Morning Word

Adult Recreational Cannabis Sales Start Today in New Mexico🌱

Hikers, animal lovers rejoice: Trapping ban takes effect today

In the weeds

Today marks New Mexico’s first day with adult recreational cannabis sales. No joke. According to the state’s Cannabis Control Division, 151 retail licenses have been issued by the state, covering nearly 250 locations, although not all will be open today. Can you now smoke cannabis in public? No, you can not. The state provides answers to such frequently asked questions right here and CCD Director Kristen Thomson offered this advice in a statement yesterday: “Start low and go slow,” (meaning start with a product that has a low level of THC and then slowly increase consumption once you have a sense how your body is responding). Thomson also emphasized people should not drive after consuming cannabis and “encouraged” anyone “who plans to consume to have a designated driver or use a taxi or ride-share service.”

SFR also has answers and information galore about the new landscape, including what to expect now and going forward; why you’re best off smoking your newly purchased products at home; the dos and don’ts as you shop for cannabis here for the first time; the status of the state’s quest to expunge prior cannabis possession charges and convictions; the rocky road for testing THC potency and product safety; and directories for local cannabis dispensaries and CBD products. Excited in a totally chill way? So is Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who tweeted yesterday: “Recreational cannabis is the next frontier of New Mexico’s economic expansion. Entrepreneurs will benefit from the opportunity to create lucrative new enterprises, and the state and local governments will benefit from millions in new tax revenue.”

Trapping ban takes effect today

Roxy’s Law, also known as the Wildlife Conservation and Public Safety Act, takes effect today, which makes trapping on public lands illegal in most cases. The Legislature passed the law in 2021 following more than a decade of lobbying by environmental organizations and other advocates; it’s named after a dog who died after being caught in an illegal snare. The new statute prohibits the use of “a trap, snare or wildlife poison for the purposes of capturing, injuring or killing an animal on public land” and applies on land that is state-owned and held in trust by the state, as well as lands administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the United States Forest Service, the Federal Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the United States Department of Defense, State Parks and any county or municipality. Violators of the statute are guilty of a misdemeanor and each trap, snare or poison application constitutes a single violation of the act. Anyone with information on possible wildlife crimes is encouraged to call Operation Game Thief at 1-800-432-4263.Chris Smith, Southern Rockies wildlife advocate for environmental group WildEarth Guardians, writes that Roxy’s Law is one of several signs—including the state’s ban on coyote killing in 2019 and current work to protect wildlife from vehicle collisions—”of a new era across the Land of Enchantment. An era in which coexistence is the norm, exploitation and cruelty are waning, and native foxes, bobcats, beavers, badgers and wolves are revered for their ecological roles and honored for their intrinsic value, not persecuted as inconveniences.” Nonetheless, Smith adds, more work is needed, including modernizing the state Department of Game and Fish to be “a comprehensive state wildlife agency more invested in protecting all wildlife, not focused only on game species like elk and nonnative rainbow trout.”

New Energy Economy sues AG over records

New Energy Economy yesterday filed suit against Attorney General Hector Balderas over what it says is the office’s failure to comply with the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act. The organization, led by Executive Director Mariel Nanasi, fought PNM’s sought merger with Avangrid and was one of several groups that filed an ethics complaint against Balderas last summer regarding contracts awarded to Marcus Rael, a lawyer who had previously represented Avangrid’s parent company (a hearing officer subsequently disqualified Rael from representing that company in the merger). The most recent complaint also involves Balderas’ relationship with Rael; Nanasi and New Energy Economy had sought public documents related to communications and agreements between Balderas’ office and Rael or his law firm, Robles, Rael, and Anaya. “After five unsuccessful requests to obtain the requested inspection of public records, New Energy Economy has requested that the First District Court order the AGO to produce all of the responsive documents, in un-redacted form, and award statutory damages and attorney fees and costs reasonably incurred in bringing this action to enforce IPRA,” a New Energy Economy news release states. The news release also says the “lawsuit filed today raises concerns that the AGO’s failure to comply with the IPRA request is indicative of a pattern of corrupt and unethical conduct” with Rael and further alleges “what appears to be a pay to play scheme” between the AG’s office and out-of-state law firms. An AG spokesperson tells the Santa Fe New Mexican the office will seek “sanctions for Ms. Nanasi’s fabricated conspiracy theories that have been outright rejected by the New Mexico Supreme Court and the New Mexico State Ethics Commission.”

