Morning Word

Nov. 8 Candidates Make Their Final Push

NM reports record adult-use cannabis sales in October

Gov candidates make their final push

Both Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and GOP challenger Mark Ronchetti spent some of their final weekend hours before tomorrow’s election campaigning in Northern New Mexico. Ronchetti took his #RonchettiOnTheRoad tour to Española for a rally yesterday, while Lujan Grisham, US Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández and other Dems convened last night at Hotel Santa Fe. Both candidates are scheduled for final rallies today in Albuquerque, with Ronchetti also making a campaign stop in Santa Fe this afternoon at the Fraternal Order of Police. Early voting ended on Saturday, with the Secretary of State’s office reporting that 436,919 New Mexico residents have cast ballots—nearly 34% of registered voters—almost 80% through early voting. More than 47,000 Santa Fe residents have voted: 46.6% of registered voters. Approximately 75% of the total 110,913 total absentee ballots requested statewide have been cast. Of the total ballots cast via absentee ballots and early voting, 51% came from registered Democrats; close to 35% from Republicans; 12.6% Independents; and the rest either Libertarians or belonging to other parties. The SOS reports 10,694 people have utilized same-day registration and registered to vote at the polls. Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver told reporters recently her office would be working with law enforcement in a “virtual situation room” tomorrow to address any public safety issues that should arise. She also recently appeared on ABC News to discuss her office’s efforts to counter misinformation campaigns about voting. Santa Fe voters can find polling location information here.

State reports record October cannabis sales

New Mexico’s adult-use cannabis sales in October topped $25 million, another record, while medical sales declined to approximately $14.7 million (from about $15.4 million in September). Albuquerque’s $8.1 million in adult-use sales last month—also a record for that city—could be attributable to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, University of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Management Associate Professor Reilly White tells the Albuquerque Journal, given that “greater tourism traffic boosted recreational use.” But “the big test ahead for the industry,” he said, “will likely be macroeconomic conditions in 2023—if we have a recession, how will consumers cut back on recreational cannabis?” Santa Fe had $1.8 million in adult sales last month, a slight decline from September. Las Cruces, which ranks third after Albuquerque and Santa Fe for total top adult sales, had approximately $1.7 million in adult sales. Last month’s data comes from the Cannabis Control Division’s new online reporting portal, which also includes data on plant counts (77,893 last month). The Journal also reports the number of medical cannabis patients had a year-over-year drop of 473 patients as of September, when figures stood at 123,990, and a decrease of more than 10,000 patients since adult sales began in April. That trend, New Mexico Cannabis Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ben Lewinger tells the Journal, is common in states following legalization of recreational use.

Virgin Galactic will re-start test flights in January

Virgin Galactic on Friday reported its most recent financial results and told investors it plans to resume test flights in January after an 18-month hiatus in advance of starting commercial spaceflights. “We remain on track to launch commercial service in the second quarter of 2023,” Chief Executive Officer Michael Colglazier said in a statement, “and we look forward to validating the modifications to VMS Eve and VSS Unity with multiple scheduled test flights in the coming months. " The company says its “cash position remains strong with cash and cash equivalents and marketable securities of $1.1 billion” as of Sept. 30. The company also announced last week it had reached a manufacturing agreement with Bell Textron Inc. and Qarbon Aerospace for Virgin Galactic’s new Delta class spaceships, with production scheduled to start next year. “The Delta class spaceships are an evolution of our distinctive flight system, designed for improved manufacturability, maintenance and flight rate capability,” Colglazier said. “Bell and Qarbon Aerospace are established partners who bring know-how, ideas and resources that will enable us to produce up to six new Delta Class ships per year. Together with Aurora Flight Sciences, who is producing our next gen motherships, we now have the primary suppliers in place to propel the production of our spaceline fleet at scale.”

