Monique Vallabhan, a certified nurse practitioner, recalls recently treating a student with a headache referred to her by the school nurse at one of Albuquerque’s largest public schools. The student left class to get ibuprofen from the school nurse, which Vallabhan prompted her to conduct a brief checkup. It turns his headache came after his dad kicked him in the head. Vallabhan connected him with the school health clinic’s resources, which includes a psychiatrist and a behavioral health therapist. “If he just took ibuprofen, those kind of things would be missed,” Vallabhan, who coordinates a full health clinic in Albuquerque High School, told NM Political Report in a recent interview.
At least one medical marijuana producer is hesitant about new transparency rules that open government advocates are lauding. Earlier this week, the New Mexico Department of Health announced a change to a confidentiality provision for medical marijuana producers. For more than a year, some advocates have pushed the department to release names and other information of producers around the state, citing a state public records law. According to the DOH website, only personal information of employees and producers, such as social security numbers and personal addresses, will be kept confidential. Willie Ford, executive director of Reynold Greenleaf & Associates, which manages non-profit producers, told NM Political Report that he is a supporter of transparency, but is not pleased with the release of information like grow locations.
For the second time this legislative session, a Republican broke ranks with his party to vote down legislation aimed at further regulating abortion procedures in the state. Rep. James Smith, R-Sandia Park, voted against a House memorial asking three state agencies to coordinate reporting when infants who show signs of life outside of the womb after abortion procedures. “If you were bringing a bill banning late-term abortion, I’d be with this,” Smith told sponsor and Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, in committee. “But this is concerning.”
Smith joined three Democrats Monday afternoon in the House Regulatory and Public Affairs Committee in tabling Montoya’s memorial on a 4-3 vote. During debate, Montoya mentioned how the University of New Mexico, which provides abortions during the first and second trimester of pregnancies, likely is not practicing “the particular abortion procedure that is producing born alive infants.”
Smith responded that the Legislature isn’t the correct body to “go after a potential violator” if it didn’t know who the violator was or if a violation was happening.
One Republican helped five Democrats kill a bill that would have legally defined when an infant is “born alive” and mandated medical intervention for those infants. Rep. Andy Nuñez, R-Hatch, joined all Democrats in the House Health Committee to table the “Require Medical Care for All Infants” bill Saturday morning after a short debate. The debate followed more than two hours of public testimony on the bill earlier in the week. Follow-up Story: GOP Rep won’t say why he voted against abortion bill
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington, said his measure was meant protect infants who still show signs of life after abortions. “What we’re talking about is the life of a child who is born alive after an abortion procedure,” Montoya told the committee.
Lawmakers are poised to debate another contentious topic halfway through an already-polarized legislative session. Thursday morning, the House Health Committee is scheduled to hear a bill aimed at addressing late-term abortions. Specifically, the measure would require emergency medical care for any infant born showing any sign of life, which would include breathing, a heartbeat, a pulse in an umbilical cord or muscle movement. Update: Public comment on the bill took so long that the committee delayed discussion and voting on the legislation until a future hearing. Story continues as originally written below.
New Mexico’s Attorney General is advocating for the state to disclose names of medical marijuana producers to the public. In a Dec. 31 letter written to state Medical Cannabis Program Patient Services Manager Andrea Sundberg, Attorney General Hector Balderas notes the Health Department’s proposal to disclose producers while keeping applications for personal production licenses confidential and pending non-profit producer applications private until the end of the application period. The Health Department recently agreed to allow the public to see medical marijuana producer licenses with those caveats. “We believe that this regulation not only exceeds the Department of Health’s statutory authority to promulgate rules, but also circumvents the mandates and intent of the IPRA,” Balderas writes.
The New Mexico Department of Health announced on Monday that they were offering licenses to 12 more non-profits to grow medical marijuana. New Mexico now has 35 licensed medical marijuana providers, though the process is not complete for the approved non-profits. If you want to know who these non-profits are, you will have to keep waiting, because the department kept the veil of secrecy that surrounds the program up. Open government advocates and journalists have sought more information on the applicants and past approved non-profits to little effect. DOH did release some information about the non-profits, including which counties the non-profits will operate in.
A local watchdog journalist and government transparency advocate was able to dig up names of potential medical marijuana producers primarily through his own searches instead of official records requests. Peter St. Cyr, an independent journalist, published some names of people that may have applied to become the next round of medical marijuana growers and sellers in New Mexico in the Santa Fe Reporter. He and other transparency advocates have argued these should be public, while Department of Health regulations keep them secret. St.
A former sheriff who previously lobbied against medical marijuana in New Mexico now wants a piece of the weed pie. Darren White, whose law enforcement credentials include stints as cabinet secretary for the Department of Public Safety, Bernalillo County Sheriff and public safety director for the City of Albuquerque, is one of eight names serving as a board of director with Purlife, which filed an application with the state to open a medical marijuana nonprofit. White’s name came up in a database of medical marijuana applicants published this week by the Santa Fe Reporter. A listing on the Secretary of State’s website shows a May 2014 incorporation date for Purlife and lists its “character of affairs” as “conducting medical marijuana sales in New Mexico.” White is listed as one of eight directors of the company. The state Department of Health, which runs the Medical Cannabis Program, announced this week that it narrowed a pool of 86 applicants for new medical marijuana producer licenses to 17 finalists.
Earlier this week, a Santa Fe District Court judge denied a legal challenge against the New Mexico Department of Health in a case involving the defunding of a not-for-profit health clinic. Officials from New Mexico AIDS Services (NMAS) have said they plan to file again in a way the judge outlined. According to another AIDS and HIV clinic, all hope is not lost even if NMAS closes its doors. After District Judge Francis Mathew ruled that NMAS was “not entitled” to a restraining order to stop the defunding process, one NMAS official told the Albuquerque Journal they planned on appealing the funding determination. NMAS Board President Brian Morris told New Mexico Political Report in an email that the organization has some money saved up and plans to stay open for at least another 30 days while the legal process continues.