On April 20, a popular day for cannabis enthusiasts, headlines were filled with pot puns, promises of legalization from politicians and an announcement that Albuquerque ended criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. But after the smoke cleared, some medical cannabis advocates are still holding their breath, waiting to hear from New Mexico’s top medical cannabis decision maker on whether or not opioid addicts can legally obtain derivatives of the plant to aid in trying to defeat an opioid addiction. New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher is expected to decide soon whether to accept or reject, for the third time, a recommendation from a board of medical professionals to add opioid use disorder to the list of 21 conditions that currently qualify someone to be a part of the state’s medical cannabis program. Gallagher has not indicated publicly if she will add opioid use disorder to the list of qualifying conditions. Documents obtained by NM Political Report, through an Inspection of Public Records Act request, show staff discussions about recommended conditions an advisory board sent to Gallagher.
As the issue of compulsory union dues and fees for public employees is pending at the U.S. Supreme Court, one New Mexico activist group is jumping from county to county, pushing local lawmakers to ban unions from requiring money to represent private sector workers. The libertarian non-profit Americans for Prosperity announced its reentry into New Mexico politics about a year ago. Funded by David and Charles Koch, Americans for Prosperity is a 501(c)(4), which means most of the group’s work has to focus on advocacy or education, rather than support or opposition of specific political candidates. Other groups with the same tax category include the American Civil Liberties Union, AARP and the National Rifle Association. In New Mexico supporters of right-to-work laws haven’t been able to pass a statewide right-to-work law for decades.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller signed legislation on Tuesday that prevents federal immigration officers from using city facilities to detain or question people about their immigration status. The resolution, sponsored by city councilors Pat Davis and Klarissa Peña, also prevents city officials from investigating a person’s immigration status. In a statement, Keller announced the legislation will bring city residents together and promote trust in local law enforcement officers. “Everyone in our city should be able to report crime or take their kids to the neighborhood park or library without fear of having their family torn apart,” Keller said. The new city ordinance comes months after the Donald Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to withhold federal money from “sanctuary cities,” although there is no official legal definition for the term.
Possession of small amounts of cannabis is no longer a criminal offense under Albuquerque city code. Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller signed city council legislation Thursday making cannabis possession a civil infraction. City councilors approved the measure earlier this month on a 5-4 vote. In a statement, Keller said the new ordinance will allow city police officers to focus on combating other crimes. “We’re facing real challenges in Albuquerque and this is a step in the right direction to allow our officers the flexibility to better prioritize their time tackling violent crime and property crime in our city,” Keller said.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller this week told city police officers to stop the city’s DWI vehicle seizure program. Under existing ordinance, the police department can impound vehicles after DWI arrests, but before the driver has been convicted. Keller called on the city council to permanently change the policy, but there are still pending lawsuits by people who allege the city violated state law and the U.S. Constitution by taking vehicles and then charging owners to release them. Albuquerque’s Chief Administrative Officer Sarita Nair said city attorneys are evaluating each case individually before taking any further action. “Our legal department is doing a case-by-case review of every case, whether it’s in the initial stages, whether it was set for a hearing at the city administrative hearing level or whether it’s in the district or higher courts, to make sure that we handle all the cases consistently, fairly and transparently,” Nair told NM Political Report.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke about what she sees wrong with President Donald Trump’s tax policy and encouraged New Mexicans to voice their concerns about the recent bill at a public roundtable discussion of federal tax policy Friday. New Mexico’s U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, Sandoval County Treasurer Laura Montoya and National Education Association of New Mexico director Charles Bowyer joined the California Democrat. Both the policy itself and the process in which Congress approved it faced major criticisms over the hour-long discussion. Pelosi said extensive debates and discussions are generally expected on major tax bills. “None of that was accomplished in the dark of night, in the speed of light,” Pelosi said.
The City of Albuquerque is one step closer to reducing the penalties for the possession of small amounts of cannabis. City councilors voted 5-4 Monday night to replace the current ordinance that allows for possible jail time for cannabis possession with a $25 fine. Now it’s up to Mayor Tim Keller to make it official. Under current city law, possession of an ounce or less of cannabis could result in a $50 fine and up to 15 days in jail for a first offense and a possible $500 fine and up to 90 days in jail for repeat offenses.Councilor Cynthia Borrego was the only Democrat to vote against the proposal. She explained that there is “not really any empirical evidence” showing a correlation between decreased penalties and reduced crime rates.
A student-organized march and rally in Albuquerque attracted thousands of people to Old Town this morning as part of the national March for Our Lives which protested gun violence and school shootings. The march began at the Old Town Plaza and ended a few blocks away at Tiguex Park. Along the edges of the crowd at Tiguex Park, Democratic gubernatorial and congressional candidates shook hands and spoke with attendees. But most of the calls to action, poems and inspirational words came from middle school, high school and college students. Lillian Hunt, 17, and Emma Buck-Anderson, 19, who helped organize the rally, both said they just want adults to hear their concerns when it comes to issues like school safety.
A state district judge dismissed the legal challenge of State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn’s candidacy for U.S. Senate. The challenger, Bernalillo County voter Steve Gendorn, filed a “voluntary dismissal” in Santa Fe district court, asking the judge to cancel the upcoming scheduled hearing, with no explanation why. Gendorn originally filed the suit on February 20—four days after the deadline to challenge candidacies—alleging that Dunn’s qualifying petition signatures were invalid because he failed to list a proper address on his petition forms. The suit also alleged that a number of petition signatures were from voters who were either not registered as Libertarian or not registered voters at all. The challenge was not filed by Dunn’s Republican opponent Mick Rich, but Dunn implied to NM Political Report that Rich had something to do with it. “Mick Rich is wasting the court’s time with an actual political stunt and wasting New Mexican’s time with his non-starter candidacy,” Dunn said.
Just after 10 on a bright, but chilly Wednesday morning, Mick Rich strolled into a retro-looking coffee shop on historic Route 66 in Tucumcari. Making his way to the back of the restaurant, where the walls and windows were covered in “Mick Rich for Senate” campaign signs, he introduced himself to diners. “I’m Mick Rich and I’m running for Senate,” he said to a few people eating bacon, eggs and stacks of pancakes. Pushing 6 feet tall and bald, Rich made a point to stop at every table, both on the way in and out. After less than an hour talking to about 15 people in Tucumcari, and with a cinnamon roll to go, Rich climbed into the back seat of “The Beast,” a four-ton rig, wrapped with the words “Mick Rich for Senate” and an attached living space, for the two-hour trip to Las Vegas, NM.