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported Nov. 4: New cases: 624; 630,704 total cases. Deaths: eight; Santa Fe County has had 362 total deaths; there have been 8,664 fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 135. Patients on ventilators: two. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent Nov. 3 “community levels” map, which uses a combination of hospital and case rate metrics to calculate COVID-19 risk for the prior seven-day period, categorizes McKinley County as “red” now (with high risk) and seven New Mexico counties as “yellow,” (medium risk levels, two more than last week): San Juan, Rio Arriba, Taos, San Miguel, Harding, De Baca and Grant. The rest of New Mexico’s counties continue to have “green,” aka low, levels. Corresponding recommendations for each level can be found here.

Resources: CDC interactive booster eligibility tool; NM DOH vaccine & booster registration; CDC isolation and exposure interactive tool; Curative testing sites; COVID-19 treatment info; NMDOH immunocompromised tool kit. 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

LA Times podcast host Gustavo Arellano and national political correspondent Melanie Mason examine a push by Democrats to appeal to Latino voters by promising to protect abortion rights through the lens of New Mexico’s most-watched congressional race—in the southern part of the state—in which Democrat Gabe Vasquez is attempting to unseat Republican incumbent US Rep. Yvette Herrell.

Atomic road tripping

A few weeks back, the US Army held an open house at New Mexico’s Trinity Site, the first public event there since the start of the pandemic. Journalist Nina Burleigh attended and made it her “first stop on an atomic tour of the state,” she writes in a story for the New York Times: The Day the Sun Rose Twice: A Tour of Atomic New Mexico.” The state’s landscape, Burleigh writes, “is eerily apropos to an atomic tour. Relics of primordial geological violence are everywhere: plunging rifts and canyons, volcanic calderas, ancient lava flow and a vast, surreal, white desert, almost lunar.” The White Sands’ event has a “Sunday-market vibe,” replete with “mushroom cloud T-shirts and other atomic swag.” From White Sands, Burleigh journeys to Alamogordo and stays at the Classic Desert Aire Hotel, which sells T-shirts “emblazoned with the atom and ‘New Mexico It’s A Blast,’” and then visits the White Sands Missile Range Museum. Of course, Northern New Mexico also has whereabouts germane to the state’s atomic past/present, including various locales in Santa Fe—Burleigh cites former CIA officer Bruce Held’s book A Spy’s Guide to Santa Fe and Albuquerque for suggestions. And, course, there’s Los Alamos: “the true birthplace of the nuclear age.” Today, she notes, Los Alamos “is home to one of the highest per capita percentages of millionaires in America,” along with Los Alamos National Laboratory. It’s worth driving through LANL’s grounds, she concludes, in order to reach the Valles Caldera National Preserve, created 1.25 million years after a volcanic collapse, and a testament to “earth’s resilience in the aftermath of natural, if not man-made, disaster.”

NM’s mission to improve child well-being

The Washington Post profiles New Mexico Early Childhood Secretary Elizabeth Groginsky who, in her two years in the position, has become “something of a child-care star,” the Post writes. The story catches up with Groginsky leading into the Nov. 8 election, as she traveled the state to lobby for Constitutional Amendment 1, appearing on tomorrow’s ballot, which will provide more funding for early childhood education through the Land Grand Permanent Fund. Groginsky and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham used pandemic federal funding to add child care centers; increase pay for child care workers; and make child care free to most families. But the federal funding is temporary, and part of Groginsky’s message has been about the permanent changes needed to sustain early childhood initiatives. “These days, advocates tend to agree that New Mexico is leading the nation when it comes to child care, but few predicted its sudden success,” the Post writes, given its high ranking for child poverty and poor ratings for child well being. Groginsky, the first leader of a department Lujan Grisham created, is trying to systematically address both: “It’s not unique to New Mexico that our country has not funded a prenatal-to-5 system,” Groginsky told the Post. “It has been historically underfunded, and that resulted in low wages, predominantly for women of color who have been doing this work and have not had their work valued. And it’s gone on so long, and this state and this governor have said, ‘No more.’”

Let the sun shine

The National Weather Service forecasts a mostly sunny start to the week with a high temperature near 56 degrees and south wind 10 to 15 mph. Enjoy the warm digits—colder conditions return later this week.

Thanks for reading! The Word had trouble choosing between Saturday Night Live’s COVID commercial or the Tammy the Trucker mid-term election sketch, so she’s sharing both.

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