things and they clearly have two different outcomes. … Shooting would provide a reasonable basis for imminent fear of bodily harm. The other not so much.”

Carillo has filed a claim against the cities of Anaheim and Los Angeles, the precursor to a civil lawsuit, alleging the incident shows the Los Angeles Police Department was deficient in training officers.

Attorney Carl Douglas, who is not involved in the case, called it an outrageous use of force and intimidation and questioned the officer’s qualifications.

“Anyone present could have been killed because of this reckless use of force,” Douglas said. “Because someone was walking on his grass, this officer thought the circumstances justified his walking out of his house with his gun in his waistband to confront some teenager.”

The LAPD is also investigating the incident.

Hundreds of people marched through suburban Anaheim streets late Wednesday, some blocking traffic and carrying signs that said “no shooting zone.” Police arrested two dozen people, including children, after the crowd ignored orders to disperse.

The city 24 miles southeast of Los Angeles was roiled in 2012 by demonstrations following the fatal police shootings of two unarmed Latino men. The deaths sparked four days of violent protests resulting in smashed shop windows and dozens of arrests.

Neighbor Joe Gulrich, 76, said his house was spray-painted during the protest on Wednesday and police told him he should leave for his own safety. When he returned late at night, he found a rock had been thrown through his front window.

“He did the right thing,” Gulrich said. “If he hadn’t done that they would have ganged up on him.”

Mike Gutierrez, 35, said he was concerned by the officer’s handling of the incident.

“What kind of officer goes against a child?” asked Gutierrez, who lives a few blocks away.

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AP writers Christopher Weber, Michael Balsamo and Andrew Dalton contributed from Los Angeles. Melley reported from Los Angeles.

5 injured in Ohio group home stabbing attack

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Police say five people have been injured in a stabbing attack at a group home in Ohio by a woman who allegedly was removed from the home for being disruptive.

Toledo police say the woman returned to the home Thursday afternoon after being removed a day earlier. They say she grabbed a butcher knife from the kitchen and attacked several residents. The house caretaker also was stabbed in the attack. Police say the woman then ran away.

All five victims were taken to a hospital. Police say two of the victims were hospitalized in serious condition. The other three have injuries that are not life-threatening.

Police later found the suspect and arrested her. She’s charged with five counts of felonious assault.

Forsberg’s hat trick helps Predators beat Avalanche 4-2

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Filip Forsberg is living up to every bit of his ‘Scoresberg’ nickname right now for the Nashville Predators.

Forsberg scored his second straight hat trick, and the Nashville Predators beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-2 Thursday night to sweep the season series between the Central Division teams.

“He’s definitely a gifted player,” Nashville center Ryan Johansen said of his linemate. “Every night is a privilege to play with those guys. He keeps impressing me and I’m sure everyone else watching. He’s really an elite player, and he’s a huge part of this organization and this hockey club if we’re going to be successful.”

Forsberg now has a team-high 22 goals with five of those combined in his last two second periods. Forsberg, who scored three times in the second period of Tuesday night’s overtime loss to Calgary, got the hat trick with an empty-net goal with 36.5 seconds left.

He’s the first NHL player with consecutive hat tricks since Alex Burrows on Jan. 5-7, 2010. Forsberg can’t explain his scoring streak right now and can’t remember the last time he notched consecutive hat tricks.

“Maybe when I was 10 years old or so,” Forsberg said.

Viktor Arvidsson also scored a goal, and Roman Josi and Johansen each added two assists as Nashville won its fifth and final game against Colorado this season.

Goalie Pekka Rinne made 20 saves for the win after being pulled Tuesday night.

Jarome Iginla had a goal and an assist for the Avalanche, who have lost three straight. Peter Wiercioch also had a goal.

“It’s not good enough this time of year to just put together 40 minutes,” Colorado left wing Gabriel Landeskog said. “We feel like at times if we play like we played in the first and the third, if we play like that the whole game, I think we can come out of this one with at least two points.”

Both teams hit iron in the opening minutes with Colorado center Matt Duchene hitting the post on a 2-on-1, while Nashville defenseman P.K. Subban hit the crossbar with a long shot.

The Predators got the first power play when Andreas Martinsen went into the box for interfering with Rinne. The Avalanche killed off the penalty.

The Predators scored seconds after the power play ended. Craig Smith found Arvidsson skating up the slot with a pass, and Arvidsson scored his 19th this season at 11:31 of the first.

The Avalanche tied it up with a bit of luck late in the period. John Mitchell’s shot went off Iginla’s right skate and beat Rinne between his pads with 2:08 left.

Colorado took a 2-1 lead at 2:34 of the second when Wiercioch’s shot jumped over Rinne’s glove.

Forsberg took over. He tied it up at 5:26, then the Swede gave Nashville the lead at 10:59 with his second goal of the period. Nashville coach Peter Laviolette noted Forsberg had two hat tricks in three games last season.

“That is four hat tricks in five games, and that is pretty impressive,” Laviolette said. “He is a talented kid.”

Arvidsson had a chance at a second goal himself off a cross-ice pass from Forsberg with 6:27 left in the second only to be stopped by Smith at the post with an impressive save. Smith kept the Avalanche close making 10 saves in the second with Colorado taking only three shots.

In the third, the Avalanche cranked up the pressure only to be stopped by Rinne.

NOTES: The Predators improved to 18-2-5 when scoring first, which is the fewest regulation losses in the NHL. … Forsberg now has six points (five goals, one assist) in five games. … Forsberg tied Steve Sullivan (four) for most hat tricks in franchise history. … Josi now has 10 points (four goals, six assists) in nine games since coming off injured reserve. … Smith started the second game of his career. … Iginla’s goal gives him 619 for his career, now six behind Joe Sakic for 15th all-time.

UP NEXT

Avalanche: Host Buffalo on Saturday night.

Predators: Host Washington on Saturday.

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