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Morning Word: Now We Wait

Morning WordFriday, May 26, 2017 by Matt Grubs

Lawmakers await governor's action
The state Legislature sent four bills to the governor before recessing for the holiday weekend. They include a budget bill that is nearly identical to the one from which she vetoed $744 million in higher education funding and the budget for the Legislature itself. They also approved a plan to use one-time money to patch part of a roughly $100 million budget hole next year. The governor actually said she was pleased with some of the work, though she promised to veto any tax increases—which the other two bills address. She has until Monday to act on the legislation. Lawmakers come back Tuesday to see what's left to be done. 

Tax reform bill dies
It at least got a hearing, but Rep. Jason Harper's 430-page gross receipts tax reform bill was doomed from the start, as Speaker of the House Brian Egolf said the measure arrived too late for lawmakers to give it a thorough once-over. A House committee tabled it yesterday. Harper's plan would have lowered the tax consumers pay on everyday purchases, but it also would have increased the tax on health insurance premiums and on buying a car. The budget passed by lawmakers includes $400,000 to study Harper's plan.

Attorney General investigates Krebs, UNM golf junket
There's more blowback for the University of New Mexico's Athletics Department after a KRQE investigation found department head Paul Krebs and his underlings took a cushy fundraising trip to golf in Scotland—and didn't disclose they used $24,000 in taxpayer money to woo private executives. The attorney general is now investigating the possibility that spending violates state law. Let us know if you see Krebs on the golf course this weekend.

Phoenix flight may wean itself from subsidies
The public-private Northern New Mexico Air Alliance says new jet service by American Airlines from Phoenix to Santa Fe is likely to be profitable enough for the airline to not need make-good payments promised by the group. The flight started in December and winter passenger loads lagged, but spring numbers are looking up. The Phoenix flight is an important link to the west, since Santa Fe lost its non-stop flight to Los Angeles. 

Wrong guy
Phillip Armijo is suing the city of Santa Fe after police arrested him and tossed him in jail on an outstanding warrant. Armijo knew then what police later learned: The warrant was for his brother, John, who died in 2013.

Oh, bologna
Border Patrol agents seized 14 rolls of Mexican bologna from a driver who passed through an initial checkpoint without admitting the meaty treat was tucked under his back seat, then thought better and declared the stash. Full of drugs? Stripped-down guns? Nope. Bologna from Mexico is banned because of the potential introduce disease into the US pork market. Yum.

Water at the Butte
Too much water at Elephant Butte Reservoir hasn't been much of a problem in the past few years. It won't this year, either, but the lake is 14 feet above where it was last year. Some RV owners who thought they'd grab the best beach spot by parking early learned that the hard way. It's good news for boating, though. And, of course, everyone who likes water—which is everyone.

Get out!
It's going to be a pretty nice holiday weekend. Warmer at the beginning with temperatures falling into next week. There's a chance of storms more or less statewide, so keep an eye on the sky.

Thanks for reading! The Word hopes you're safe this weekend. "Let's pull all of us behind this boat" is usually not a good idea.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Review

Damn, it feels good to be a pirate

Movie ReviewsThursday, May 25, 2017 by Alex De Vore

Johnny Depp and crew are back as Captain Jack Sparrow and a bunch of bafflingly yet inextricably linked seafaring types in the newest installment of Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer’s Pirates franchise. Looks like Jack Sparrow ran afoul of a Spanish captain named Salazar (a wonderfully spooky Javier Bardem) some years ago and, as is the style of these films, that means supernatural curses for some reason and more acrobatic adventure for the likes of the formerly-also-cursed Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), Henry Turner (the son of Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner from previous films as played by the incredibly conventionally handsome Brenton Thwaites from Gods of Egypt) and a brilliant if brash young scientist named Carina (The Maze Runner’s Kaya Scodelario).

Young Henry wants to save his dad from service on the ghost ship Flying Dutchman, but he’ll need the fabled trident of Poseidon’s to do so. According to legend, anyone who’s got that thing is basically the king of the sea. The only catch is that to get that bad boy he’ll need a “map no man can read.” Good thing Carina is a woman (and also conveniently has the map), so they join Jack Sparrow to get that danged artifact while Salazar nips at their heels totally ready to kill everyone cause he straight crazy.

Whereas the series took a bizarre turn many films ago and chooses to favor ghosts and stuff over good old-fashioned pirating, Dead Men isn’t as bad as you’d think. This isn’t to say it’s great by any means—more like you’ll probably never find yourself bored. Depp is … fine as Sparrow, but we’ve of course grown accustomed to his Keith Richards-y bumbling and damn-near-unbelievable ability to piss off every fucking ghost and curse victim throughout the Seven Seas. Bardem is brilliant as always and actually provides a fun villain, it’s just that everything else is fairly predictable at this point. Paul McCartney’s cameo, however, is a pure delight, and we would have watched a whole movie just with him being a goofball. Still, pirates get stabbed, and what else are you doing?

