Morning Word

Cannabis CEO Says State’s Figures Don’t Add Up

Santa Fe County Commissioners vote to pursue extension of short-term rental moratorium

Ultra Health CEO questions state cannabis figures

Duke Rodriguez, CEO and president of Ultra Health, the largest cannabis company in New Mexico, says state government’s cannabis calculations don’t add up. In both a news release and interview with SFR yesterday, Rodriguez questioned discrepancies between reported sales and tax distribution figures from the Cannabis Control Division and Taxation and Revenue Department’s accounting of the 18-month period of adult sales here. Spokespeople from each agency, meanwhile, pushed back at Rodriguez’s math and say he’s not making apt comparisons. Rodriguez’s overarching message: “We have a model that is clearly failed,” and a regulatory environment that includes “people not reporting sales properly; people certainly not paying taxes.” Regarding the latter, the state Taxation and Revenue Department recently acknowledged as much and announced its efforts to contact non-compliant cannabis license holders. “We are continuing to work with Regulation and Licensing to bring other license holders into compliance on their tax returns,” spokesman Charlie Moore tells SFR via email yesterday. “As taxpayers catch up on their payments, those amounts will start to show up in distributions in coming months.” Rodriguez maintains an illicit market has been allowed to flourish. “I’m not fighting my competitor down the street,” he says. “That ship has sailed. I am fighting the illicit market that they helped establish.”

County may extend short-term rental moratorium

In a 4-1 vote last night, the Santa Fe Board of County Commissioners agreed to pursue a three-month extension of its ban on short-term rentals for owners who don’t live on site. The BCC first passed new regulations about a year ago and put a one-year moratorium in place for new permits on non-owner-occupied rentals while consultants gathered data on the market. According to Southwest Planning & Marketing, which presented its findings last night, as of Oct. 19, the county had issued 349 permits for short-term rental operators, but may have as many as 246 operating without the required permits. Chris Cordova, partner emeritus of Southwest Planning & Marketing, recommended the county extend its moratorium while county staff pursue greater compliance. The BCC agreed and voted 4-1 to schedule a study session and a future vote this month to extend the moratorium to February 2024. District 1 Commissioner Justin S. Greene was the sole dissenting vote and said he thought an extension would be unfair. “We gave people a promise that the moratorium would be lifted in November, and there is no quantification of what would happen if we didn’t extend this,” Greene said. Meanwhile, the county continues to fight a lawsuit filed by a group of homeowners in US District Court last summer that challenges the legality of the county’s short-term rental regulations, and filed a motion last week to dismiss the case.

Animal advocates provide free legal training

Animal hoarding cases in New Mexico make headlines and break hearts. But behind the scenes, the legal logistics these cases require utilize different considerations and protocols compared to other types of crimes. For instance, Animal Protection Voters Chief Government Affairs Officer Jessica Shelton tells SFR, 50 rescued dogs are victims of a crime, but they are also evidence and “you can’t put live dogs in an evidence locker like you can with inanimate objects.” To help provide prosecutors, judges and other legal professionals resources for handling such cases, Animal Protection Voters, the legislative arm of Animal Protection New Mexico, will hold on Nov. 7 a full-day, free training that will provide 5.5 continuing legal education credits. A lawyer, investigations director and veterinarian from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will be there to “cover everything from…the courtroom tactics to gathering evidence to working with a veterinarian on getting forensics,” Shelton says, noting that over the years, the organization has heard from many working in the criminal justice arena how helpful such a training would be—and how crucial given the likely connection between animal abuse and the abuse of children, the elderly and others. This will be the organization’s first legal training of this sort. “We have been seeing over the many years just how many challenges there can be to adequately and appropriately prosecute animal cruelty cases,” Shelton says, adding the training “hopefully will be just the beginning of stronger partnerships and planning…between our organization and district attorney’s offices.”

US Sens. Heinrich, Luján push for AI regs

Last month, SFR moderated a panel on Artificial Intelligence and its impact on the creative economy, organized by the office of US Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, and including Heinrich, writer George RR Martin and University of New Mexico/Santa Fe Institute computer science professor Melanie Moses. Heinrich, who founded Senate Artificial Intelligence Caucus in 2019, yesterday issued a statement regarding President Joe Biden’s Oct. 30 executive order on AI calling it “the single most significant and substantive action taken by any government to date to govern AI based on democratic principles.” The order, Heinrich notes, “applies the full scope of the administration’s authorities in this area, but ultimately Congress is going to have to legislate.” To that point, yesterday US Sen. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM, along with a slew of colleagues, introduced the Testing and Evaluation Systems for Trusted Artificial Intelligence (TEST) AI Act. “The use of Artificial Intelligence has reached every sector—ranging from medicine, to financial institutions, to governments and businesses,” Luján says in a statement. “But our country cannot ignore the vulnerabilities and risks that come with it. While these systems have the power to change lives, they can also fall short by providing inaccurate or biased data, and are at risk of malicious attacks or misuse by our adversaries.”

