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This Weekend

Check out art, a documentary on school lunch and LEGO sculptures.

Weekend PicksFriday, April 17, 2015 by SFR

Fertile Grounds

This student-organized exhibition explores the erotic, inspired by the theme of indigenous sexuality. Through May 3

More Info >>

Collector's Forum

Lawrence Matthews leads a workshop for anyone who has ever considered buying, selling or caring for fine art or has questions about the inner workings of the art world.

More Info >>


Canutofest

A send-off for Canuto Delgado and donation drive for the Santa Fe Animal Shelter.

More Info >>

Lunch Hour

Santa Fe Farmers' Market Institute presents a screening of this documentary focusing on the country's school lunch programs and public health.

More Info >>


Copy Cat LEGO Structures

Try to memorize and copy these structures in 30 seconds during this fun activity.

More Info >>

The Artoonist

Issa Nyaphaga presents his work as a cartoonist, artist and political activist in his new book along with a special screening of Radio Taboo.

More Info >>




Get more information about how to spend your fun days when you sign up for the SFR Weekend newsletter, delivered to your inbox each Friday afternoon.

Did Griego Commit Perjury?

Questions rasied about his financial disclosures

Local NewsFriday, April 17, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
A month after Phil Griego resigned from the New Mexico Senate in disgrace, the Public Employees Retirement Association is set to start sending him monthly pension checks.
 
Griego, who is being replaced by former Estancia Mayor Ted Barela, tells the Albuquerque Journal he has no qualms about getting the $1,324.09 monthly retirement income, because he doesn’t believe “there was any criminal activity or anything like that” when he collected a $50,000 real estate fee on a real estate transaction he brokered between the New Mexico Department of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources and Galiesto Street Inc's Inn of Five Graces, owned by his friends Ira and Shariff Seret.

While Griego admits he violated provisions in Senate rules, Oath of Office and state Constitution, he insists he’s not a criminal and didn’t break any Governmental Conduct Act laws. But SFR has uncovered a document that shows Griego may have committed perjury, a fourth degree felony in New Mexico.

Public records show that on Feb. 5, Griego filed his annual financial disclosure form with the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Bureau of Elections and Ethics Administration. Those forms require lawmakers to report potential financial conflicts of interest, real estate holdings and other employer information.

Griego included information about working for Excalibur Asset Management Inc. as an associate broker and realtor, listed his rental properties and reporting receiving free office space, worth about $300, from a small technology business in Santa Fe.

But, under penalty of perjury Griego signed his 2015 Financial Disclosure without ever reporting his work representing and assisting the Serets in the deal with the energy department.

Question 11 asks lawmakers to "List each state agency before which you or your spouse represented or assisted a client during the past year". Griego wrote “N/A” – or not applicable.

The form’s last question, asks senators to voluntarily “Provide whatever other financial interest or additional information you believe should be noted to describe potential areas of interest that should be disclosed or (as applicable) you believe or have reason to believe may be affected by your official act."

Video recordings show Griego never voted on the resolution that enabled the sale of the State Parks building in the Barrio de Analco last summer after telling reporters for months he had voted for it. Still, Griego has admitted to recruiting a sponsor to carry the legislation and personally testified in support of the measure.

Government emails SFR received through a public records request also show Griego was actively working with the energy agency to facilitate a review of the sale by the Capital Buildings Planning Commission last spring.

Griego knew he risked perjury when he completed the form. Just above his signature, the form reads: I hearby swear of affirm under penalty of perjury that the foregoing information is true, correct and complete to the best of my knowledge.

Despite knowledge of the senator’s resignation and a stipulated agreement showing conclusively that Griego admitted to brokering the deal with the energy department, it doesn’t look like Secretary of State Dianna Duran intends to refer his financial disclosure form to the New Mexico Attorney General’s office.

Ken Ortiz, a spokesman for Duran, tells SFR questions about perjury related to the Griego’s 2015 form is “outside the scope of this office's authority.”

But that conflicts with specific authority given to Duran in the Governmental Conduct Act, which states, “When faced with suspected violations, the Secretary of State may refer those to outside agencies, such as the attorney general or the appropriate district attorney.”

Ultimately, the act states the attorney general would determine if there is sufficient cause to file a complaint.

SFR asked a representative with Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office if they would accept a referral from Duran. James Hallinan, a spokesman for the attorney general, sent SFR this statement:
"The Office of the Attorney General fully reviews every complaint received and investigates where appropriate. Should the Office of the Attorney General receive a referral relating to this matter, the public can be assured that the complaint will be fully reviewed and appropriate action will be taken."
That frustrates Viki Harrison, the executive director for Common Cause New Mexico.

“Once again, the media is doing the investigative work finding out where there are violations and we have agencies that are tasked with doing this and they should be doing it,” says Harrison.

She doesn’t know why Griego didn’t disclose the fee he earned in 2014, but says lawmakers need to stop “wordsmithing" and answer the questions on the form accurately.

“Being transparent to their constituents is what they’re tasked with doing,” says Harrison, hoping in the future lawmakers will “go beyond” what is asked on the disclosure forms, which she suggests need to be reworded.

“How about just doing more than the bottom line,” she asks.
 
SFR has attached a copy of Griego's 2015 financial disclosure form below. Note: 2015 forms account for financial dealings the year prior year.