 

6

+ Ghost pirates!
- Ghost pirates…

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg
With Depp, Rush, Bardem, Thwaites and Scodelario
Regal, Violet Crown, PG-13, 129 min.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales opens everywhere 5/26. Purchase your tickets in advance from Fandango and don't get sold out!

Weekend Picks: Indie-Visible

Weekend PicksFriday, May 26, 2017 by SFR

If you're smart, you've already been keeping up to date with the SFR culture calendar. But just in case you haven't, we've got some fine options going down this week—from big-name music acts and down-home artists to DIY spaces who offer up the best and brightest from the culture world. Oh, and also there's a whole mess of food trucks.

Israel Francisco Haros Lopez: The Future is Ancient

Curate Santa Fe teams with Lopez to present selections from his body of work resembling figure drawings and modern meditations on petroglyphs.

More Info >>

Alexandra Eldridge: The Land of Dreams is Better Far

Taking the titled from a William Blake poem, this exhibit presents photographs printed from vintage glass negatives, which Eldridge collages with venetian plaster and other objects. Through June 11.

More Info >>

Future Scars, Chicharra, Psirens and Pitch & Ppoacher

This showcase of Matron Records' ensembles brings Future Scars with their new bassist Paul Wagner, and a collaborative set from Luke Carr and Caitlin Brothers and more.

More Info >>


Cory Metcalf and David Stout: NoiseFold

The one-year anniversary party for the form & concept gallery space brings a new sculptural installation piece, created with glass and video, which will also be part of Currents New Media Festival this summer. Through July 22.

More Info >>

Pinkish Black, The Dying Beds and The Year of the Fist

Three punk acts bring high-energy, rebel rock to the stage at this event hosted by New Mexico Punk.

More Info >>

Oasis Teen Arts and Music Festival: Surfer Blood

Mellow trip-rock with melodic riffs from headliners Surfer Blood with local teen support by Lily Gray, DJ Dontloveme, DJ Oli and more. Snack from food trucks and enjoy an installation by MAKE Santa Fe at the youth fest presented by The Convergence Project.

More Info >>


Street Eats: SFR Food Truck Festival

Savor delectable treats from area food trucks, sit in the sun and think something like, "Aaah, it's finally feeling a little like summer."

More Info >>

Radiator King

Adam Silvestri, aka Radiator King, performs a mixture of punk and blues, influenced by musicians like Tom Waits.

More Info >>

Heather Trost and Max Knouse

Synth rock by Knouse and melodic originals by Trost.

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.

The Fork

All the Fests

The ForkThursday, May 25, 2017 by Michael J Wilson

All the Fests

It's Memorial Day Weekend, y'all. Summer is upon us, and most importantly, this weekend is a time to remember those who have sacrificed their lives in military service. Take a moment to remember those that have died while serving and those that serve every day.

A few statistics for you: The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans says that 11 percent of the homeless population are veterans. They number around 40,000. The highest number of them are Vietnam-era vets, but the numbers of younger homeless is rising. Around 1.4 million other vets are considered at risk for homelessness. The NCHV is a wealth of information on the issue and is a good place to start if you want to find out more.

Let's FORK!


The New Mexico Cocktail & Culture Festival is here! Bars and restaurants in Santa Fe and Albuquerque participate in events and by featuring a signature cocktail that goes head-to-head with the signatures from other restaurants to win "Cocktail of the Year." Winners are announced and presented with a trophy at the Craft Collective and Awards on June 4. HERE is a list of the participating establishments.

As part of the festival there are a bunch of events happening as well.

Thursday, June 1
— 6:30-9:30 pm: Cocktails & Culture Festival Pairing Dinner at Coyote Cafe (132 W Water St., 983-1615)

Friday, June 2
1-2:15 pm: “The Hustle: From Behind Bars to Dream Gig” seminar with Eric ET Tecosky at Skylight (139 W San Francisco St., 982-0775)
— 6-9 pm: Margarita Trail Taco Wars! presented by Tourism Santa Fe, El Tesoro, Patron and Sauza tequilas at the Santa Fe Convention Center (201 W Marcy St., 955-6200)

Saturday, June 3
— 8:30-noon:
Fundraising bike ride supporting bartenders with breast cancer led by Tony Abou Ganim. Starts and ends at Skylight (139 W San Francisco St.)
— 2 and 3:15 pm: Hendrick’s Gin Academy with brand ambassador Mattias Horseman, two 45-minute sessions starting at Skylight (139 W San Francisco St., 982-0775)
— 5:15-7 pm: Dale DeGroff’s VIP cocktail reception and show “On The Town” (monologue, music and mixology!) at the Scottish Rite Temple (463 Paseo de Peralta, 982-4414)
— 7-10 pm: Chef & Shaker Challenge featuring 12 of our area’s most-loved chefs at the Scottish Rite Temple (463 Paseo de Peralta, 982-4414)

Sunday, June 4 
— Noon-1:15 pm: Whiskeys of the World seminar with Bobby G Gleason at Skylight (139 W San Francisco St., 982-0775)
— 2-5 pm: Craft Collective tasting and Cocktail Week Bar Awards at  Skylight (139 W San Francisco St., 982-0775)


Unless you live under a rock, chances are you ate at the Santa Fe Baking Company at least once. When it closed its doors last year many were distraught. Rightfully. The place had a little bit of everything on their ludicrously large menu and you could hang out in the expansive space for hours reading or working on your laptop.

