Senator Luján, HHS Secretary Becerra talk mental health in Las Cruces 

Democratic U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra listened to youth behavioral health professionals at a roundtable discussion held on Wednesday at Arrowhead Early College High School in Las Cruces. Luján and Becerra both made general remarks but mostly listened to the local professionals talk about challenges they see facing youth in New Mexico. Dan Green, the state survey epidemiologist supervisor, said that according to 2019 data, 40.4 percent of New Mexico children experience persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. He said that is higher than national trends. According to the 2019 data, 50.7 percent of girls in New Mexico were likely to experience sadness or hopelessness compared to 30.3 percent of New Mexico boys.

New projections estimate $22.7 million in cannabis tax revenue

After almost five full months of recreational-use cannabis sales in New Mexico, experts say the initial revenue projections were slightly higher than what is now expected. 

During a Legislative Finance Committee meeting on Wednesday regarding revenue projections, New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Secretary Stephanie Schardin Clarke told lawmakers that the state’s general fund is expected to see about $22.7 million in revenue by the end of the current fiscal year from the state’s cannabis excise tax with an expected 10.6 percent increase each year after that. According to the committee’s chief economist though, the current projection for Fiscal Year 23 is about $5 million less than what was projected last December. The committee’s own analysis of cannabis tax revenue also projected that cannabis business licensing fees will generate about $5 million in FY 23, which began on July 1. 

There was almost no mention of cannabis revenue from committee members, but the head of one prominent cannabis producer said the new projections are a sign of overly limited cannabis production and a too-high cannabis excise tax rate. 

Duke Rodriguez, the president and CEO of the cannabis company Ultra Health, said the current limit of 20,000 plants per cannabis cultivator is still not enough to support the demand in the state, which he said contributes to higher cannabis prices that are not competitive with the illicit market. 

“Prices need to fall, quantity needs to increase and quality has to be maintained at the same time,” Rodriguez said. “But we need a per gram price of around five, pre-tax, and we’re already above 10. So, until we get a more competitive product in the marketplace, we’re not going to see that demand appear.

Department of the Interior announces actions to address Colorado River water supplies

New Mexico will not face mandatory cuts in Colorado River water usage at this time as the U.S. Department of the Interior implements actions to address falling levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead. 

Actions the department announced on Tuesday include mandatory cuts in water use in the Lower Basin and reductions in the amount of water released from Lake Powell in the Upper Basin. The cuts will impact Arizona, Nevada and Mexico. “The prolonged drought afflicting the West is one of the most significant challenges facing the communities in our country,” Deputy Secretary of the Interior Tommy Beaudreau said during a press conference. The actions are not as drastic as some had feared. While U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton had given the Colorado River Basin states until this week to submit plans to cut two to four million acre feet of water usage or else the federal government would get involved, the plans announced on Tuesday do not add up to the two to four million acre feet.

ABQ city council reaffirms $250K for Planned Parenthood, includes funds for housing nonprofits

Albuquerque City Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn helped thwart an effort to reroute city funds already allocated to Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains for the current year’s budget on Monday evening during a city council meeting. Earlier this summer, Albuquerque City Councilor Renee Grout introduced R-22-46, a resolution that would reallocate funds the city council already approved in May that would be allocated to Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. 

Fiscal Year 2023 began July 1 with the city budget already signed by the mayor, which included the allocation to PPRM. Fiebelkorn introduced an amendment to the proposed ordinance that would leave the $250,000 already allocated to PPRM intact while allocating an additional $100,000 to each of the nonprofits, Barrett House shelter and Prosperity Works for a community energy efficiency project. The council voted in favor of Fiebelkorn’s amended resolution 6-3 after an effort to table it failed.  

Fiebelkorn sponsored the original Albuquerque City Council resolution in May that allocated $250,000 to PPRM. Fiebelkorn told NM Political Report she is proud of sponsoring the original bill and said she was a patient of Planned Parenthood herself when she was a college student.

Controversial Augustin Plains Ranch water project legal battles continue

The legal battles in a controversial water project are continuing as the state’s Court of Appeals remanded it back to district court. Augustin Plains Ranch LLC sued the state engineer after the office rejected a proposal to pump 54,000 acre feet of water annually from an aquifer in southwestern New Mexico and pipe it hundreds of miles away to Albuquerque area customers. Related: NM water boss dismisses Augustin Plains Ranch water application as ‘speculative’

The Court of Appeals found that the district court had erred in applying what is known as collateral estoppel. Collateral estoppel is a legal doctrine intended to stop endless litigation. If something has already been litigated, it cannot be brought back.