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported March 31:

New cases: 120; 517,858 total cases

Deaths: 19; Santa Fe County has had 263 deaths thus far; there have been 7,274 total fatalities statewide. Hospitalizations: 90; Patients on ventilators: 14

Breakthrough cases: According to the weekly vaccination report released, over the four week period of Feb. 28-March 28, 40.1% of COVID-19 cases in New Mexico were among people who had not completed a primary vaccination series; 24.8% were among those who had completed the series but had not received a booster; and 35.1% were among those who were fully vaccinated and boosted. For hospitalizations, those figures change to 65.1%, 16.7% and 18.2%. The percentages shift to 57.7%, 21.1% and 21.1% for fatalities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “community levels” tracking system—which uses case rates along with two hospital metrics in combination to determine the state of the virus on a county level—31 of New Mexico’s counties—including Santa Fe County currently have “green”—aka low—levels, whereas McKinley and Harding counties have yellow, or medium, levels. The CDC updates its map every Thursday.

Vaccinations: 91% percent of adults 18 years and older have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 77.6% have completed their primary series; 45.5% of adults 18 years and older have had a booster shot; 12-17-year-old age group: 71.2% of people have had at least one dose and 61.6% have completed their primary series; Children ages 5-11: 39.3% have had at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine and 31% have completed their primary; Santa Fe County: 99% of people 18 and older have had at least one dose and 87.2% have completed their primary series.

Resources: Vaccine registration; Booster registration Free at-home rapid antigen tests; Self-report a positive COVID-19 test result to the health department; COVID-19 treatment info: oral treatments Paxlovid (age 12+) and Molnupiravir (age 18+); and monoclonal antibody treatments. Toolkit for immunocompromised individuals. People seeking treatment who do not have a medical provider can call NMDOH’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-855-600-3453.

You can read all of SFR’s COVID-19 coverage here.

Listen up

Looking for a restaurant with vegan or vegetarian offerings? Animal Protection of New Mexico’s online dining guide allows you to search by New Mexico locations and by cuisines to find animal-free options when eating out. And, APNM’s most recent episode of the Teach Me How to Vegan podcast provides tips on how to use the guide to find vegan eats, along with a discussion of hosts Tony and Mickey Quintana’s favorite grub across the state, and their top 10 favorite places to eat around the country (with links galore).

NM schools nation with scholarship program

The New York Times offers props to New Mexico’s Opportunity Scholarship Act, signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham following the last legislative session, which makes college free for most New Mexicans. With enrollment in college declining across the country and President Joe Biden’s plans for free community college apparently kaput, “New Mexico, one of the nation’s poorest states, has emerged with perhaps the most ambitious plans as states scramble to come up with their own initiatives,” the Times writes. According to the governor’s office, the General Appropriations Act directs $75 million to the scholarship program, which could support up to 35,000 students beginning this fall, or more than half of all undergraduate students in New Mexico. Recent high school graduates, returning adult learners, part-time students and those seeking career training certificates, associate’s degrees and folks taking summer courses all are eligible. Moreover, New Mexico’s law allows students to stack federal aid such as Pell Grants, local scholarships and private scholarships so they can use the funds to pay for books, materials, housing, food, transportation, childcare and other college costs. “The New Mexico program is very close to ideal,” Michael Dannenberg, vice president of strategic initiatives and higher education policy at the nonprofit advocacy group Education Reform Now, tells the Times, and extends beyond what other larger states have done. As for Lujan Grisham, she tells the paper between the state’s oil royalties and revenue from the recovering tourism sector, the program could be funded for years to come.

Art together

ARTnews recently showcased New Mexico-based artist Cannupa Hanska Luger’s project with Portland-based Marie Watt, Each/Other, “a large, multicolored fabric sculpture of a she-wolf,” for which the Indigenous artists hand-sewed messages contributed by the public onto a canvas-covered metal wolf form. Luger, who was raised on the Standing Rock Reservation, is an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes of Fort Berthold and is of Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, and Lakota descent (and a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts), often enlists the public in his projects, such as with the MMIWQT Bead Project commemorating missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and queer and trans people. According to the story, John Lukavic, curator of native arts at the Denver Art Museum, invited Luger and Watt to work together and curated their first joint exhibition (also titled Each/Other) which debuted in Denver in 2021 and is on view at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts through May 8 of this year. As they discussed the exhibition, Luger says, “We started talking about ideas of collaboration [and] relationships. From our Indigenous lenses, we have these rich and deep histories of more-than-human kinships.” Collaborating with the public, Luger says, enhances audiences’ experience of the work: “They can recognize their own contribution and also [realize] that we never do anything alone, ever.”

Clear skies ahead

Nothing beats waking up to the sound of rain. The National Weather Service forecasts continued scattered showers before 9 am today, then cloudy through mid morning, followed by a gradual clearing with a high near 60 degrees. Increasing wind today that could gust as high as 35 mph. As for the weekend: more sunny, less windy with a high temperature near 70 tomorrow and in the mid 60s on Sunday.

Thanks for reading! The Word hopes everyone sees Summer of Soul because it was amazing and, as a longtime fan of Questlove and The Roots, offers up an old Tiny Desk concert also worth enjoying.

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