Well, it's back.

The New Baking Company (504 W Cordova Road) is the labor of love of former Baking Co. employee Filiberto Rodriguez and his wife Norma. With the help of Norma's aunt and uncle, Maria and Mark Fehey, Baking Company 2.0 will open in June in the same location with most of the same menu and staff. Read the New Mexican's story about it here. We wish them great luck in the endeavor.


CineFesta Italia 2017 is a unique event that raises awareness of Italian culture through its annual Italian film festival. You can find the full schedule of films that are showing at the Jean Cocteau Cinema (418 Montezuma St., 466-5528), the list and links to tickets for the movies and events is HERE.

Each film is accompanied by an experience at a local restaurant. Friday June 2, Pizzeria da Lino (204 N Guadalupe St., 982-8474) hosts the after party for the 6 pm showing of Le Confessioni at 8 pm. On the buffet: Caesar salad, baked rigatoni with cheese and vegetables, a selection of pizzas and tiramisu, all complemented by Italian wines from Southern Glazier’s Wine and Spirits and beer from the onsite Chili Line Brewery.

Saturday June 3 sees Italian wine tasting sponsored by Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits at Osteria d’Assisi (58 S Federal Place, 986-5858) at 4 pm. There will be four tables of imported Italian wines, each table highlighting specialties of four of Italy’s wine-producing regions. Southern Glazier’s fine wine specialist will be on hand to discuss the selections. Finger foods from Osteria Executive Chef Cristian Pontiggia will compliment the wines.

A screening of L’Attesa follows at 6:30 pm Saturday, and there will be an after party at 10 pm at Cowgirl (319 S Guadalupe St., 982-2565).


A reminder for that the Native Treasures Indian Arts Festival is this Friday-Sunday May 26-28 at the Santa Fe Convention Center (201 W Marcy St.). SFR has partnered with the festival to bring a food truck event to life on that Sunday. From 11 am-2 pm you can get your eat on in the Lincoln Plaza parking lot across from the Convention Center.

Trucks participating include: Dr. Field Goods, Served Santa Fe, Señor Rabbits, SantaFamous Street Eats, Taqueria Gracias Madre, Jambo Cafe, Bonsai Asian Tacos, The S'more Pit and more!


A busy week in Santa Fe! Pick your poison.

See you next week,
Michael


What news do you want to see in this newsletter? We want to hear from you! Let us know! Email thefork@sfreporter.com


Morning Word: Not Bad for Government Work

Morning WordThursday, May 25, 2017 by Matt Grubs

Six-figure spot
The next mayor of Santa Fe will be paid $110,000 annually when the elected office becomes a full-time job in after the March 2018 election. The city's Independent Salary Commission decided on the pay after a contentious meeting last night. The commission had floated a range of $145,000-$175,000, but a public outcry pushed their considerations lower. The mayor will make less than 15 city employees, part of a city salary structure some commissioners called top-heavy. 

Budget bills await governor's action
The Legislature sent two bills to the governor on the first day of the special session. One is essentially an identical bill to the one from which Susana Martinez vetoed the entire budget of the state's Higher Education Department. The other would borrow money from planned construction projects to help cover spending next year. The state's cash reserves are paper-thin unless revenue picks up or the governor signs a tax increase—something she's been adamantly against.

University leaders pipe up
Legislators heard from the higher education community as they considered the bill to restore $744 million in vetoed funding the state's colleges and universities. The veto has affected enrollment, faculty recruiting and accrediting at state schools. Former Republican Governor Garrey Carruthers now leads New Mexico State University said it's simply "not good for the image of New Mexico."

No veto override
Both the House and Senate kicked off the session by unsuccessfully attempting to override the governor's line item vetoes. That would have made it a very short session. After both attempts failed, legislative leaders said the votes could show the Supreme Court that the Legislature had exhausted all its options before once again asking the high court to toss out the governor's vetoes. Earlier this month, justices sent back a petition filed by lawmakers, saying it was premature for the court to weigh in.

FBI raids state tax offices
The Federal Bureau of Investigation paid a visit to the state Tax and Revenue Department yesterday. It's part of an ongoing grand jury investigation into an unnamed department employee who has worked there since 2006. It's not known if that investigation is related to the state investigation of former department secretary Demesia Padilla, which has not produced any charges.

State auditor will review UNM golf junket
Financial staffers from the Office of the State Auditor plan to sift through the records of the University of New Mexico's Athletics Department after KRQE revealed UNM didn't just fork over $40,000 for its own employees to golf posh Scotland courses like St. Andrews and Trump Turnberry. It also paid $24,000 for private business executives to play, too. That could violate the state's anti-donation clause.

