NM medical cannabis revocation hearings blocked from the public

Last October, the Santa Fe Fire Department responded to an explosion at a well-known medical cannabis manufacturing facility. Besides being an early medical cannabis producer and manufacturer, the company, New Mexicann, experienced a similar explosion in 2015. Both instances reportedly resulted in employee injuries, but the latest explosion also resulted in a criminal complaint against New Mexicann’s executive director and reportedly a revocation hearing with the New Mexico Department of Health. 

But while the criminal proceedings against the company’s director are open to the public, Department of Health rules require that medical cannabis license revocation hearings be closed to the public. 

According to the criminal complaint against New Mexicann’s director Carlos Gonzales, the explosion last October was caused by a cannabis extraction process that the company was not licensed for. There are a variety of cannabis extraction processes, but in many instances the process involves volatile and flammable solvents. According to court records, state fire investigators found what appeared to be ethanol alcohol near a hotplate that was set to 500 degrees.

Youth activists plan protest as oil and gas industry group presents award to Lujan Grisham

A group of activists is planning a protest for Saturday as Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham receives an award from an oil and gas industry group. The northern New Mexico leaders of the Youth United for Climate Crisis Action are organizing the protest. Oil and Gas Associates of New Mexico is presenting the governor with an Oil and Gas Leadership and Loyalty Award on Saturday. “Though we have suffered under the bust cycle of COVID-19 and radicals’ calls to transition the economy away from extractive industry—we have had a solid friend in the administration and have appreciated being welcomed to the table, into decision-making and planning spaces,” a press release from Oil and Gas Associates of New Mexico states. The press release highlights Lujan Grisham’s letter to President Joe Biden regarding the moratorium on new leases on federal lands and proposing an alternative.She suggested allowing New Mexico an energy transition credit for the work that has already started to reduce emissions.

Leger Fernandez visits Cerro de la Olla amid push to designate it as a wilderness area

Some places are so special that they deserve the highest level of protection, said U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez, a Democrat who represents northern New Mexico. Cerro de la Olla is one of those places, she said. The dome-shaped caldera already has some protections as part of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, however Leger Fernandez is hoping to get it classified as a wilderness area to provide that additional level of protection. She visited Cerro de la Olla for the first time as a congresswoman this week, where she met with stakeholders including members of Taos Pueblo, county leaders and ranchers. After hearing from them, she climbed up the volcano.

A nearly 300-megawatt wind farm is in the works in Quay and Curry counties

The developer of a nearly 300-megawatt wind farm is seeking location approval from the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. The Grady Martin Wind Project would encompass more than 37,000 acres of land in Quay and Curry counties just north of the Village of Grady. 

The PRC unanimously approved a schedule for the location application during its meeting on Wednesday that was conducted remotely via Zoom. The order requires Grady Martin Wind, which is partnering with the Virginia-based company Apex Clean Energy, to post a location notice for the public by April 16. At that point, interested parties will have until June 15 for people to file protests and motions to intervene. During that time, the PRC staff will also review the application and will file its response by June 18.

PNM’s plans for the future include reduced baseload power and increased renewable energy

New Mexico’s largest electric utility is planning to reduce its baseload power while increasing power generated by renewable sources and possibly adding natural gas generation with turbines capable of producing power from hydrogen.

Baseload generation provides a relatively steady supply of power. Currently, Public Service Company of New Mexico, or PNM, relies on coal-fired power plants and a nuclear generating station to provide baseload power. The company filed a 2020 integrated resource plan with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission in January and is awaiting approval includes exiting coal in 2024 and reducing its capacity in Palo Verde Generating Station, which provides nuclear power. 

An integrated resource plan is essentially a roadmap looking at where the utility wants to be in the future. 

While the plans provide a roadmap for going forward, they are not a set-in-stone path. PNM’s 2014 integrated resource plan indicated the San Juan Generating Station would remain operating until 2053. Three years later, the utility announced that it would close the coal-fired power plant in 2022.

Albuquerque Domestic Violence Prevention Task Force recommends ways to better address domestic violence

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller’s Domestic Violence Prevention Task Force recommended that the city develop a permanent line-item in the city budget to address domestic violence, sexual assault and intimate partner violence. According to the report, which the Domestic Violence Prevention Task Force provided to Keller this week, domestic violence programs in the city are underfunded. In addition, Albuquerque and New Mexico both have “some of the highest percentages of domestic violence in the country.”

