Pending cannabis card requests denied after law change

It seems a “typographic error” is to blame for confusion among some who tried to enroll in the state’s Medical Cannabis Program. 

But besides an incorrect date, the letters themselves also added to the confusion for some who sought to become medical cannabis patients. The program sent a number of denial letters to potential patients who failed to provide proof of New Mexico residency. That’s because their applications were not processed in time.  

Last fall a state district court judge ordered the program to issue patient cards to those who had an approved qualified condition, regardless of whether or not they live in New Mexico. In less than six months, more than 600 people from outside New Mexico managed to get medical cannabis patient cards before Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a law which specifies the program is only for New Mexico residents. But two patients who reached out to NM Political Report said they were confused by the date on a letter requesting proof of residency sent by the program.   

“Our agency cannot process your application until we have received a New Mexico driver’s license or a New Mexico identification card in your name and a New Mexico mailing address,” the letters read. 

But the two letters NM Political Report reviewed were dated January 20, 2020, about a month before Lujan Grisham signed the law change.

Governor signs senior dignity fund into law

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed three bills into law Tuesday, including legislation aimed at improving services for seniors as a growing elderly population and rising costs have made it more difficult for New Mexico to meet needs. 

House Bill 225 sets up the Kiki Saavedra Senior Dignity Fund, which is named after a longtime state representative from Albuquerque. It will help address services like transportation, food insecurity, physical and behavioral health, case management and caregiving. The law, which goes into effect May 20, is designed to help New Mexico boost services, given the state is expected to have the fourth-largest senior population in the U.S. by 2030. The governor’s original proposal called for $25 million for the fund, but the budget bill passed by the Legislature only appropriated $7.3 million. The Aging and Long-Term Services Department will be able to request a maximum of $3 million in the fund’s first year, the agency said.

Lujan Grisham signs ‘red flag’ gun bill into law

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the extreme risk protection order, or ‘red flag,’ bill into law Tuesday, continuing the shift of gun laws since she was elected. New Mexico is now the 18th state, plus Washington D.C., with such a law on the books. The bill was one of the governor’s legislative priorities for this session and one of the most controversial pieces of legislation. No Republicans in either chamber supported the legislation, and it passed the House by nine votes before narrowly clearing the Senate by just two votes. The bill would allow law enforcement officers to petition a court for temporary removal of firearms from those who they believe are at risk of harming themselves or others. 

“New Mexico has balanced individual rights and public safety in a responsible way that will reduce our unacceptable suicide rate and other forms of gun violence,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement after signing the bill into law.

Governor appears open to exploring salaries for NM legislators

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham sounded a favorable tone Thursday about exploring the possibility of allowing New Mexico lawmakers to earn a salary. An independent body should take a look at the issue, she said. Speaking at a news conference just after the close of the legislative session, Lujan Grisham said it was difficult for state lawmakers to do their work because most of them don’t have staff. “New Mexico needs to take a hard look,” the governor said. “We make it nearly impossible for people to serve.

Five takeaways from the 2020 legislative session

Fourth floor diplomacy

Before the session, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said her strategy for the session — and governance in general — was to employ diplomacy and compromise with legislators to win support for her initiatives. It sounded like a fuzzy talking point at the time. It turned out to be largely true. A number of the bills Lujan Grisham prioritized during the session did indeed pass, but important ones didn’t, such as recreational cannabis. And her marquee Opportunity Scholarship proposal, announced with much fanfare last year, was scaled down in a big way.

Lujan Grisham hails ‘really productive’ session

New Mexico’s 54th Legislature wrapped up Thursday amid congratulatory hugs and news conferences — a veneer of good cheer that masked a dose of sleep deprivation, early-morning procedural bickering, and finally, sighs of relief as key bills were passed just hours before the final gavel. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Democratic legislators touted the passage of a number of their priority proposals, including the creation of an early childhood trust fund, passing a high-profile firearms bill and shepherding through the state’s $7.6 billion budget for the 2021 fiscal year. “I think this was a really productive 30-day session,” Lujan Grisham said, surrounded by legislators and cabinet secretaries at a post-session news conference in  the Roundhouse. “We are building something new together. We’re investing for tomorrow and we’re delivering today.”

The governor won passage for the majority of bills she asked legislators to undertake — 80 percent of them, by her own count.

Small wins for cannabis in 2020 legislative session

Cannabis legislation was not a complete loss for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham during this year’s legislative session, but it was far from a complete win. Despite almost a year of work from a group assembled by Lujan Grisham to come up with proposed legislation for cannabis legalization, the proposal she backed failed early on in the session. The only Lujan Grisham-backed proposal that made it to her desk is a bill that would limit enrollment in the state’s Medical Cannabis Program to New Mexico residents. 

During a press conference after the Legislature adjourned on Thursday, Lujan Grisham said she will keep pushing for a safe and comprehensive legalization measure, even if it means changing the state constitution. New Mexico law does not allow for voter initiatives, which is how most states, including Colorado, legalized cannabis. The only way to change law through an election question is to propose a constitutional amendment, and Lujan Grisham said that’s not off the table. 

“I’m open to any number of pathways,” Lujan Grisham told reporters. 

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SB 139, sponsored by Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, was promoted as a fix to legislation that was passed into law last year.

The clean energy bills that cleared the legislature

The 2020 Legislative session finished promptly at noon on Thursday after a week of long nights in debate that resulted in the passage of the number of clean energy bills backed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. However, not every priority passed the legislature this year. Here’s a look at the clean energy bills that made it to the governor’s desk this year, and the ones that didn’t. Solar tax credit: Senate Majority Whip Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, often joked about how many times she sponsored a bill to reinstate the solar tax credit since the credit expired in 2016. “I hate to count how many times the committee’s actually heard [this bill],” Stewart joked with a House committee during the session.

Bill that backers say can help healthcare around the state goes to Guv’s desk

The Senate unanimously passed a bill that will enable pharmacists to be paid for time spent prescribing emergency contraception and hormonal contraception. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk, where it is expected to be signed. Backers say HB 42 will particularly help rural pharmacists and rural patients. Senator Liz Stefanics, D-Cerrillos, who carried the bill in the Senate, said it helps pharmacists because they are paid for filling prescriptions, but they are not paid for the time they spend prescribing medications. Because there are doctor shortages in rural areas in New Mexico, this could help rural patients, say backers of the bill.

Elections cleanup bill never gets Senate vote

A bill to make changes to the state’s elections code never received a vote in the Senate. The bill failed after stalling by opponents of the bill, including a filibuster that lasted nearly two hours. After a lengthy debate on a number of proposed amendments, Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, requested a Call of the Senate. This requires that all senators be in the chambers, with the doors locked by the sergeants at arms. One Senator, Linda Lopez, was already in Albuquerque with a young child and Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth said rather than have her drive back to Santa Fe, they would roll the bill over until later in the morning. 

The Senate did not hear the bill before the end of the session. The bill would have made a series of technical changes to the state election code ahead of this year’s elections.