Reliable records
More than $318,000 in advertising paid for by lobbyists in 2016 and 2017 went virtually unreported through the state's online records system. It's a massive gap in what the public is able to learn about who is influencing its elected officials. The secretary of state is hoping lawmakers will fork over just less than $1 million to pay for a new system to track those records.

UNM boosts tuition costs
The University of New Mexico will raise tuition for upper-division courses and graduate classes as the school looks to plug gaps in state funding. The hike leaves untouched the fees for more than half the school's undergraduate classes, though it's undoubtedly going to cost more to graduate now.

Thanks for reading! The Word thinks it only makes sense to charge graduates more for the privilege of entering the worst state employment market in the country.

Subscribe to the Morning Word at sfreporter.com/signup.

Not Bad for Government Work

Salary commission votes to pay next mayor $110,000

Local NewsWednesday, May 24, 2017 by Matt Grubs

In a raucous but relatively brief final meeting Wednesday, the city commission tasked with setting the next mayor’s salary decided on $110,000 for a year’s worth of full-time work. The pay will take effect when the next mayor is sworn in on March 12, 2018.

The commission opted to bump the number above a proposed $100,000 salary, but its final decision was still well below the circulated range of $145,000 to $175,000.

“We knew that that was a higher range, and we wanted the public to react to it. I think we thought it genuinely reflected surrounding jurisdictions, took into account the other city employee and county data as we were instructed,” Commissioner Bill Smith told SFR after the meeting. “And we listened and we adjusted course.”

There was plenty for the seven volunteer commissioners to hear. A crowd of about 30 people was largely and vociferously against higher pay for the next mayor.

Several waved black signs with “NO!” printed on them.

“I’m totally ashamed of you,” said Roger Rael, who earlier in the day asked the state Supreme Court for an emergency injunction to prevent the commission’s decision from taking effect. The court hasn’t addressed the matter.

Rael and others frequently called out to commissioners as they debated.

“This is completely unconscionable,” Jim Williamson told commissioners. “Our assets need to be used to build roads and parks. … Unless you’re well-connected, you’re out of luck. It shouldn’t be that way.”

Michael Gallegos, who retired from the human resources bureau at the state’s General Services Department, told commissioners they’d cherry-picked cities in neighboring states that paid their mayors higher salaries.

“Those are high outliers that you have up there,” Gallegos said, noting afterward that the mayors of Boulder, Colorado; Tucson, Arizona; and San Antonio, Texas, make less than Santa Fe’s next mayor will.

“We ask that you not pay a mayor of a city of 70,000 people more than the governor of an entire state,” activist Loveless Johnson III told commissioners.

He got his wish.

Santa Fe’s next mayor will make exactly as much New Mexico’s governor, though minus a taxpayer-funded place to live on the swanky north side of town.

Voters approved both the concept of a full-time mayor and a structure for determining the mayor’s salary in a 2014 amendment to the city charter. The ballot language said the mayor would make $74,000 until and unless an independent salary commission decided otherwise.

Commissioner Stephen Hochberg criticized the ballot language.

“I do think that it was poorly worded and that people could in good conscience say they didn’t understand,” Hochberg said during debate.

Others were less diplomatic.

“This commission was handed a steaming plate of dog crap by the city council,” said Fred Flatt, whose wife Linda Wilder Flatt sat on the salary commission. He was one of just a handful in the audience who praised the commission’s work.

“This is representative government at work. It’s fine. It’s what it’s about,” said Commissioner Smith, who runs the Santa Fe Community Foundation.

Paul Hultin, a local consultant who advocated for the change to a full-time mayor, chaired the commission and said Wednesday’s meeting was “by far” the most contentious. He defended the commission’s actions as well as its methodology in arriving at a number: “We were given a job to do by the ordinance. We followed that and we were given some discretion and we listened to the other board members, which resulted in a compromised and I think a good result for the city.”

The commission will return in a year to reexamine its decision. While the group was powerless to change the structure of city government, several commissioners worried openly at multiple meetings about the recent creation of a deputy city manager position that stands to pay more than $132,000 next year. Both Smith and Linda Wilder Flatt criticized the city’s pay scale as top heavy.

With benefits such as a pension and health insurance added in, the next mayor’s $110,000 salary will cost the city $154,000.

Morning Word: Ready or Not, Here They Come!

Morning WordWednesday, May 24, 2017 by Matt Grubs

Special session begins
The good men and women you've elected to serve you in the state Legislature are back at the Roundhouse for the special session that starts at high noon today. It's a budget showdown and everyone's got one of those Clint Eastwood plate-steel setups from A Fistful of Dollars. The main point of contention is going to be how to pare back a budget that's outpaced the state's revenues. The governor seems dead-set against any overt tax increases, and legislators seem increasingly reluctant to slash next year's budget any further. 

One less thing to do
While tax reform is on the governor's to-do list, that's as far as it's going to go. Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, says he does not plan to take up a 408-page bill by Rep. Jason Harper, R-Rio Rancho, that would dramatically reshape New Mexico's gross receipts tax system. The governor isn't pleased, Harper is disappointed and Egolf says it's likely the Legislature will pass a Republican plan to study the issue for the next session.