“The best way to address these issues is to allocate more resources both in the area of training and in the area of financial support for survivors and victims,” the report states. Christopher Ortiz, public information officer for the City’s Office of Equity and Inclusion, provided the report to NM Political Report and said via email that Keller’s budget proposal for this year “fully funds domestic violence shelters and services and sexual assault services.”

He also said it’s up the city council to pass the final budget. The task force also recommended the city hire a full-time employee to serve as a domestic violence coordinator to advocate for and be the point person for community organizations, city employees and the community.

New Mexico approves landmark recreational-use cannabis bill

New Mexico is slated to be the 18th state to legalize recreational-use cannabis and the fifth state to do so legislatively. 

HB 2, sponsored by Rep. Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Albuquerque and three other legislators, sped through multiple committee hearings and Senate and House Floor debates in less than two days. The rushed effort was part of the special legislative session called by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, just days after the regular 60-day session. 

Lujan Grisham, in a statement on Wednesday, praised the bill’s sponsors and called the passage of legalization a “breakthrough.”

“As New Mexicans know, I have advocated and pushed and negotiated for this measure, and I am immensely proud and humbled to have seen it through,” Lujan Grisham said. “But that feeling is dwarfed by the gratitude I feel for the well-informed advocates, to the community members from all across the state–urban and rural, from every region–who have been committed to lobbying for this, to the leaders in the Legislature who helped us cross this major threshold.”

The new law will allow adults 21 and older to personally possess up to two ounces of cannabis, 16 grams of cannabis extract or 800 milligrams of edibles. A person can have more than that, but it must be locked in a safe place at home. Adults 21 and older can also grow up to six mature plants. Licensed sales will begin no later than April 2022 and the state will begin issuing business licenses by January 2022.

Legislature sends expungement bill to governor’s desk

A bill to expunge cannabis-related criminal offenses that would no longer be illegal if cannabis is legalized is headed to the governor’s desk. The effort began with 11 amendments in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, which the committee later adopted as a committee substitute, and another on the Senate floor, a speedy move through the special legislative session. The Senate passed the bill on a 23-13 vote after about one hour of discussion early Wednesday afternoon. The House later passed the bill on a 41-28 vote after over an hour and a half of debate. The bill aims to automatically expunge the criminal offenses, under the state’s expungement law, that would no longer be illegal under cannabis legalization which was being debated by the Senate.

Expungement bill passes Senate committee

A Senate committee passed a heavily amended piece of legislation to expunge the criminal records of those convicted of cannabis-related crimes that would no longer be crimes under the proposed cannabis legalization bill working its way through the special session. The bill would provide for automatic expungement of cannabis related offenses that would no longer be illegal under the new law. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-3 to pass the bill after hours of technical discussion on language and a series of amendments to clarify the law. “I think a critical part of our state moving forward with the cannabis legislation is making sure that folks who have been convicted or arrested or dealt with the fallout of offenses that were based on actions that in the cannabis regulation act passes will no longer be crimes aren’t suffering the negative impacts of that,” Sen. Katy Duhigg, an Albuquerque Democrat who is one of five sponsors of the bill, said. Among the numerous amendments adopted in the committee were to remove the role of the Attorney General in reviewing cases of those incarcerated to have the cannabis-related portions of their convictions removed from their conviction and one that would clarify that only the portions of records related to cannabis would be removed from the record.

More contentious debates over cannabis legalization expected during the special session

The New Mexico Legislature is slated to start a special session Tuesday to address economic development and full cannabis legalization. But there is still a question of how much support cannabis legalization will garner from both Republicans and Democrats. 

About an hour after the regular 2021 legislative session ended, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, flanked by Democratic legislative leaders in a news conference, announced that she would call legislators back for a special session to pick up where they left off with recreational-use cannabis legalization. The session started out with five legalization bills, but by the last week there was only one proposal: HB 12. Sponsored by Democratic Reps. Javier Martínez of Albuquerque and Andrea Romero of Santa Fe, HB 12 quickly became the favored bill for many Democrats, but hit a rough patch as it passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.