Morning Word: Radioactive Leak Could Have Been Prevented

Early warnings were ignored

Morning WordFriday, April 17, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
WIPP will spend more than $1 billion cleaning damage from a radioactive leak that could have been prevented, according to investigators. That, plus we have the latest news from around the state. Read it all before you take off for the weekend.

It's Friday, April 17, 2015

Experts say that the Valentine’s Day 2014 radiation leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad could have been prevented with better management and safety protocols. Cleanup costs could exceed $1 billion.

Read Staci Matlock's piece here. 

Former Sen. Phil A Griego will begin collecting his legislative pension before the end of the month. He still insists he didn’t break any laws. Under a new law, if Griego was prosecuted and convicted for collecting a $50,000 fee related to legislation he pushed, he would forfeit his $1,324 monthly retirement check. Griego may not in the clear yet. Attorney General Hector Balderas’ office indicated Thursday that the situation was still being reviewed.
“The attorney general takes any allegations of public corruption very seriously, and any credible allegations will be fully reviewed and appropriate action will be taken, including those publicly alleged against former Sen. Griego,” Attorney General’s office spokesman James Hallinan said. “We will inform the public of the disposition of the matter once that determination has been made,” he added. 
Dan Boyd has more from Santa Fe. 

US Sen. Martin Heinrich is apologizing for getting federally reimbursed for some personal commuting expenses after they were reported by USA Today. Senate rules prohibit lawmakers from accepting reimbursements for their own commute from home to work, or for other personal trips.

Michael Coleman has details. 

Journalist Justin Horwath is one of the best  at following the money. He checked Gov. Susana Martinez’ latest campaign finance reports and discovered at the same time her staff was saying they didn’t have the funds to donate a contribution from a Texas developer accused of physically assaulting a woman in Nevada to a domestic violence or other nonprofit, that her account had still had $70,000.

Read his story at SFR. 

Navajo Nation voters are headed to the polls next Tuesday to finally vote in the presidential election do-over.

Read more at the Navajo Times. 

Members of that conservative political action committee who want three "progressive" city councilors recalled in Las Cruces are challenging the way the city clerk counted signatures on their recall petitions. Now they want a court to review the process.

Read more at the Las Cruces Sun-News.

US Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, told Veterans Administration Secretary Robert McDonnell he’s still concerned about the long time veterans are waiting to see a doctor or specialist at the Veteran Affairs Medical Centers.
Udall says he and the secretary talked about directing more attention to rural care and coming up with creative ways to fill the doctor and nurse shortfall the VA is dealing with. 
Read it at KRQE.com. 

A federal appeals court will consider lifting an injunction that blocked President Barack Obama’s executive order that shielded millions of immigrants from deportation.

See it at KRQE.com.

After being tossed off the prosecution of two Albuquerque police officers facing murder for killing James Boyd for an apparent conflict of interest, District Attorney Kari Brandenburg has appointed Randi McGinnis as her special prosecutor.

Jeff Proctor provides analysis. 

Meanwhile, KOAT is reporting the district attorney says she’s learned that an Albuquerque Police training cadet may be the person who reported that two officers who are being investigated by the Department of Justice, FBI and New Mexico State Police reportedly beat a homeless man. Brandenburg says people in Albuquerque “do not trust their elected officials.”
“We are in a crisis that I’m not sure we can recover from, if we do, in my lifetime,” she said. 
See more here.  

"Breaking Bad" star Bryan Cranston is back. He’s doing voice work for a New Mexico Tourism advertising campaign to promote its New Mexico Clean and Beautiful program.

Jessica Dryer has the scoop. 

On the eve of marijuana’s high holy day (4/20), CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta says it is time for a marijuana revolution. He thinks the federal government should legalize the drug for medicinal use.
In the piece, Gupta struggles with his own professional journalistic distance and objectivity but ultimately comes out with his boldest declaration on medical pot yet: Journalists shouldn’t take a position. It makes sense. Objectivity is king. But, at some point, open questions do get answered. At some point, contentious issues do get resolved. At some point, common sense prevails. So, here it is: We should legalize medical marijuana. We should do it nationally. And, we should do it now. 
Read more at the Cannabist.

Gov. Chris Christie, R-New Jersey, adamantly disagrees with Gupta’s position. His reefer madness was on full display this week when he stated that he would crack down on recreational marijuana if he's elected president. He also says he's opposed to states profiting from marijuana.

Read it at the Huffington Post.

Christie must be pleased that a federal judge has decided not to remove marijuana from the Drug Enforcement Agency’s schedule of drugs that they contend have no medical benefits.
U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller said during a brief court hearing that she was initially prepared to rule that marijuana should not be a Schedule 1 drug but then decided it was up to Congress to change the law if it wishes. 
Read more here. 

The Albuquerque Isotopes have wrapped up their first homestand. Unfortunately, they couldn’t quite get a series sweep. They lost to Tacoma 3-1 in 11 innings.

Geoff Grammer has highlights. 

What Money?

Records indicate Gov. Susana Martinez misled the public about her campaign's ability to shed contributions made by a Texas developer charged with domestic violence

Local NewsThursday, April 16, 2015 by Justin Horwath
Records show Susana Martinez' campaign had enough money in its bank account to return contributions made by a Texas developer charged by Las Vegas, Nevada, police with physically assaulting a woman in an October 2012 incident. The revelation contradicts public statements made by the Republican governor's spokesman.

