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Health Secretary Rejects Medical Cannabis Expansion, New Mexico Fire Threatens Structures

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Health Secretary Rules Out Expanding Medical Pot  – Santa Fe New Mexican

State Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher rejected proposals that would have expanded the list of conditions under the state’s medical cannabis program to include Alzheimer’s disease and opioid addiction.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Gallagher went against recommendations by the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board to include opioid addiction among the conditions that could be treated with medical marijuana. A bill sponsored by Republicans that passed the Legislature this year would have added opioid use as well. It was vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez.

In her decision, Gallagher argued that studies showing cannabinoids can help control opioid cravings are not conclusive.

Gallagher also turned down recommendations to increase the number of plants allowed by nonprofit growers and to enroll new patients via telemedicine. 

New Mexico Fire Threatens StructuresThe Associated Press

Federal forest officials say they have yet to determine how many homes and summer cabins are being threatened by a blaze burning in northern New Mexico.

The fire was reported Thursday morning and quickly spread to an estimated 100 acres near the boundary of the Santa Fe National Forest and the Valles Caldera National Preserve.

Officials say the fire was spreading and moving to the east.

The fire produced a plume of smoke that could be seen for miles.

Several engines, three air tankers and a helicopter were assigned to the fire, and forest officials said more resources were ordered.

New Mexico Pension Fund Confronts Rising ObligationsAssociated Press

New Mexico's retirement fund for public schools and colleges is confronting an $800 million increase in needs after pension managers lowered expectations for future investment returns.

Education Retirement Board Executive Director Jan Goodwin said Wednesday that meetings with pension members are being arranged to discuss measures to shore up the fund. Possible changes include future reductions in benefits or increased contributions.

Public pension funds across the country are lowering expectations for investment earnings, acknowledging that more money will likely be needed to pay people as they retire. New Mexico's education pension fund estimates it now will need 84 years or longer to catch up with its funding obligations without reforms.

The gap between promised pension benefits and current assets is $12.6 billion at New Mexico's two major public pension funds.

Albuquerque Police: Man Found Burning On Mattress Has DiedThe Associated Press

Albuquerque police say a man has died after being found on fire on a mattress also on fire.

Officer Fred Duran says it appears the fire was set intentionally and that police are looking for two men seen running from the scene where 50-year-old Leo Molzhon was found.

Police and firefighters responding to a report of a fire Wednesday afternoon found Molzhon on the mattress along a street that passes under Interstate 40 in an area of mixed commercial and industrial uses.

Duran says detectives would like to speak to the men seen running away before police arrived and that police also want to hear from anyone with information about the fire.

New Mexico Rep. Pearce Describes ShootingKOAT-TV, Associated Press

New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce says the gunshots started to ring out as he left the batting cage during an early morning congressional baseball practice.

The Republican lawmaker recounted Wednesday's shooting in a video posted on his Facebook page that shows him sitting at his desk on Capitol Hill. Pearce says it was a traumatic and tragic morning.

Pearce also described the chaotic scene in a phone interview with KOAT-TV of Albuquerque shortly after the shooting.

Wounded in the attack was House GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and several others as congressmen and aides dove for cover.

The rifle-wielding attacker died after being shot by police. He was identified as an Illinois man who had several minor run-ins with the law in recent years and belonged to a Facebook group called "Terminate the Republican Party."

Wildfire Prompts Smoke Advisory For Northern New MexicoAssociated Press

State health and environment officials have issued a smoke advisory for part of northern New Mexico due to a lightning-caused fire in the Carson National Forest.

The advisory will remain in effect through Friday for Vallecitos Canyon and surrounding communities.

The fire has grown to about two square miles since being sparked June 3. Crews are working to secure the perimeter and clear out unburned fuel.

Officials are advising residents to close their windows overnight through the early morning until the smoke lifts and visibility improves. They say smoke can irritate the respiratory system and intensify chronic heart and lung problems.