Ticket to override
One thing the Speaker of the House did say he planned on doing was give members a chance to override the governor's vetoes of higher education and legislative funding. Speaker Egolf says that when the Supreme Court dismissed a petition to challenge the legality of those vetoes, it noted lawmakers hadn't tried that option. Egolf would have to pick up nine Republicans to pull off an override. Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, wouldn't commit to an override attempt, which his caucus could do without any Republican support.

Gubernatorial marijuana scorecard
SFR's cover story examines the five dispensaries in Santa Fe that serve a booming number of medical marijuana card holders. It's a squeeze the program is feeling in many counties across New Mexico. Aaron Cantú also breaks down the medical and recreational cannabis views of one likely and three declared candidates for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. The issue seems on the cusp of becoming a major legislative debate.

Chan mistrial ... again
A jury once more declared itself at an impasse after three hours of deliberating on the issue of whether Tai Chan committed murder when he shot and killed then-fellow deputy Jeremy Martin at a Las Cruces hotel in October 2014. According to attorneys, the jury seemed to lean more toward a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter, but couldn't agree on that, either. It's unclear if the district attorney will try Chan for a third time. 

Mayoral hopefuls meet
Six people running for Albuquerque mayor faced each other last night in one of the campaign's first public forums. The conversation covered familiar territory like immigration, economic development and police reform. On that topic, all six candidates agreed the police department seems to be dragging its feet on reform and that current police chief Gorden Eden should be fired.

UNM regent Fortner resigns
Jack Fortner, the longest-serving regent at the University of New Mexico, resigned his seat yesterday. He'd agreed to stay on after his term ended because the state Senate hadn't confirmed his replacement. The UNM Board of Regents has become an area of interest for the governor recently, as it's taken on more direct oversight functions of the cash-flush Health Sciences Center.

NM nuke sites benefit under Trump budget
New Mexico's national laboraties, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and other Department of Energy sites around the state would see a $300 million increase under President Trump's proposed budget. The budget shifts $1.4 billion to the National Nuclear Security Administration, taking money away from scientific endeavors at DOE like renewable energy research.

Thanks for reading! The Word thinks the state should create a tax-reform app for your phone, so you can just adjust taxes until you get something you're happy with and then send it back to them. What? We're the only ones who'd download that?

Subscribe to the Morning Word at sfreporter.com/signup.

7 Days

05.24.17

7 DaysWednesday, May 24, 2017 by SFR
1

SFPD WANTS TO SPEND $27K ON SEGWAY SCOOTERS

Apparently we’ve been taking them too seriously up until now.

2

SOUTHSIDE LIBRARY TURNS 10

No joke, we love libraries!

3

STATE INVESTS IN FERTILIZER COMPANY CALLED BAYOTECH

Is that like Baywatch in any way?

4

2,200 BICYCLISTS PEDAL 25-, 50- and 100-MILES IN SANTA FE CENTURY

And their butts are still sore today, we bet.

5

SANTA FE BAKING CO. TO RETURN AS NEW BAKING CO.

Thank. God.

6

JET ONCE OWNED BY ELVIS IS FOR SALE IN ROSWELL

Horrible drug addiction and catalog of songs stolen from black people not included.

7

SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER

When is that new Baywatch movie coming out?


MetroGlyphs

05.24.17

MetroGlyphsWednesday, May 24, 2017 by SFR
Russ Thornton is a Santa Fe local who has replaced his first passion, cooking, with a new love interest, the weekly SFR comic he's created called MetroGlyphs. Reach him at santafechef@hotmail.com.

Dispensary Land

Santa Fe’s five cannabis dispensaries serve a growing patient base

FeaturesWednesday, May 24, 2017 by Aaron Cantú

New Mexico’s medical cannabis program is an ongoing experiment. Long-standing federal limits on research into the plant’s medical uses have forced patients, doctors and dispensary owners to improvise their ways to wellness; meanwhile state regulations keep a lid on unbounded growth the industry might otherwise see.

Number of medical cannabis card holders in Santa Fe County in 2015: 1,934
2016: 3,151

Combined First quarter income for NM Dispensaries, 2017:
$19 Million

There’s virtually no limit to the ways cannabis can be harvested, cultivated, extracted, distilled and consumed, and each body reacts differently to the plant. A joint rolled with a sticky sativa strain might ease your stomach cramps, but cause your friend anxiety; perhaps your brother enjoys slathering a cannabidiol-rich salve on his neck to ease chronic pain, but your grandmother prefers leaning back on the couch and resting her eyes after wolfing down a handful of indica-packed gummy bears.

The state Department of Health reports 4,280 people were medical cannabis card holders in Santa Fe County at the end of April, about a 36 percent increase from one year ago and a 121 percent boost from 2015. Patients in Santa Fe who don’t want to travel far can peruse five local dispensaries, each of which reflects a distinct style. While their locations were once considered protected information and only patients can shop inside, the storefronts hold their own as a new retail sector in the city. And with the number of cardholders in the state climbing past 40,000 and predicted to grow at a rapid pace, dispensaries in Santa Fe and beyond hope to expand their patient base.