Enrique Knell, then a spokesman for the governor, told the Albuquerque Journal in a March article that shedding thousands in contributions donated by the developer, Marcus Hiles, would not be feasible.

On June 3, 2014, Hiles contributed the $10,400 limit to Martinez' campaign, reports show. His wife, Nancy Hiles, also contributed $10,400.

“The campaign has long since ended, and you can’t return money that’s already been spent,” the Journal quoted Knell as saying. 

But new reports filed with the secretary of state's office for the April 15 campaign reporting deadline show that the same day the Journal published Knell's quote, Martinez' committee had roughly $70,000 cash-on-hand. 

Officials with the governor's campaign and administration have not yet returned voicemails and emails left by SFR Wednesday.

The Dallas Morning News reported in early February that Lone Star Republicans, including Gov. Greg Abbott, gave just over $700,000 of Hiles' political contributions "to services for abuse victims throughout Texas" after the paper inquired to leaders about the incident in a Las Vegas hotel. He pleaded guilty to a domestic violence misdemeanor. 

“At no point in time was Governor Abbott or any member of his staff aware of this deeply disturbing incident,” the governor’s press secretary Amelia Chasse told the newspaper. “Governor Abbott believes that any violence against women is deplorable, unacceptable and shameful.”

And Martinez' campaign has returned donations in the past. In October 2013, following inquiries to Martinez' campaign made by SFR, officials said they would return $25,000 in contributions given by the former owner of an abortion clinic chain and his wife. A campaign spokesperson told SFR that Martinez "strongly disagreed" with the racist remarks against Hispanics made by Edward Allred in a 1980 San Diego Union Tribune article.

And Martinez' campaign said that it removed a registered sex offender from the host committee of a fundraiser held in June 2013 when SFR asked about his inclusion on an invite.

Yet Martinez, a former prosecutor, has resisted pressure from legislative Democrats to give Hiles' contributions to anti-domestic violence causes. 

Police records obtained by SFR that document the October 12, 2012, incident allege Hiles slapped, choked and dragged the woman by the hair after a night of drinking that included a stop at Sapphire's Nightclub, a strip club. 

The two, who were in a relationship, took a cab back to the Wynn Las Vegas, a high-rise luxury resort on the Sin City's strip, where he slapped the woman "in the face with the back of his hand," according to the records.  

The police reports, based partly on video surveillance, state Hiles "was seen grabbing [the woman] by her hair and pulling her into the elevator."

"Once inside the room," states the police report, "Marcus began to punch [the woman], drag her by her hair, and choke her. [The woman] stated she went unconscious. She woke up and ran out the room."

Hiles told police "he could not remember the details of the altercation," states the report. 

Hiles did not return SFR's request for comment left with his office Wednesday. His attorney, Lawrence Friedman, did not return a message left Wednesday. 

Friedman, however, told the Dallas Morning News that "his client disputes the police version of the incident and was the victim of an effort to extort money from a wealthy man." The paper quoted Friedman as saying Hiles "did not hit her" and "did not touch her." 

“To be a victim of domestic violence is horrible. Also horrible is being falsely accused of being the perpetrator of domestic violence,” Friedman told the newspaper. “Marcus Hiles is the victim.”

"Through injury severity and footage of the surveillance video," an officer with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department wrote in a report, "Marcus showed to be the primary aggressor."

The report states that video surveillance footage corroborated her story to police that Hiles threw her to the ground in the elevator and stomped on her phone. Injuries on the woman, including scratches to the neck, indicated she had been strangled, according to the report.

Police charged Hiles with battery and domestic violence strangulation and booked him in Clark County Detention Center, records show. He pleaded guilty to a domestic violence misdemeanor in February 2013, reported the Dallas Morning News, while the court dropped a felony domestic violence charge.

On March 12, New Mexico In Depth made the connection that Hiles had also given donations to Republicans in New Mexico. 

In the following weeks, campaign finance reports show, Martinez' campaign committee spent down most of the roughly $70,000 it reported having in the bank when Knell indicated to the Journal otherwise in an article published online on March 17.

Instead of giving Hiles' contributions to anti-domestic violence causes, as with Republicans across Texas, Martinez' campaign reported spending $15,000 on Republican Albuquerque school board candidate Peggy Muller-Aragon on April 1; $7,738 in travel on April 6; $10,000 in contributions to another Martinez political committee, Susana PAC, on April 6; and $21,400 on "professional services" to McCleskey Media Strategies, run by her top political advisor Jay McCleksey, on April 6. 

While it's possible some of those vendors billed for those services prior to the revelations about Hiles, the governor's political machine is still well financed. Susana PAC, which lists the same address as McCleskey Media Strategies, reports a balance of $102,615. 

Also on April 6, Martinez' campaign committee reported giving another $15,000 to Advance New Mexico Now—a Republican super PAC which told state regulators in reports that it received $100,000 from Hiles on August 19, 2014. 

The committee reported on April 13 that it had $27,768 in the bank.

College Opportunity

Santa Fe Community College to launch new tribal scholarship program

Local NewsThursday, April 16, 2015 by Zoe Baillargeon

For local Native American students hoping to attend community college and gain a degree, the road just got a little bit easier. In an effort to promote higher education and the acquisition of college-level degrees among students at local pueblos and tribes, Santa Fe Community College is offering new scholarships.

