More People Than Ever Have Legal Access To Pot In NM, Progressive Enters Gov. Race

May 15, 2017

New Mexico Marijuana Enrollment Climbs Above 40,000 PatientsThe Associated Press & The ABQ Journal

The medical marijuana industry in New Mexico has grown substantially since being organized in 2007.

About 8,000 New Mexico residents have obtained a medical marijuana license since Jan. 1, which brings the statewide total to more than 40,000 patients, the Albuquerque Journal reported. The amount of patients has increased by 84 percent since March 2016.

The number of dispensaries has also increased. The statewide total is at 56 after being at just 36 in January 2016.

In 2015, none of New Mexico's cannabis producers had total receipts that exceeded $1 million. This year, five growers topped $1 million in sales from January through March, alone.

First quarter sales this year topped $19 million, up 91 percent throughout the same period in 2016, New Mexico Department of Health data shows.

However, some think the industry's growth is a cause for concern. State Rep. Bill Rehm thinks the system is being abused.

"I think there are a bunch of people who are obtaining marijuana cards, not for a true medical reason, but for justification for them to smoke marijuana legally," Rehm said.

But R. Greenleaf & Associates Director Willie Ford says while that might be true, most people are using the system for legitimate medical conditions.

"I have put my full faith in the Department of Health," Ford said. "They have a good system for determining and confirming a person's eligibility."

The health department's application process requires patients to provide documentation from a physician supporting a medical diagnosis for a qualifying condition.

Santa Fe Progressive Launches Run For New Mexico Governor – The Associated Press

Alcohol-prevention teacher Peter DeBenedittis of Santa Fe is seeking the Democratic nomination to run for governor of New Mexico.

DeBenedittis formally announced his candidacy Monday, describing himself as a progressive Democrat and political outsider who does not owe favors to past political contributors.

A New Mexico resident since 1995, DeBenedittis wants to pursue policies that expand early childhood education and provide universal health insurance coverage, while increasing taxes on alcohol and cigarettes. He has not previously run for public office.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez's cannot run for a third term in 2018. The Democratic nomination also is being sought by businessman Jeff Apodaca and U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

No Republican has entered the race, though U.S. Congressman Steve Pearce says he may pursue the GOP nomination.

Man Accused Of Holding Family At Gunpoint Over Bird DisputeThe Associated Press

A Bernalillo County man is facing child abuse and aggravated assault charges for holding a family at gunpoint because he believed they had shot and killed a federally-protected bird.

Carlos Proffit remained jailed Monday on a $25,000 bond. It wasn't immediately clear if he had an attorney.

The incident happened Saturday on the Pajarito Mesa southwest of Albuquerque. Proffit told deputies he saw the family shoot at a red-tailed hawk and admitted to keeping them there at gunpoint until authorities arrived.

In a criminal complaint, deputies say they observed one of the children holding what appeared to be a shotgun. The father said the family was attempting to get a closer look at the bird when Proffit drove up and pulled a gun on them.

Authorities did not say if the bird was actually harmed.

Concerns Over New Mexico Police Department Crash Rate RiseAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A New Mexico police department continues to be responsible for a high number of crashes.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Saturday that Albuquerque police officers were involved in 66 crashes in March. Police Oversight Board Member Leonard Waites says concerns on the issue have been increasing for eight months.

Officer Johnathan McDonnell's fatal crash in March that led to the deaths of two children added to the concerns. The board is looking to organizing the data so they can see if some officers are involved in crashes more than others. They also want to compare the number of Albuquerque police crashes with other police departments.

Police officials are expected to make a presentation on the issue at the board's June meeting.

Frozen Burritos Maker Relocates After Recall, Listeria ScareAssociated Press

The New Mexico company that recalled more than 252,000 pounds of frozen burritos because of possible listeria contamination says it's relocating.

Green Chile Concepts LLC said it will start making food products at its new manufacturing plant starting Monday in a long-planned move.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Saturday announced the Green Chile Food Company recall for various frozen burritos containing meat and poultry, after a routine sample of a beef and potato burrito found a problem.

The Las Cruces, New Mexico-based company voluntarily recalled the burritos, which have been sold frozen, refrigerated or served hot at convenience stores, vending machines and stores through distributors in California, Illinois, Oregon and South Dakota.

There have been no reports of people getting sick. Listeria can cause serious illness and even death.

Santa Fe Mayor Urges Highlands Graduates To Work TogetherAssociated Press

Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales is urging some of the state's newest college graduates to stay in New Mexico and pursue their careers.

Gonzales delivered the commencement address Saturday at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, telling the crowd that he was there to offer his congratulations but also to recruit.

The Democratic mayor said with every generation of leaders sent out into New Mexico's economy, the state moves one step closer to taking control of its destiny.