There are caps on how many plants each dispensary can grow, however, and some say that regulation, as well as a requirement that they run as nonprofit enterprises, hinder efficiency and keep the supply artificially low. Yet statewide, the industry’s intake is also growing at a brisk pace. First-quarter sales in 2017 were $19 million, a 91 percent rise over the same period in 2016, according to new data from the department.

Employment opportunties at local dispensaries include bud trimming. This worker is at New Mexicann off San Mateo.
The dispensaries that SFR visited have patients that include teachers, doctors, veterans and trauma victims who’ve used cannabis to wean themselves off cocktails of pharmaceutical drugs, and even former DEA agents who keep their personal medical histories closer to their chests. Some dispensary proprietors swear by their own intuitive abilities to heal the sick and comfort the weary, while others pride themselves on more meticulous record-keeping to figure out what works for their patients.

Nearly all offer today’s standard menu of medicine and vessels: edibles like chocolate bars, fruity hard candies and lollipops; glass pipes to smoke the bud; vaporizers for the delicate-lunged; tinctures to drop under your tongue. Because of the state’s plant limit, however, most couldn’t supply the kind of highly-concentrated oils and other specialty products regularly on offer in other states that require a higher plant count to manufacture.

Since SFR’s not a card-carrying patient, we could not sample the offerings. But we did visit all the licensed dispensaries.

SLOW PACE

The lobby of Sacred Garden feels like a social club. On the day of our appointment at the store near Salvador Perez Park, we arrive just in time to see co-owner Zeke Shortes walk in and embrace a boisterous older woman in turquoise, who complained to him of possible tongue cancer as she held his hands; either she was a paid actress or Shortes clearly has a relationship with his patients.

Sacred Garden on Luisa Street brings both the camaraderie and the cannabis.
Liliana Dillingham

Shortes then started a tour through the facility’s kitchen, where we met his lead chef, Mary, who was mixing a bowl of chocolate but was most proud of the gummy worms she’d just cooked up, each packed with about half a joint’s worth of cannabis. Between the lobby and kitchen was the green-tinged selling room, where patients consulted with three young budtenders. Jars of hard candy sat on the glass counters: red strawana mango sativa, indica jalapeno-watermelon squares.

Shortes knew little about cannabis before jumping into the business in 2009, having used it only occasionally before then. He migrated to Santa Fe that year from Austin, where he had worked for a decade at the company Applied Materials, “making systems that make semiconductor chips that make the world go ’round,”—a critical role within the architecture of global capitalism, maybe, but one that left Shortes feeling empty. He also had experience as a food broker at Whole Foods, for which he visited dozens of food manufacturing facilities around the world to convince them to sell food products under the store brand. He also did category analysis for the company, boosting its bottom line by figuring out which products weren’t selling and acting accordingly.

It’s a corporate-heavy background for somebody who now manages a nonprofit health organization, though Shortes has gone on record voicing his displeasure with the health department’s nonprofit requirement. But he has an affinity with his patients, 40 percent of whom he estimates suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (this tracks almost perfectly with the 42 percent of patients statewide who obtained a card for PTSD as of April). Shortes himself had a traumatic experience for which he says he medicates: While visiting family in Austin in 2013, an 18-wheeler slammed into his side of the Toyota Corolla, injuring him and his wife. It was more incentive to stay away from big-city life. He prefers the pace of Santa Fe.

“People move slower, and there’s more camaraderie,” he tells SFR. He smiles when he thinks of the early days in 2009. “At first, we didn’t even have a retail shop, and I was doing deliveries,” he says. “I was probably only growing three genetics at the beginning, and poorly, compared to what we do now.”

Shortes estimates that with his 7,500 patient count, he would be growing thousands more plants were it not for the Department of Health’s limit of 450 plants it imposes on producers. In the ideal world he envisions, Sacred Garden could function more like a regular business, taking funding from FDIC-insured banks and specializing in a particular area of the cannabis process, rather than doing everything—growing, cultivating, extracting and retailing—like it is now.

Sacred Garden
1300 Luisa St., 216-9686
sacredgardennm.com


THE SHINY NEW TOY

Shift New Mexico is the county’s newest dispensary, located south of the city limits, far away from the competition. The business structure of Shift is complicated, but it’s important for understanding what the dispensary claims to be its greatest strength: the quality of its bud flowers.

Lyric Kali, operations manager at Shift New Mexico, says the newest medical cannabis dispensary in Santa Fe prides iteself on quality flower.
Aaron Cantú
“Shift New Mexico” is the business name for a nonprofit called Keyway, which holds the license to operate the cannabis dispensary, but the actual operator of the license—the entity that does all the cultivation, trimming and retail sales—is a management company called SNM. That company, in turn, is 33 percent owned by Colorado-based Shift Cannabis Company, which “provides oversight to [Shift New Mexico] to make sure they can produce the most cannabis they can with the highest quality, using what we’ve learned from operating in Colorado and other states,” says Reed Porter, co-founder and COO of Shift Cannabis Company.