“We want to provide a network of support,” says Valerie Grimley, student employment manager at SFCC. “We’re able to provide that financial support and give our students one less thing to worry about.”

A memorandum of understanding that is scheduled to be finalized Friday by tribal leaders and SFCC president Randy Grissom encompasses 11 tribes around Northern New Mexico, including the Navajo Nation, and Cochiti and Nambé pueblos. It outlines that the school will distribute about $5,500 each semester to qualifying students nominated by tribal leadership.

Grimley says that the college population includes about 250 Native American students, but there are issues with retention due to cost and the fact that attending college causes separates students from their families, as well as traditional cultural and religious events, such as dances, back home.

“A lot of us in the Native American community have strong family ties, and that can be something that prevents us from pursuing higher education,” says Grimley, who is a member of Cochiti Pueblo. “We’re trying to create that support system here on campus so that our students feel comfortable.”

The scholarships are open to students of all ages and across all degree programs, and each tribe can nominate either one full-time student or two part-time students for the financial aid. In order to be eligible, students must be enrolled and have at least a 2.0 GPA. Then the individual tribe’s education committee will award the scholarship based on need.

“It’s a huge collaboration between the tribes and us,” says Grimley.

The money, she says, is coming from the SFCC Foundation and will average around $500 for a full-time student and $250 each for the part-time students. The agreement also permits tribes to transfer their award money to students from other communities that may have multiple eligible students in a given semester.

Whereas the deadline for regular scholarship applications at SFCC is May 22, the new tribal program won’t issue awards until about three weeks into the next semester.  

Kevin Lewis, the director of education at Cochiti Pueblo, is optimistic about the agreement and the effect it can have for students.

“If we can alleviate some of the financial costs for our students with the memorandum of understanding, they may be more inclined to attend college,” says Lewis.

With Cochiti situated in a rural area outside Santa Fe, Lewis says that some of the main issues affecting a student’s decision to attend college is the cost of transportation and access to Internet for homework and research. With the scholarship money, Lewis says students can have more funds for transportation and access to educational resources.

Grimley hopes that, if the scholarship program is a success, it can expand to include more tribes around the state. 

Morning Word: Balderas Opposes Solar Fees

Attorney general requests review of PNM’s rate proposal

Morning WordThursday, April 16, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
Rain or shine, solar-powered energy is booming in New Mexico. As the industry grows, it faces tough challenges. Now, it looks like they may have the state's top consumer protection agency on their side. That, plus fresh water in Lea County could be harder to conserve if a potash mining company starts using up billions of gallons.

It's Thursday, April 16, 2015

A proposal by PNM to have solar system owners pay the investor-owned utility a fee to support its electrical grid has hit another roadblock. New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas says he wants the Public Regulation Commission to “investigate the impact of distributed generation on the utility system in New Mexico, including a full examination of its associated costs and benefits.”
PNM wants homeowners with small solar systems to pay what the utility says is their fair share for the fixed costs of maintaining the electric grid, which continues to provide electricity to them when the sun isn’t shining. But industry representatives say the fee–which could range from about $21 per month for small systems to $36 or more for the larger ones that many homeowners are now installing–could undermine the economic benefits of going solar and knock the wind out of a burgeoning industry. 
Read it at the Albuquerque Journal. 

Meanwhile, people who wanted Gov. Susana Martinez to extend the state’s solar tax credit want to know why she pocket-vetoed the measure.

Read more at New Mexico Political Report. 

Officials with the Department of Homeland Security say rumors that ISIS terrorists are building a camp adjacent to the New Mexico border with Mexico are not true.

See it at KOB.com. 

If you’re still concerned about the dwindling number of police officers in your community, you might consider what some folks in Albuquerque are doing: hiring private security patrols.

See it at KRQE.com. 

Yesterday, we wrote about Equal Pay Day and the absolute necessity to close the gender pay gap. Getting laws on the books could take awhile, but students at the University of New Mexico are taking some long-overdue steps to make language in their constitution gender-neutral.
ASUNM President Rachel Williams said she sees the amendment as a big step towards campus-wide inclusiveness for students who may want to serve in ASUNM to feel more welcome. “It’s about comfort at the end of the day,” she said. “Should we have a student who does identify as gender-neutral who comes into ASUNM and is participating any way [not feel] like the Constitution is binary and exclusive and they don’t really feel like they’re as much as a part of it as they could be just because a couple of words that are very obviously easily changed?” 
Read more at the Daily Lobo. 

On the same day that President Barack Obama announced he was removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terror, there are more calls from New Mexico’s congressional delegation and governor to request the extradition of a New Mexico fugitive living on the island.

There was no immediate word whether Charlie Hill, an elusive fugitive wanted for murder in the 1971 death of New Mexico State patrolman Robert Rosenbloom, would be included in the talks. New Mexico officials since the thawing of relations have insisted that Hill, who hijacked a plane to Cuba more than 40 years ago after killing Rosenbloom, be returned to face trial.


Gov. Susana Martinez spent part of Wednesday in Mexico celebrating the opening of a highway bypass project that officials hope will boost trade throughout the border region. In February, Martinez announced that 2014 was a record-breaking year of export growth in New Mexico. That included exports to Mexico, which reached an all-time high of $1.5 billion.

