Keeping tabs on the amount of medical cannabis available throughout the state may seem straightforward, but a review of quarterly reports seem to show more cannabis available for sale than what was grown or produced. While the state’s Department of Health requires producers to accurately track every gram of cannabis—beginning with harvesting and ending with sales—reports from some producers appear to have glaring discrepancies. Through a review of quarterly reports, NM Political Report found that at least five medical cannabis producers who reported sales exceeding the amount of cannabis that they produced. Those five producers reported selling a combined 676,272 grams of cannabis between January and March, but should have only had a combined 475,028 grams available to sell during that period. This means more than 200,000 grams, or 44 pounds, of medical cannabis sold in New Mexico in three months with almost no accounting of where it came from.
LAS VEGAS, N.M. — The Loving Care Shelter Home, one of several private homes in Las Vegas that has provided room and board for people with mental illness, is a ramshackle place between a mobile home and a burned-out house in an old neighborhood near downtown. Inside the home, according to a recent state inspection report, residents lived in filth, with paint chipping off walls, stained and threadbare rugs, torn window screens, electrical hazards, a rickety wooden front porch with an old couch with cigarette burns and piles of debris in the backyard. The medical care of the five residents at the Loving Care Shelter Home was shoddy, as well, according to the 96-page report by the state Department of Health on the home’s deficiencies. Among other problems, residents didn’t get required medical checks, and there were no plans to manage their illnesses, the report says. The home’s two staff workers weren’t trained in how to store drugs and assist residents with their medications.
A House committee Tuesday declined to approve legislation to relax a state requirement that any wild animal that attacks a human be killed so it can be tested for rabies, citing testimony from health and wildlife officials who argued the change would pose a significant risk to public health and safety. The state requirement drew a harsh national spotlight last summer after a marathon runner was attacked by a black bear in the Valles Caldera National Preserve. State officials tracked the bear, which wore a collar as part of a study, and euthanized it, sending its brain to a lab for rabies testing, as required by a Health Department regulation. The tests were negative. The marathoner, Karen Williams, a nurse, was clawed and bitten.
A new proposal from House Republican leaders to fix the state budget deficit would cut the same amount of money—$89.6 million—as the Senate Democratic leaders’ plan. But House Speaker Don Tripp, R-Socorro, Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, and state Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, emphasized different priorities in the House Republicans’ plan, which they presented to reporters Monday morning in a press conference. Namely, Republicans said their plan swaps cuts proposed in the Senate bill to K-12 education, the state Children, Youth and Families Department, the Department of Public Safety and services for sexual assault victims in the state Department of Health budget for deeper cuts in higher education. House Republicans also emphasized that their proposal raises no taxes. “The last part is very important because New Mexicans cannot afford to pay more taxes,” Tripp told reporters while announcing the proposal.
The Senate Finance Committee went to work Friday to bridge the gap on the large budget deficits in both the current fiscal year and the recently completed fiscal year. The proposals to close the deficits came from expanding medical marijuana, taxing some internet sales and accelerating the phasing out of the hold-harmless provision for local governments. “If it looks like chaos, that’s what it is,” Senate Finance Committee chair John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, joked at the start of the productive meeting. Another meeting for the bills was scheduled for later Friday evening, with Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez saying the full Senate would hear the bills later that night. The committee passed seven bills in all, sending all seven to the Senate floor.
State Auditor Tim Keller wants answers from the state Department of Health for delays in the processing of cards for medical cannabis program patients. In a letter to DOH Secretary-designate Lynn Gallagher sent yesterday, Keller writes that that his office will audit the department’s compliance with the legally-required 30-day waiting period for processing applications of new and returning medical cannabis patients. Patients are required to renew their cards every year. As NM Political Report and other news outlets have recently reported, thousands of patients are waiting as much as two or three times the required time period to receive their card, despite a state statute requiring the department to process applications in no longer than 30 days. Patients waiting in the limbo period aren’t legally allowed to buy cannabis, even if they were members of the program and have been prescribed cannabis by their doctors.
Five health clinics located in public schools will see a complete stripping of their state funding, likely leading all five to shut down. The cuts, announced by the state Department of Health earlier this month, come as part of several money-tightening measures placed in the state budget this year amid declining oil and gas revenues. The budget, passed by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Susana Martinez, cut $300,000 for school-based health clinics. Now critics are panning state health department officials for a lack of transparency in how they decided to issue all of the cuts to a handful of 53 such clinics across the state. “The criteria they used is still unknown to us,” state Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez said in an interview.
In New Mexico, state regulated programs are usually subject to rigorous inspection procedures, ensuring operations adhere to certain standards. After a review of public records by NM Political Report it appears that an often controversial state program may not applying rigorous standards to its participants. Last week the New Mexico Environment Department determined that medical cannabis producer New MexiCann Natural Medicine violated a number of Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards after an explosion ripped through a facility in Santa Fe last July. Of the seven violations filed with OSHA, three related directly to the work environment that New MexiCann provided for the extraction process. Through a public records request, NM Political Report obtained producer inspection records for a 12 month period that show mostly blank inspection forms for New MexiCann along with other producers around the state.
Among the many cuts in this year’s coming state budget signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Susana Martinez are $300,000 for school-based health clinics. As NM Political Report wrote earlier this week, the 53 health clinics in public schools across the state funded by the state Department of Health were facing the cuts in the upcoming budget, which Martinez signed into law on Tuesday. The clinics, which are located on school grounds, offer free health care on the spot for children and adolescents, who in New Mexico statistically tend not to receive care. As governor, Martinez has the authority to line-item veto items in the budget, including the $300,000 of cuts to school-based clinics. But when she signed the budget on Tuesday, she left in the cuts to clinics, which while comparatively small compared to other cuts in the budget are still enough to completely shut off state funding for six school-based health clinics.
Department of Health Secretary Retta Ward died Thursday morning in a car crash. A spokesman for the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office told NM Political Report on Thursday that Ward had no apparent trauma from the crash, which led the responders to believe it was a medical incident. KRQE-TV first reported Ward may have suffered a health episode. The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office said that EMS was called. “They transported Ms. Ward to the hospital and en route they tried to revive her, but their measures were not successful,” Juan Rios said.