The perceived stigma of out-of-state ownership, coupled with SFR’s previous report that two former employees of the Department of Health had invested in the company before it was awarded a license in a competitive process by the very same department, might explain the initial stiffness of our meeting. Shift Cannabis CEO Travis Howard, also a co-founder, is quick to point out that all of Shift New Mexico’s board of directors are state residents, but also leans on the dispensaries’ experience “consulting and working with people that are either cultivating, extracting, or selling cannabis” in Colorado and 13 other states as a reason Shift New Mexico has an edge over its competitors.

The dispensary opened March 1 and recently hired a full-time operations manager, Lyric Kali, a 10-year resident of Santa Fe who says the business will employ about 12 people and intends to contract with locals for Shift’s other needs. With plans to spend “a couple million” to open up greenhouses and extraction facilities in the future, the dispensary also hopes to to use its relatively deep pockets to build loyalty in Santa Fe’s business community.

The dispensary’s philosophy “errs on the side of allowing patients to keep their privacy,” Howard says, but notes the dispensaries’ budtenders are ready to work with patients to uncover their ideal cannabinoid and terpene ratios. He speaks with the kind of polished ease that would resonate in a courtroom. Shift sells cannabis wholesale to other producers, including New Mexicann, which also operates a dispensary in Santa Fe.

Behind the Bisbee Court dispensary are the grow and cultivation rooms, where Shift produces some of the bud it sells in the front. In a grow room where some plants are already several feet in height, high-pressure sodium double-ended lights beam down onto different strains of sativa (long and thin leaves), indica (wide) and hybrids. Howard explains that the operation uses sodium lights rather than more environmentally-friendly LEDs because the latter can’t heat the plants enough to expel their nitrogen. If you’ve ever tried lighting a bowl and watched the bud literally spark when touched by a flame, you’ve smoked nitrogen-heavy weed—and probably burned your throat in the process.

“Instead of coming down here and saying, ‘Hey Santa Fe, we’re going to do this awesome thing and take care of your electricity,’” Howard offers, “we said, ‘We will get there, and our test facilities in other states will bring the LEDs when we figure out how to solve this problem.’” He says it’s another example of how Shift is using its out-of-state experience to build its operations in New Mexico.

Shift New Mexico
24 Bisbee Court, 438-1090
shiftnewmexico.com


THE MOTHER STORE

Ultra Health’s Santa Fe dispensary feels more like a doctor’s office than do the other cannabis storefronts in the city, only it sports framed pictures of purple-tinged cannabis in the lobby instead of stock photos of soothing landscapes. We even waited a relatively long time in the fluorescent-lit lobby for the dispensary’s young manager John Gurule to call us in, just like at the doctor. Out of the seven Ultra dispensaries scattered across New Mexico, this one is the “mother store,” Gurule says later. The company also hopes to soon open locations in Silver City, Alamogordo and Deming.

In 2014, Ultra Health, a for-profit company headquartered in Arizona, signed a 30-year management deal with dispensary Top Organics for access to the nonprofit’s license to staff, manage and operate dispensaries around New Mexico. Plants grow in Bernalillo for delivery all over the state.

Its owner and CEO is Duke Rodriguez, who served as former Gov. Gary Johnson’s Human Services Department secretary. He’s a fastidious market-watcher of the cannabis industry in New Mexico, and rolls his observations into press releases that the company blasts out every few weeks. The company reported $1.96 million in sales for the first quarter of 2017, making it the state’s top cannabis seller, and Rodriguez also says that Ultra Health is the top wholesaler of cannabis to other dispensaries in the state. He was not present on the day that SFR visited the company’s Santa Fe dispensary, and he said this was because Ultra Health does not put administrative staff at its New Mexico dispensaries. Rodriguez is also among chief proponents for the state to lift the plant cap for growers. Ultra Health is currently suing the department over what it calls an “arbitrary and capricious production limitation” on the number of cannabis plants that the state’s 35 licensed nonprofit producers can grow.

Although the company’s sprawling presence across the state and the sterile aesthetic of its Santa Fe dispensary may hint at an impersonal business approach, it was clear from our visit that there were regular patients at the dispensary who had relationships with the store’s budtenders. One slight woman who met the person at the reception desk with a hearty and familiar greeting was taken to the retail portion of the store, where another budtender began rolling her a joint with an indica strain she’d yet to try.

Gurule says that most of the dispensaries’ patients showed up after Ultra Health took over Top Organics, where he had been a patient. He eventually started working as a budtender after the two entities struck a deal, and worked his way up to be a manager. He’s most interested in talking about his dispensary’s relationship to its patients.

“We ask them how their day is, and then it just goes from there,” says Gurule, who says his own medication regimen helps him connect with patients. “I understand what they’re going through because I go through it too—maybe not the same scenario, but we’re pretty much on the same chapter.”

In a later phone call, Rodriguez told SFR that the company’s lawsuit against the health department over its plant cap will go to trial on July 24 if it is not resolved before then.