Read it at the Las Cruces Sun-News. 

New Mexicans for a Better Tomorrow, a conservation political action committee in Las Cruces, spent $54,000 in their failed effort to recall three city councilors.

Diana Alba Soular reviewed the campaign finance reports. 

A plan by a potash mining company to use more than 3 billion gallons of water has upset officials in Lea County, who say the large amount of water "could jeopardize access to clean water for residents who already are being urged to conserve.”
At a rate of 3,000 gallons per minute, [Commissioner Ron] Black estimated that under the proposal, the water usage would amount to 180,000 gallons an hour, or more than 4 million gallons a day. “That water would be lost forever,” Black said. “If they’re having to use freshwater, that really bothers me."
More at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

Tensions are rising between officials in Rio Rancho and Sandoval County, as some in the state’s fastest-growing city consider forming their own county.

More at the Albuquerque Journal. 

As Eldorado High School quarterback Zach Gentry prepares to graduate next month and head off to play football in Michigan later this summer, he’s learning competition to land the starting job will be stiff.

James Yodice has the story

Morning Word: Luján Presses for Fair Pay

Why do women continue to earn less than men?

Morning WordWednesday, April 15, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr
It seems ridiculous in this day and age to still have a gender-based pay gap, but without legislation, it could take women decades to catch up. That, plus disappointing news about SpaceX's recent landing test.

It's Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Today may be Tax Day, but yesterday was Equal Pay Day. That’s the day professional women finally catch up to the wages earned by men the year before. The gap needs to be closed, but unless measures like the Paycheck Fairness Act, co-sponsored by US Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM, are adopted soon, it could take until 2058 for women to catch up. By any measure, that’s unfair.
In New Mexico, women earn 82 cents for every dollar that a man does. While this is slightly higher than the national average, it still represents a gap of more than $7,700 every year. For Latinas and African American women, the wage gap is even worse. Latinas make 56 cents for every dollar earned by a white, non-Hispanic man, and African American women make 64 cents. A study by the National Women’s Law Center found that in 108 of 111 occupations analyzed, the earnings of women were less than the earnings of men. 
Luján says his bill requires employers to show that pay disparity is “truly related to job performance, not gender; strengthens remedies for women experiencing pay discrimination; prohibits employer retaliation for sharing salary information with coworkers; and empowers women in the workplace through a grant program to strengthen salary negotiation and other workplace skills.”

Read more about pay disparities at the Pew Research Center. 

Santa Fe City Councilor Carmichael Dominguez says the state auditor’s office should prepare a forensic audit on the city’s $30 million park bond. The funds, approved by voters seven years ago, have been “riddled with poor oversight and shoddy accounting.”

Daniel Chacón has more on the audit here. 

SpaceX’s new $2 million vertical launch pad and support facilities at Spaceport America won’t be put to the test anytime soon after company’s Falcon 9 tipped over after landing on a barge in the ocean earlier this week.

Read more at the Albuquerque Journal. 

More than 3,700 people have signed a petition urging the University of New Mexico Foundation to stop investing its endowment funds in fossil fuel-related investments.
Divestment, Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, told the regents, “would not in any way hurt the university financially.” It would, however, issue “a clear statement that this research university…recognizes the hard scientific facts. It’s time to make that kind of statement.” 
The industry contends that the entire global economy depends on fossil fuels.
“They call for divestiture but offer no alternative transportation options,” said Wally Drangmeister, a vice president of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. “I think they have a pretty slanted view of things. It’s easy to criticize things, but their arguments are pretty emotional and are rarely based on practical alternatives.” 
Mike Bush has more. 

Teresa Padilla, the wife of the late boxing champ Johnny Tapia, claims Jerry Padilla isn’t really Tapia’s biological father, and she’s suing him to prevent him from profiting from the former champ's name and likeness.

Read it at KOB. 

The former mayor of Estancia will be sworn into the Senate on Friday. Ted Barela was selected by Gov. Susana Martinez to replace Phil Griego, who resigned his District 39 seat last month after an ethics investigation determined commissions he earned brokering a real estate deal violated Senate rules and provisions in the state’s constitution.

Read more about it at New Mexico Political Report. 

Political blogger Joe Monahan says, “Mayor [Richard] Berry's nomination of Jessica Hernandez as city attorney gives the laid-back ABQ City Council a chance to ask some pointed questions about APD."

Read his take here. 

The governor has a new public information officer. Chris Sanchez, a well-known Republican political operative, will direct communication efforts for the administration. He replaces Enrique Knell, who’s headed to the Regulation and Licensing Department to manage boards and commissions.

Read more at the Santa Fe New Mexican. 

Pressure continues to build for the governor to call a special session to deal with capital outlay funding.

Matthew Reichbach has the latest on the political saga. 

Political action committees, according to the latest campaign finance reports filed with the New Mexico Secretary of State’s office, continue to raise and spend money in New Mexico, albeit it a lot less money than during last fall’s general election cycle.

Read more at the Las Cruces Sun-News. 

