Morning Word

New Mexico Adds Anxiety as Qualifying Medical Cannabis Condition

NMSU hires third-party investigator in UNM shooting case

Morning Word Header

New medical cannabis condition

Anxiety disorder will be added to conditions for which patients may obtain medical cannabis at the start of the new year, the New Mexico Department of Health announced yesterday. Although any adult may purchase cannabis in the state under a law that went into effect this year, patients who obtain medical cards can buy products with higher concentrations of THC and do not pay sales tax, among other benefits. The approval marks the first time since 2019 that regulators have added a qualifying condition. “Anxiety disorder is a debilitating condition that affects as much as 25 percent of New Mexicans. While there are many good medical options for treating anxiety disorder, treatment resistance can affect one out of every three patients,” wrote Dr. David Scrase, department secretary, in his decision. “Even though patients may access cannabis without a medical cannabis card through the adult use program, by including anxiety disorder in the list of qualifying conditions, patients would have increased opportunity to discuss with their medical provider how cannabis can be used to alleviate the symptoms of their anxiety disorder.”  Dr. Dominick Zurlo, the Medical Cannabis Program director, tells SFR the division is “very proud” to add anxiety to the list of qualifying conditions.  “I see that there are going to be many patients, some who may already be enrolled in the program under PTSD and others who may not be enrolled in the program, who do fall into that category with with regard to having anxiety disorder, who are going to find now that their enrollment in the program may be much easier,” he adds. The number patients in the program has been on the decline this year. 

NMSU to hire private investigator

New Mexico State University will hire an independent investigator to review events surrounding the fatal shooting of a University of New Mexico student at the Albuquerque campus. NMSU basketball player Mike Peake has been suspended from the team for the duration of the investigation, which school officials said will be separate from the criminal investigation by New Mexico State Police and will also examine the university’s response in the days following the shooting. “We will be incredibly transparent during this process,” NMSU Chancellor Dan Arvizu said in a statement. “We owe that to our community and to everyone associated with our university. The firm selected will be encouraged to review any public documents regarding this case and be fully empowered to speak with any NMSU employees, students or other individuals necessary to ensure we fully understand the facts.” Peake and Brandon Travis, the 19-year-old who died, were involved in an altercation Nov. 19 that State Police investigators have previously said began when Travis and other students “lured” Peake onto campus. An exchange of gunfire that killed Travis also injured Peake.

LANL manager gets five more years

Triad National Security will continue its management of Los Alamos National Laboratory through October 30, 2028 under the terms of contract renewals announced by the US Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration yesterday. “Exercising Option Periods 1 through 5 is the most advantageous method of fulfilling the mission needs of NNSA, considering current price, past performance, and most importantly, the immediate need for continuity of performance during Fiscal Years 2023 through 2028,” reads a statement from the agency. Triad, which began running the lab in 2018,  is comprised of three members: Battelle Memorial InstituteThe Texas A&M University System and the University of California. Its original contract has an estimated value $2.5 billion annually and included a five-year base with the additional five one-year options DOE just opted to adopt.

COVID-19 by the numbers

Reported Dec. 6New cases: 574; 650,143 total cases. The most recent report on geographic trends, dated Dec. 5 and published last night, shows a 28.3% increase in reported cases over the prior seven-day period compared to the Nov. 28 reportDeaths: six; Santa Fe County has had 368 total deaths; 8,708 total fatalities statewide. Statewide hospitalizations: 220; Patients on ventilators: nine.

State officials issued a public health order last week including a recommendation that New Mexicans wear masks when in indoor public settings to prevent the transmission of respiratory disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent Dec. 1 “community levels” map, which uses a combination of hospital and case rate metrics to calculate COVID-19 risk for the prior seven-day period, shows three counties categorized as “orange”—high risk—for COVID-19, versus eight last week. They are: McKinley, San Juan and Valencia. Santa Fe County remains “green,” identifying lower risk. Ten counties are “yellow,” with medium risk. 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. DOH encourages residents to download the NM Notify app and to report positive COVID-19 home tests on the app.

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

Listen up

Before the West can solve its wolf problem, people would need to agree on how to even define it. The new Working Wild U podcast from Montana State University Extension and the Western Landowners Alliance dives deep into the story of how the United States nearly eradicated wolves from the Rockies and has since tried to restore their populations. Tensions between predator conflict on working ranches, access to public lands and habitat loss development are just part of the complex situation. The first four episodes of the show are impressive, including great resource lists for more reading and listening.

Folk Art Market moving

While pivots and modifications have been the signature of summer markets as they endured the pandemic and labored to rebuild, there’s big news in the landscape, as the International Folk Art Market announced plans to change venues from Museum Hill to the Santa Fe Railyard.  The move means attendees can expect a similar size and scope to previous markets when the event begins on July 6, 2023, but still more than 160 artists from 52 countries—39 of which will come to Santa Fe for the first time next year. “It’s going to be a little bit different,” IFAM’s director of marketing Adrienne Murray tells SFR of the location change. “It’s going to be a different feel with more opportunity for discovery. We’re going to lean heavily on the aesthetics that are already present—the trees, the flowers—but I think whereas before, when you had the two layers of the market mapped out for you, this new space is going to invite you to more take a walk; the way we’re going to lay out the booths will be more intuitive and feel more like you’re discovering things with different artists in different groupings, almost like neighborhoods.” IFAM went through numerous big changes last year following two years of inactivity due to COVID-19. In September, then-executive director Stuart Ashman stepped down and the nonprofit’s director of external affairs, Melissa Mann, took over. The Museum of International Folk Art, a part of the state Cultural Affairs Department and an entirely distinct organization from the market, will continue to occupy its building on Museum Hill.

Better for you

News of a cheese factory completing a planned expansion in Southern New Mexico led the Word to an internal monologue about the deliciousness and relative health benefits (or, um, detriments) of the gooey foodstuff and then to this El Paso Matters story about farmers using regenerative techniques to grow more nutritious food. Research, writes health reporter Priscilla Totiyapungprasert, seems to support the link between healthy soil and healthy food. She points to a new study published in 2022 that shows farms practicing soil regeneration grew crops with higher levels of vitamins and minerals than farms using conventional farming methods. Farmer Shahid Mustafa said he’d like to see more research on the topic. “In terms of measuring nutrient density, it’s generally not a focus on production because they (industrial farms) grow for volume and they grow for appearance, so it looks a certain way and hopefully the farmer was able to get enough yield to be profitable,” Mustafa said. “But beyond that there’s not a lot of data to support its nutrient value.”

Take a chance

The National Weather Service forecasts a 30% chance of rain today in the form of scattered showers, mainly after 2 pm. The day will otherwise be partly sunny, with a high near 49 and northeast wind 5 to 15 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon.

Thanks for reading! The (Substitute) Word notes a number of New Mexico authors (Dana Levin and Cormac McCarthy among her faves), on the NPR “Books We Love.” She realizes reading all 400 titles from 2022 isn’t the point, but that sounds fun.

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at] Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.