Gonzales was the first in his family to attend college. He said a college degree changes lives and opens doors.

Gonzales also urged the graduates to resist division and hatred. He said potential for achievement is limitless when people put aside the things that keep them from working together.

Plan To Curb Panhandling Takes People From Begging To WorkAssociated Press

Portland, Maine, is the latest city in the U.S. to try to cut down panhandling by taking people from curbside begging to jobs, such as cleaning parks and picking up litter.

The city launched the "Portland Opportunity Crew" program this month. The program employs panhandlers to do landscaping and clean up public areas at the minimum wage of $10.68 per hour.

Cities including Albuquerque, New Mexico, and San Jose, California, have tried similar programs.

Portland is a city of about 67,000 people with a homeless population of a few hundred. Panhandlers are a common sight on downtown streets and traffic medians around the city.

The program will cost the city $42,000 this year. Workers will be paid via a debit card so they will not need to cash paychecks.

New Mexico Residents Want To See ATVs On The StreetsCarlsbad Current-Argus, Associated Press

New Mexico residents are asking city officials to changes rules on all-terrain vehicles.

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports the Pecos Valley Riders ATV club presented Carlsbad City Council with a petition on Tuesday. The petition asks that the city council adopt an ordinance that would allow ATVs on the road with cars and motorcycles.

Club Founder Gary Hardesty says hundreds of people supported the petition.

The petition cites a recently passed bill that allows local governments to decide on whether off-road vehicles belong on the streets.

Under state law, ATVs need brakes, mirrors and mufflers and at least one headlight and one taillight before they can hit the streets.

Hardesty says the group is willing to work with city officials to draft an ordinance.

New Mexico School Bus Drive Over Potential SinkholeCarlsbad Current-Argus, Associated Press

A potential massive sinkhole worries some New Mexico parents whose kids ride the school bus.

The Current-Argus reported last week that about half of Carlsbad school buses drive over the former I&W Brine Well, which was closed after the area was consider unstable.

According to experts, the area could collapse as early as 2020. They say it could create a crater up to 300 feet (91 meters) deep and hundreds of feet wide. Experts predict the collapse could cause deaths. As of last week, school bus routes remain unchanged.

Eddy County Emergency Services has partnered with other agencies to form a plan that would alert traffic of the danger hours before the collapse. Manager Jennifer Armendariz says the school district will be the first to be warned.

Justices Reject Appeal Of Student Arrested For BurpingAssociated Press

The Supreme Court has declined to hear a New Mexico mother's appeal over her son's arrest for disrupting his seventh grade gym class with fake burps.

The justices on Monday let stand a lower court ruling that said the police officer who arrested the boy in 2011 was immune from liability.

The appeals court's ruling drew a sharp dissent from then-Judge Neil Gorsuch just six months before he was picked for the Supreme Court vacancy.

The mother featured Gorsuch's dissent prominently in her appeal to the Supreme Court. Gorsuch said arresting a "class clown" for burping was going "a step too far."

Justices typically are recused from cases they heard before joining the court, and Gorsuch had no role in considering the case when it came before the high court.

New Mexico Crash Kills 5; Alcohol May Have Been FactorAssociated Press

New Mexico officials say alcohol may have been a factor in a fiery head-on crash that left five people dead, including a two small children.

The Albuquerque Journal reported a large work truck traveling north on US 550 in the northern part of the state Friday night crossed into oncoming traffic and slammed head-on into an SUV, which burst into flames. The Sandoval County Sheriff's Office said two adults, a toddler and an infant in the SUV died, and one of the four people in the truck was also killed.

Lt. Keith Elder said the people in the SUV burned to death. Elder says the truck driver died and the three other passengers were taken to a hospital. Elder said "alcohol is believed to be a factor in the crash."

Elder did not release the names of the SUV passengers, but the Journal reported they were Jimmie and Melissa Crawford of Aztec and their two children, who were 2 and 4 years of age. They were on their way to Albuquerque for a youth soccer tournament.

Woman Accused Of Impersonating A Nurse In St. Louis St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Associated Press

A federal grand jury in St. Louis has accused a woman of impersonating a nurse and spending three months at a hospital's intensive-care unit and with elderly psychiatric patients.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports 35-year-old Samantha Rivera is charged with health care fraud and identity theft. Authorities say she has lived in New Mexico and St. Louis and now resides in Illinois.

Authorities allege Rivera stole a real nurse's identity and worked from late November through February at St. Alexius Hospital.

She has never been licensed as a registered nurse in any state or graduated from nursing school.

Online court records show that Rivera was charged April 21 in New Mexico with fraud, forgery and identity theft.

Online court records don't show whether Rivera has an attorney.