Mixed bag for cannabis legislation in 2019

After Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham was elected and New Mexico’s House of Representatives saw a major increase of Democrats last fall, many New Mexicans speculated whether the state would also see cannabis legalization in 2019. The short answer was ultimately, no. But, the legislature enacted some major changes to the existing medical cannabis law and took at least one step towards decreasing jail time  for the use or possession of cannabis. Medical cannabis in schools (SB 204)

Senate Bill 204, sponsored by Albuquerque Sens. Candace Gould, a Republican, and Jacob Candelaria, a Democrat, and Rep. Gail Armstrong, R-Magdalena, would allow some students to use medical cannabis while at school.

The 2,500 plant dash: Medical cannabis producers prepare for expanded plant limit

The scramble to reach 2,500 has begun. More than a quarter of medical cannabis producers in New Mexico have already applied to increase their grow operations to 2,500 plants since the state announced, through an emergency rule change, it would allow plant increases a week ago. Of the 35 registered Licensed Non-Profit Producers (LNPP), 12 applied to increase the number of their plants and nine said they they intend to grow the maximum number of plants. That could mean 26,000 plants across the state, not counting the plants grown by patients who grow their own cannabis with a Personal Production License. That’s about double what the Department of Health reported in production at the end of  2018.

DOH Sec: Cannabis producers can grow up to 2,500 plants, temporarily

New Mexico medical cannabis producers can have up to 2,500 plants at any given time—for now. In a late afternoon email, the state’s Medical Cannabis Program informed licensed producers it was enacting an emergency rule and increasing plant limits to five times the original amount. Read more about this:Despite court order, still no clarity on medical cannabis plant count

The abrupt change comes after months of litigation and a court order for the state to come up with a plant limit  backed by data. The program’s director Kenny Vigil addressed the judge’s decision and said a permanent rule will come within six months. “This is a temporary regulation that will be in place until DOH promulgates, within 180 days, a formal rule establishing plant count in the state pursuant to the rules of Judge Thomson’s order and commensurate with patient needs and anticipated increases in demand,” Vigil wrote in his email.

Despite court order, still no clarity on medical cannabis plant count

Today’s the day. The New Mexico Department of Health has run the clock on a court order to come up with a number, and a reason behind it, of how many medical cannabis plants can be grown in the state. Last year, a state district court judge gave the state’s Department of Health about four months to determine a maximum number of plants medical cannabis producers can have at any given time. And the judge ordered the department to back their decision up with data. The department asked for a last-minute extension from the court, which the judge denied.

Tipping point: Despite changes, restaurants, servers still nervous about advancing minimum wage bills

By 9-to-5 standards, Jay Hayden could retire by now. He’s devoted almost 32 years of his life striving to be the best in his trade. But he doesn’t work 9 to 5, and he’s not retiring. Hayden is a lead server at Geronimo, a fine dining restaurant housed in a centuries-old building in Santa Fe on Canyon Road. A modest dinner for two at Geronimo, with an equally modest tip, can easily cost $100.

‘Outsider’ CYFD secretary looks to turn around troubled department

New Mexico’s Children Youth and Families Department Secretary Brian Blalock is an outsider. He is one of only two cabinet-level appointees in the Michelle Lujan Grisham administration not from New Mexico—and lawmakers have not let him forget it. But when asked by legislators how he plans to lead CYFD with little institutional knowledge, Blalock always gives the same answer: He’s always been an outsider. In a recent interview with NM Political Report, Blalock said through much of his career as a child welfare advocate, he’s learned that there is no one correct way to fix things. “No matter where you go, you have to listen first,” Blalock said.

With the fate of legal cannabis unclear, decriminalization back on the table

One of the biggest unanswered questions during this year’s legislative session is whether New Mexico will become the next state to legalize cannabis for recreational use. Legal cannabis is dependent on a handful of hold-outs in the state Senate, but one bill that would ease the state’s laws on cannabis, years in the making and sponsored by one of those hold-outs, cleared its first committee Tuesday. The Senate Public Affairs Committee passed Senate Bill 323 on a 5-1 vote Tuesday evening. Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, sponsored similar legislation to replace criminal charges with fines for possessing relatively small amounts of cannabis since 2015. With each attempt, the proposal has gained more support in the Legislature.

Legislator wants to let Metro Court convene grand juries

If former New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Sol Watchler was right about grand juries and ham sandwiches, the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court might see more cold cuts.  

House Bill 19, sponsored by Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil, D-Albuquerque, would allow the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court to convene grand juries, which are currently only held in state and federal district courts. The proposal, Hochman-Vigil said, is “an administrative clean-up measure.”

The Albuquerque lawyer added that some cases involving grand juries currently go back and forth between Metro and state District Courts and her bill would allow for more autonomy, particularly in Metro Court. “This allows for Metro Court to have better control over their own caseload and allows them flexibility to run these cases in the best, most efficient, manner they see possible,” Hochman-Vigil said. Felony cases in Bernalillo County sometimes start in Metro Court, but go to District Court if prosecutors decide to use a grand jury.

After failed indictments on sexual assault charges, father tries to rebuild family, career

In the late afternoon of August 30, 2017, Jessica Lowther was on the phone with her husband, Adam. Recently back from a routine business trip, Adam called to say he was headed home from work and would take their two young children to their taekwondo lessons. During that call, Jessica answered a knock on her front door. A handful of Bernalillo County Sheriff’s officers and at least one investigator from the Children Youth and Families Department stood at her door. A female officer said they needed to do a welfare check on the two Lowther children.

Bill to increase electronic record fees could be changed

A state Senator who introduced a bill to change New Mexico’s Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA), now seems to be looking to change the language in his bill. Sen. John Sapien, D-Corrales, told the Santa Fe New Mexican Tuesday his bill to allow public bodies to charge up to $1.00 per page for electronic records was “not nefarious,” but instead was in response to public bodies being “deluged” with requests for free electronic records. But when NM Political Report reached out to Sapien for further comment, a representative from his legislative office said the Senator did not want to talk about the bill. Sisto Abeyta, on behalf of Sapien’s office, returned a call to NM Political Report and hinted Sapien’s bill may change, but he did not have specifics. “We are going to hold off on the record right now because we’re still working through some issues with the bill,” Abeyta said.