Cannabis research bill advances

The House Commerce and Economic Development approved a bill that would allow for special licenses to grow, buy, sell or manufacture cannabis for approved research facilities Friday by a 6-3 vote. HB 334, sponsored by Rep. Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, would allow licensed research facilities to grow and transport cannabis and establish a Cannabis Control Division to regulate licensing. The state’s Regulation and Licensing Department (RLD) would oversee the Cannabis Control Division. 

Martínez fielded questions from both Democratic and Republican committee members, but all of the criticisms came from Republicans. Some of those concerns were whether RLD is the best home for the Cannabis Control Department. 

Martínez and his expert witnesses explained to the committee that under current federal law, research facilities can get approval from the Drug Enforcement Agency to grow cannabis, but those researchers must get their plants from the federal agency. If passed, HB 334 would allow New Mexico to issue special research licenses and researchers could grow their own cannabis or buy from another approved facility. 

Rep. Kelly Fajardo, R-Los Lunas, said she didn’t think regulating cannabis is necessarily in the department’s purview.

Guv approves funding for higher-ed, Legislature

Gov. Susana Martinez signed legislation that reinstates funding to the Legislature and higher education— two things she vetoed during the regular session. Martinez also partially vetoed a bill that would have moved money from other funds into the state’s general fund. In her message, Martinez criticized the Legislature for taking money from fund balances “that do not exist.”

“We cannot balance a budget with funny money,” Martinez wrote. Martinez  also vetoed a proposal to increase gas taxes and permits for gas haulers. “I have said since my first day in office that New Mexicans are overtaxed and state government overspends.”

The Legislature is set to reconvene Tuesday to decide whether to override Martinez’s vetoes or adjourn until next year.

Dozens support Planned Parenthood at ABQ vigil

A crowd of people packed the pews at Albuquerque’s First Congregational United Church of Christ Wednesday night to support Planned Parenthood after a gunman shot and killed three people and wounded nine others at a Colorado Springs clinic last week. The event included a candlelight vigil inside the church remembering the three who died during the Planned Parenthood shooting. Among those who spoke were Vicki Cowart, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, House Minority Leader Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, and the Rev. Sue Joiner. Related: Planned Parenthood will rebuild attacked clinic

“We do not have to agree on how we move forward, but we must agree that we will do it without violence,” Joiner said. Reading from prepared statements by the leader of her denomination, Joiner called the Colorado Springs shooting “the byproduct of a collective need to shame women who seek legal, necessary, medical options when considering their reproductive health.”

Robert Dear, the shooter, reportedly said “no more baby parts” to law enforcement after the shooting.

GOP leader wants cops added to NM hate crimes list

Legislators wrestled Wednesday afternoon with the idea of adding cops and law enforcement to the list of protected classes under state hate crime laws. State House Majority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, is carrying the bill as part of a “tough on crime” package endorsed by Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and the House Republican leadership. One GOP lawmaker expressed his skepticism of the idea in a hearing of Gentry’s bill at the interim Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee. “I believe we’ve got laws already on the books that should take care of this,” state Rep. Rick Little, R-Chaparral, told Gentry at the hearing. “A lot of these things go on the judge’s discretion anyway.”

The committee didn’t vote on whether to endorse the bill or not.

When pulling a story from your website doesn’t mean you retract it

KOB-TV is backing off of a controversial story that appeared on the same day news broke that a suspect charged with murder is the son of a New Mexico state representative. Well, kind of. The story, titled “Credibility of State Rep. Stephanie Maez in question,” quoted extensively from an unnamed woman who told the TV station Donovan Maez had been homeless since age 11. Stephanie Maez is the mother of Donovan. Donovan, 18, was arrested on multiple charges Friday evening for the late June killing of Jaydon Chavez-Silver.

NM swims against criminal justice reform tide

The aftermath of a heinous crime that saw a career criminal kill a Rio Rancho police officer is sparking talk of tougher crime laws. Next week, state lawmakers in the interim Courts, Corrections & Justice Committee will hear testimony on a bill to add crimes to New Mexico’s existing “three strikes” law, which assigns mandatory life in prison sentences to convicts of three violent crimes. Yet the local legislative doubling down on “tough on crime” laws—two Republican state representatives are proposing changes that would tighten New Mexico’s three strikes law—comes at a time with strong national momentum in the opposite direction. And it’s Republicans with national ambitions that, in many cases, have been making headlines for this. “Former [Texas] Gov. Rick Perry is going around the country bragging that he closed three prisons,” said state Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, who supports criminal justice reform.

New laws go into effect today

Schools can no longer deny students access to programs because they refuse to take psychotropic medications, references to a key aspect of No Child Left Behind are gone forever in New Mexico public schools and e-cigarettes are now considered tobacco products, according to new state laws that went into effect today. June 19, 2015 marks the day when roughly half of the new legislation passed by state lawmakers in the 2015 session becomes law. In total, 79 new laws are now in place. They include a bill sponsored by state Rep. Nora Espinoza, R-Roswell, called “No Compelled Medication Use For Students.” It bars school administrators and employees from compelling “specific actions by the parent or guardian or require that a student take psychotropic medication,” according to its fiscal impact analysis.