Ultra Health
1907 St. Michael’s Drive, 216-0898
ultrahealth.com/new-mexico-dispensaries


GOOD VIBRATIONS

Fruit of the Earth Organics is the most new-wave dispensary in Santa Fe, and seems tailored for the counterculture transplants who started arriving in the city in the ’60s. Patients can wait to see budtenders in a large tie dye-themed room with massive plush chairs and LED screens listing different strains on offer.

Fruit of the Earth budtender Emma Schutz can tell you how the dispensary stands out because of its outdoor cultivation.
Aaron Cantú
Owner Lyra Barren says she came to know the “shamanic” qualities of cannabis through her experience as a musician. Her dispensary is all about the art of the tincture: Barren claims to have a natural intuition for healing, and mixes all sorts of natural ingredients with variations of cannabis to cure a wide range of ailments, though she specializes in treating cancer symptoms. One of the most powerful effects of cannabis, she tells SFR, is its ability to enhance the healing properties when combined with other herbs. For that reason, Fruit of the Earth also manages a CBD (cannabidiol)-only room attached to the dispensary, where shoppers who don’t have a cannabis card can buy CBD-infused, non-psychoactive tinctures, desserts, juices and even caffeine drinks at an “elixir bar.” There’s also a jar asking for donations for the now-disbanded Standing Rock Sioux Tribe anti-pipeline encampment in North Dakota, hinting at the owner’s personal politics.

It can be easy to write off somebody claiming to have natural healing abilities, but Barren says many people swear by her CBD healing salve. Underneath colorful pieces of cloth shielding us from the harsh fluorescent light, she spoke more candidly about her personal relationship to cannabis than any other dispensary managers were willing to divulge. Fruit of the Earth is the only dispensary in town that gets all its cannabis from an outdoor grow, which is managed by Barren’s son, co-owner Jaum Barren. She considers indoor grows incompatible with plant’s spiritual needs.

“I believe there’s a spirit that goes into the plants,” she tells SFR. “When they’re growing out with the breezes and the birds, they’re more happy and ecstatic, and have a higher vibration. ... Everyone else does regular rotation out of warehouses, but we grow one big harvest, which allows us time to cure the medicine properly for six months.” She also says that Fruit of the Earth does not take money from big investors “who can influence what we do for profit,” and says she intends to keep it that way.

Fruit of the Earth Organics
901 Early St., 310-7917
fruitoftheearthorganics.com


CANN-DO

“We are definitely advocates for our patients,” New Mexicann Natural Medicine dispensary manager Josh Alderete tells SFR. “Cannabis is still considered a Schedule 1 drug [by the federal government], and we still come out here and get it done because we believe in what it does.”

Alderete has just taken a pause from consulting with a patient at the New Mexicann dispensary in Santa Fe, which looks like a cross between an Americana beer hall and a doctor’s office. Behind the front counter is a large sign that says “We Only Serve New Mexico Grown,” and paintings from local artists adorn the walls in the waiting area. Cannabis-themed issues of Sunset Magazine and the New Yorker lay on a coffee table, and a t-shirt from the Drug Policy Alliance that demands “NO MORE DRUG WAR” hangs on a window.

New Mexicann Natural Medicine is bouncing back after a serious accident in 2015, and copes with product shortages due to a Department of Health cap of 450 plants per grower. Pictured is grow manager Gabriel Bustos.
Aaron Cantú
Alderete says New Mexicann is moving forward after the July 2015 accident in which two of its workers, Mark Aaron Smith and Nicholas Montoya, were severely burned while using butane to extract THC from cannabis. Both men have open lawsuits against New Mexicann, but Smith is also suing Montoya, who Smith alleged in a suit asked him to assist in the extraction process despite a lack of experience.

The accident happened at a time when New Mexicann was growing quickly, having added a greenhouse and a hoop house to increase plant production for new dispensaries in Española, Taos and Las Vegas. The dispensary was forced to pay $13,500 in fines for labor violations to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and its board of directors removed its former executive director, Len Goodman.

It’s a lot of drama for a place that genuinely appears to work with people throughout the inpatient process and likes to boost other local businesses in Santa Fe. A table in the lobby offers businesss cards from services such as a hair salon, architect and natural phsyician.

Alderete says the dispensary has doctors and pain specialists that frequent the facility to help people obtain cards and consult with the budtenders. If you don’t have a card but want to know how you can get one—assuming you have one of the 21 qualifying conditions—you can pop into the dispensary and ask New Mexicann staff. You can also get a member discount if you submit a W2 and make below a certain income threshold.

Peering into the future, Alderete says he’d like for the health department to remove the 450 cap on plants so the dispensary can produce a wider variety of products. He says there is “definitely” a shortage of cannabis in the program.

“Once we have a strain, we only have it for about a week and then it’s sold out,” he tells SFR. “It’d be nice to have more supply so people can have the most consistent medicine that works for them.”

New Mexicann Natural Medicine
1592 San Mateo Lane, 982-2621,
newmexicann.org


READ MORE: Looking Ahead: Gubernatorial Candidates on NM’s Cannabis Future


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