Listen up

Native American Heritage Month begins today, providing a timely reason to check out Season 2 of PBS’ four-part series Native America (you can also view Season 1 online). The first episode of Season 2 focuses on Native American innovators in music, building and space exploration. The second episode, which aired yesterday, spotlights 18-year-old Mariah Bahe (Diné), seven-time national amateur boxing champion, who hopes to represent the United States and Navajo Nation in the 2024 Olympics. The series is narrated by former US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation; series producer Jennifer Johns (Diné) was “raised and rooted” on the Navajo Nation in northwest New Mexico. The show airs on Tuesdays, with forthcoming episodes on Native women and languages.

Hungry for New Mexico

Forbes magazine celebrates “a delicious new reason” to visit Taos Pueblo. Specifically, writer Leslie Kelly visits Dawn Butterfly Cafe, which recently expanded its espresso and tea offerings to include a full food menu—right on the day Kelly visited, apparently. “Talk about excellent timing,” Kelly writes, noting the family-run space serves dual purposes, also providing space for the gallery House of the Water Crow and Red Coral Flower, with artwork by Carpio Bernal, Sr., and others. CJ Bernal works the kitchen, “while Sequoia makes signature coffee drinks she created,” which include the “must-try Question Mark,” a “fiery mocha” with New Mexican red chile and Mexican chocolate. Kelly recommends chowing down on the cafe’s rendition of Three Sisters, a generous portion of corn, beans and squash, with the option for adding either a fried duck or chicken egg, along with cheese and green chile on the side. “Say yes to all of the above,” she advises. Speaking of chile, next weekend the The Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, DC will host its ninth annual Food History Weekend, which will include a session on Climate, Chile and Change in the Hatch Valley,” with Andrea Alvarez of Hatch’s La Reina Hatch Chile Company and guest chef, author and TV host Pati Jinich. Both will “share stories and a recipe that shine a light on the vibrant cultural traditions of the Hatch Valley and how the community is addressing climate change through innovative agricultural technologies and business practices.”

Come for the architecture, stay for the skiing

Daily Passport includes Santa Fe in its list of cities sporting the most unique architecture, shouting out the city’s “adobe buildings built by the region’s Indigenous Puebloans as early as 800 CE,” with specific mention of various vernacular within the tradition as later adapted by the Spanish, such as portalesnichos and kiva fireplaces. In addition to surveying the building landscape (Daily Passport recommends visits to La Fonda on the Plaza, San Miguel Chapel and the Palace of the Governors), visitors may also want to hit the slopes. Luxury London includes Ski Santa Fe in its roundup of the best ski resorts and hotels in North America and Canada. Blue skies perfect for Instagram? Check. Good for families? Check. Fancy hotels? Indeed. Luxury London quasi-predictably recommends Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado, where “the sprawling spa and unique wellness experiences (including a form of equine therapy) will ensure that you aprés-ski in style.” Vogue magazine also includes New Mexico in its list of the best ski resorts in the US, but points travelers toward Taos Ski Valley. “Artists from Ansel Adams to Georgia O’Keeffe have long been seduced by Taos’s dramatic, rugged landscape, which offers a surprising variety of ski terrain,” the magazine notes, while also endorsing nearby Red River Ski & Summer Area, and Angel Fire Resort for “family-friendly and affordable” options. Vogue proposes visitors bunk at the newly opened 80-room The Blake at Taos Ski Valley, which it says boasts “an Alps-meets-the-Southwest aesthetic that gives it a stylish sense of place.” Downtown Taos, the story posits, “is bristling with Southwestern energy via the remaining adobe-style architecture that now houses charming art galleries, restaurants, and inns.”

Warm up

Happy November, a month filled with politics and the start of the holiday season. Perhaps this old song from The National (who play Albuquerque Nov. 14) will get you in the mood (at least for the former). Meanwhile, the National Weather Service forecasts a slightly warmer day today: sunny, with a high temperature near 57 degrees and north wind around 10 mph becoming southwest in the afternoon.

Thanks for reading! The Word has “If I Only Had a Brain” stuck in her head this morning, partially because of this New Yorker cartoon.

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