A Santa Fe psychiatrist was back in district court earlier this week. Carola Kieve contends that health department regulators should not have imposed burdensome rules for some medical marijuana patients.
Kieve’s attorney, Brian Egolf, argued that the department abuses its authority in two ways: by requiring physicians who certify patients for the Medical Cannabis Program to attest that the patients unsuccessfully tried standard treatments first and by requiring more documentation from people with certain conditions—including post-traumatic stress disorder—than it does from people with other conditions. 
Reporter Phaedra Haywood was in the courtroom. 

SFR has put together an entire issue focused on reforming marijuana laws in New Mexico.

Get the dope on the changing weed scene here. 

A new poll shows that more than half of all Americans support legalizing marijuana.

Read it at here. 

We don’t think Judge Judy [Sheindlin] will tell graduating seniors in Shiprock to smoke pot. The television courtroom drama queen is headed to New Mexico to deliver a high school commencement address next month. 

Read more at the Farmington Daily Times. 

You won’t become as famous as Judge Judy, but you have a chance to be in Independence Day Forever. Casting directors say they pay extras $72 a day, plus overtime.

Read more at ABQ Business First. 

The Albuquerque Isotopes picked up their second straight win, beating Tacoma at home last night, 6-5.

Read the game stats here.


Congratulations are also in order for Karen. The ABQ Bio Park’s 13-year-old Nile hippopotamus gave birth to a baby hippo on Tuesday.

See video of mom and baby together on YouTube. 

Green Gold

Colorado’s pot boom brings in cash, but less than they thought

The Weed IssueWednesday, April 15, 2015 by Justin Horwath

After Colorado voters approved the legalization of marijuana, observers wondered how the state would tax and regulate its sale.

“We realized very fast that we were the only ones in the world taking it on,” says Daria Serna, communications director for the Colorado Department of Revenue.

The department asked state lawmakers to fund another communications position if Proposition AA, which called for taxing pot sales, passed in November 2013.

Voters approved the measure, and the new worker came on board. And as predicted, Colorado communications officials have kept busy, fielding media requests from all corners of the world. Serna, a former reporter, found herself educating representatives of far-flung countries about just how voters in a US state are able to legalize the sale of a plant that’s still considered an illegal narcotic by the federal government.

“Other countries don’t do things that way,” she says.

The Great Recession choked revenues to governments across the nation. New Mexico has been slower than most to get out from that chokehold. When Colorado became the first state to legalize and tax pot, advocates here looked to the Land of Enchantment’s northern neighbor with envy about the cash that recreational sales could bring to state coffers.

But is Colorado’s weed boom really as green as it’s made out to be? The first year of its great marijuana experiment offers some lessons.

"For every dollar, you’re giving a dime to the state."

State officials initially overestimated how much tax revenue Colorado would get from marijuana sales in 2014, due to a slower-than-anticipated rollout of recreational stores and the “difficulty in predicting the size of a brand-new market for a previously illegal product,” wrote the state’s Legislative Council staff in a December 2014 report.

Last year, according to a January Department of Revenue report, Colorado collected $37.7 million from the three sales taxes imposed on recreational marijuana sales. Meanwhile, according to the report, the state also collected $3.1 million in licensing and fees from new recreational-use businesses. (Serna says the department now estimates the revenue from the sales last year topped $52.6 million, but a breakdown of the exact revenue sources for the figure wasn’t immediately available.)

New Mexico state Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, calls tax revenue like that a potential “shot in the arm” for New Mexico. The cash that Colorado collected, according the January report in 2014, constitutes 1.4 percent of the $2.6 billion in revenue New Mexico generates from all of its state taxes.

Ortiz y Pino points to other savings that could re sult in legalization. “We’re spending so much money on enforcement and prosecution and court time and then in jail time and prison time,” he says of marijuana-related offenses.

In Colorado, voters must approve state sales taxes, and Proposition AA asked them to pass a 15 percent excise tax on the sale of marijuana from growers to sellers, as well as a 10 percent sales tax on retail sales of marijuana at the counters of recreational shops. The first $40 million of the 15 percent excise tax is dedicated toward school construction projects. Yet, revenues for that part of the tax only reached about $10.3 million.

For every dollar, you’re giving a dime to the state.

New small-business owners like Robert Schultz, who opened a recreational retail shop in Trinidad in November, also face local taxes. Schultz says the costs can add up for Trinidad’s Higher Calling U, the first recreational shop to open in Las Animas County. “I’d say it’s too high, especially at the state level,” he says of the taxes. “For every dollar, you’re giving a dime to the state.”

Some point to evidence that overtaxing legal weed will drive customers to the black market if prices become too steep. That not only presents potential legal woes for buyers and sellers; the state obviously doesn’t see any tax dollars from street sales.

Schulz, who also owns a construction company in the storied western town that’s just across the New Mexico border on I-25, converted an old Pepsi distribution warehouse into a retail shop that currently sells recreational marijuana products. When it opened, Schulz hired 12 employees, he says, most of them in full-time positions. He sees other positive economic impacts of legalization, such as the tourism that it brings to Trinidad, particularly from nearby

ski areas. And he tells stories of travelers who move from states like California to work in Colorado’s budding industry. The Denver Post’s pot publication, The Cannabist, lists 384 businesses throughout the state on its dispensary and shop master list.

Legalization opponents argue that recreational marijuana might also have the impact of discouraging some potential tourists. They also point to new burdens placed on the criminal justice system, like preventing legally purchased weed from getting in the hands of minors.