Cuts To New Mexico Summer School Program Hit StudentsAssociated Press

Several public school districts in New Mexico say they are reeling from state funding cutbacks to a summer program aimed at extending the school year for disadvantaged students in third grade and younger.

At a legislative hearing on Wednesday, superintendents from school districts based in Deming, Santa Fe and Albuquerque described working in concert with state public education officials to attract more students to the summer-extension program only to see funding slashed abruptly this year.

The Legislative Education Study Committee says student enrollment in the K-3 Plus program has been reduced by about 5,000 children to 15,000 this summer. The program typically extends schooling for 25 days.

Public Education Department Policy Director Matt Pahl says the cuts offset previous overspending and budget reductions by the Legislature to other grant programs.

New Mexico State Police Assume Manhunt For An Escaped InmateAssociated Press

New Mexico State Police have assumed the investigation and manhunt for an escaped inmate from the Cibola County Detention Center.

Authorities say 22-year-old Ramon Lorenzo of Grants escaped from the facility about 9 p.m. Tuesday.

It's believed Lorenzo jumped a fence while in a recreation yard and climbed down a wall before fleeing.

Albuquerque TV station KOAT reports that Lorenzo recently was sentenced for armed robbery and battery and was awaiting transport to prison.

State police say Lorenzo has a history of violent criminal behavior, including convictions for aggravated battery with a deadly weapon resulting in great bodily harm and armed robbery with a deadly weapon.

New Mexico Hiker Rescued After Being Lost For More Than Day Associated Press

Bernalillo County authorities say a hiker has been rescued after being lost in the East Mountains for more than a day.

They say the woman in her 60s was taken off the mountains by helicopter Wednesday and taken to a hospital for evaluation.

The name of the woman hasn't been released, but county sheriff's officials say she's tired and dehydrated but otherwise is doing well.

Lawyer For Silver City District Attorney Rebuts ChargesAssociated Press

Silver City District Attorney Francesca Estevez's lawyer says the criminal charges filed against his client are "a shameful political attack" and are in retaliation for the prosecutor going public about problems with a police evidence locker.

Lawyer Jim Foy says Estevez denies all charges against her.

The Attorney General's Office last week charged Estevez with five misdemeanor counts. She is accused of violating ethical principles as a public official in connection with a traffic stop in June 2016. Officers thought Estevez was drunk but didn't test her for alcohol.

Foy says Estevez cooperated with all the officers' requests and did not ask for any special treatment. But Estevez is accused of telling officers she would hate to see the U.S. Justice Department take over their department because of officers' failings.

State Engineers To Look Improvement Possibilities For US 550Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

State Transportation Department Secretary Tom Church has asked department engineers to look at how to improve motorist safety on U.S. 550.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports a spokeswoman did not provide further details on Church's request Tuesday. The action follows a Sunday New Mexican report which deemed the highway which starts north of Albuquerque and passes through communities such as San Ysidro, Cuba and Aztec before reaching Colorado, as one of the state's deadliest major highways.

The highway has a narrow median and a speed limit of 70 mph for most of the road. There are no cable barriers on the highway, which experts said could have prevented many accidents that occurred after vehicles entered opposing lanes. The department has said installing cable barriers was discussed.

2 Killed When Small Plane Crashes Near New Mexico AirportAssociated Press

Authorities say a pilot and his son are dead after their twin-engine plane crashed shortly after taking off from an airport in southern New Mexico.

State Police spokesman Carl Christiansen says the crash occurred shortly after 10 p.m. Tuesday at the airport in Ruidoso, about 140 miles (225 kilometers) northeast of El Paso, Texas.

A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration says the Beechcraft King Air was en route to Abilene, Texas.

Christiansen identified the pilot as 39-year-old Justin King and 13-year-old Hayden King of Ruidoso.

The cause of the wreck is not clear. The FAA says the plane burned upon impact.

The National Transportation Safety Board will lead the investigation.