Even if those local governments have a new pot of money from taxing marijuana sales, collecting that cash hasn’t always been easy, especially with banks’ reluctance to work with recreational sellers. Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz, the county clerk in Pueblo, about 300 miles north of Santa Fe, says that the recreational dispensaries in his county have been paying the sales tax with cash. Banks have refused to deposit the retailers’ money.

“I’m a little nervous talking about this,” Ortiz says, “but it can be a lot of money.”

Of roughly $1 million in sales made by 11 marijuana merchants within its jurisdiction, according to a spreadsheet provided by Ortiz, Pueblo County netted $36,669 from its own 3.5 percent sales tax in 2014.

New Mexico cities and counties that rely on fluctuating tax revenue might be envious of Ortiz’ security problem. Still, advocates here aren’t hopeful that legalization will get far in the current political climate, which features a Republican governor (and former prosecutor) who opposes legalization and a Legislature with some Democrats, particularly from rural districts, who bristle at the idea of recreational marijuana sales in the state.

Insiders say reform might have better chances in 2018, when the political climate could shift. By then, some say more states will have legalized pot, making the prospect of a Colorado-like green boom less likely as the novelty of smoking weed legally wears off.

“I like to compare it to Las Vegas when they were the only ones who had gambling,” says Schultz, the Trinidad recreational seller. “Everybody went to Vegas to party and gamble. It is a boom, and we’re taking advantage of it until the rest of the country wakes up and says, ‘Wow, look at what they’re doing. Why can’t we do this?’”


Strained Love

When it comes to choosing the right cannabis strain, you’re your own best judge

The Weed IssueWednesday, April 15, 2015 by SFR

Before I came to medical cannabis I had a limited perception about using the herb as a medical remedy; like a lot of folks, I thought it was purely about getting high. With a qualifying diagnosis from a doctor a few years back, however, I began a journey of healing with medical cannabis. Plus, now I get to go shopping without fear.

(Well, almost without fear. At the last minute, I asked SFR not to identify me as the author of this essay.)

My chickening out not withstanding, there are good things happening for medical cannabis patients in New Mexico. The dispensary experience is restricted to card-carrying patients, and laws limiting plant counts mean we will never see the huge variety of strains available to our neighbors in Colorado. Yet, there is a positive twist: The strains we see on offer at the dispensary are all highly selected, well grown out, lovingly manicured and sealed in tamper-resistant packaging.

Blue Dream

Santa Fe patients have a handful of local dispensaries to choose from. Lately, New Mexico Top Organics is among my favorites. All the strains on offer are displayed in wide-mouth glass jars. The patient is encouraged to visually inspect and smell the buds. To me, this is the best part of the trip. The aromatherapy alone is hugely rewarding; all the terpenes, the major olfactory components, come rushing up out of the jar, lighting up pleasure centers in the brain. Citrus and pine, rose petals and wine! I definitely follow my nose when opting for one strain over another.

What other factors should one consider? Get to the heart of the two basic kind of cannabis: sativa and indica. It’s still not a simple descriptor, but strain geeks generally prize the sativa plants for their mood-elevating and energy-boosting properties. Indica fans cite the body effects and anxietyquelling effects of their favorite indica strains.

Really, the only way to learn how you react to a particular strain is to try it. A couple of the Top Organics buds that I find helpful are great examples of the difference. So here’s a quick matchup of Blue Dream, a sativa-dominant plant, versus Tangerine Kush, an indicadominant offering. Labels say both buds contain 17 percent THC.

Tangerine Kush

Like our New Mexico blue corn, Blue Dream really is blue. Actually, it’s mostly the stem and shade leaves that turn blue as the plant matures, but the buds exhibit a Persian lime green, almost like an evergreen. On the nose, we find fresh lavender, blueberries, and a kerosene smell, often referred to as diesel. The oily nose effect promises a complex smoke, and Blue Dream delivers on the promise. There is a huge-mouth filling roundness upon inhalation, with floral high notes and a long mint finish. I felt an immediate rollicking high, with a decided sativa daydream follow-through.

Compare this to Tangerine Kush, which presents a frosty key lime color with excellent resin development and a distinct citrus aroma, paired with a mild sort of barnyard funk, referred to as sour. This should not be thought of as a negative; it’s simply a characteristic of certain plant strains. Tangerine Kush smoke proves the point; there is no wildness or funk on the palate. The sparkling citrus upon inhalation morphs into a lingering orange liqueur finish.

Tangerine Kush is scarcely one dimensional; it’s a complex mixture of fruit and resin-y hashish flavors, typical of these Hindu Kush-derived strains. I found this indica-dominant strain to be grounding and centering in its effect, like stepping out of the summer heat and into a shaded grove.

Before conducting this like-for-like comparison, I was certain that I would prefer the racy exoticism of Blue Dream. What I found was that sometimes a racy sativa is just too much for everyday medicine. But for creativity, thinking outside the box (way outside) and just plain fun, Blue Dream is the bomb. I’ll be the guy smoking it at this summer’s Rave on the Mesa. For dealing with the workaday world, its sorrows and challenges, I’ll take the kush.


Just What the Doctor Ordered

Getting a green card and knowing how to use it

The Weed IssueWednesday, April 15, 2015 by Peter St. Cyr

Until (and unless) the prohibition on marijuana ends here, legal access only comes through the state’s Medical Cannabis Program. But be advised that getting registered isn’t easy, and faking an illness probably won’t work.

Even legitimate patients with one of 21 qualifying conditions—including cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain—can have a difficult time getting clinicians to sign off on their state health department paperwork.

Since 2007, more than 13,300 patients have received their “green” cards, but fewer than 900 health care workers in New Mexico have certified patients in the program.

Cannabis, it seems, remains a political football, with patients stuck in the middle.

Patient advocates say that’s because medical schools are not teaching students about the human body’s endocannabinoid system, and medical residents finish their rounds without understanding the medicinal value of marijuana.

Tim Scott, the founder and president of the New Mexico Cannabis Patients Alliance, thinks doctors believe their patients “just want to get high.”

Scott isn’t just an organizer, he’s a patient too.

Diagnosed with painful peripheral neuropathy brought on by irreversible diabetes, Scott says when he got tired of having needles injected into his spine, his doctor refused to help him get legal pot.

“A lot of hospitals and medical groups refuse to allow their doctors to participate because they get federal funding,” says Scott. “What’s worse, if they find out you’re using medical cannabis, they won’t treat you anymore.”

That may be true at some clinics and hospital around the state and at the Veterans Administration hospital in Albuquerque, but doctors at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe are allowed to use their judgment and recommend patients use cannabis.

Mandi Kane, a hospital spokeswoman, says the hospital doesn’t turn away its patients who use pot and says the hospital’s doctors have an “obligation to provide care under independent discretion.”

Dr. Steve Jenison, who was just reappointed to the Medical Advisory Board by state Health Secretary Retta Ward, thinks the situation with clinicians is improving. Jenison says he personally wishes that more health care workers were aware of a court decision that affirmed a physician’s right to recommend medical marijuana without government in terference.

But those opinions, he tells SFR, are his own, and he’s “not speaking as a board member.”

He’d like to see the state health department, which has produced five community outreach programs to inform both patients and clinicians about program regulations since last August, provide more training. Jenison says that could give doctors more confidence to certify their patients.

“As long as medical providers are conscientious about spending time with their patients, perform relevant physical exams, review a patient’s complete medical record and establish a physician-patient relationship, they probably won’t have a problem,” he says.

Most Active Qualifying Medical Conditions

While post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain sufferers make up the majority of patients certified by the New Mexico Department of Health, officials have approved 21 conditions that qualify for the “green card.”

Jenison, who served as medical director for the state’s cannabis program, tells SFR he plans to discuss some lingering issues at the advisory board’s next meeting on May 1 in Santa Fe, including a rule that requires chronic pain patients to be certified by a pain specialist or a clinician with expertise in the disease that’s causing the pain.

Jenison also wants a discussion about whether patients should have to undergo traditional treatment and drug regimens before being allowed to use cannabis, especially if a practitioner determines those treatments, which can lead to opiate pill addiction or overdose death, could be harmful to a patient’s health.

Scott says he hopes the health department listens to the board and considers public comments. When he decided to register for the program, he relied on word-of-mouth recommendations to find a compassionate doctor.

It’s not impossible to find someone to certify new patients. You can even find providers and patient consultants online. But be warned: Some of those services, Scott says, have a shady reputation.

“I wouldn’t call them card farms, but some are more professional than others,” he notes, adding some groups charge patients steep fees to refer them to a doctor.

SFR discovered that a few of the state’s 23 licensed producers are willing to help out. Len Goodman’s family-run NewMexiCann Natural Medicine has partnered with two providers who visit with patients at their dispensaries.

Nurse practitioner Lori Frohe, who owns Mindful Medicine Behavioral Health Care, just started seeing patients at Goodman’s new location in Taos, where patients she met earlier this month expressed frustration that their own providers wouldn’t certify them.

“Many patients have been using marijuana illegally for years to treat their PTSD symptoms,” says Frohe, adding her patients simply want the health benefits from legal cannabis.

Even when you find a provider, don’t expect your certification to be cheap or quick. Expect to pay $180 to $300 for your initial registration plus perhaps another $100 every year for renewal forms. That amount doesn’t include any medical tests, which can often cost more than $1,000. Oh, and insurance companies don’t cover this cost or reimburse for cannabis the way they do for prescription drugs.

Once you’re enrolled in the program, the “high” life doesn’t get much easier.

A medical card doesn’t give patients carte blanche to smoke wherever they want. You could be arrested if you spark a joint or bowl in public. That’s why many patients purchase edible candy and snacks. The cannabis-infused products provide relief and can be consumed almost anywhere. It’s still risky for patients to fly with their medications or cross state lines. If you want to purchase legal weed in other states, the health department tells SFR it’s not sure which states, if any, recognize New Mexico’s patient cards.

While state law provides some civil and some criminal immunity, your landlord can still kick you out of your apartment, especially on properties that participate in Section 8 housing programs, since they’re funded by the federal government. Even your boss can fire you if you test positive for cannabis or catches you coming back from lunch medicated. Medical cannabis may be authorized by statute, but the State Personnel Office fired one of its government employees after she disclosed her use of cannabis, and other workers have met similar fate.

FOR MORE INFO, visit nmhealth.org/about/mcp



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