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THURS: NM rolls out an education campaign for recreational cannabis use, + More

Three strain varieties at a recreational dispensary.
My 420 Tours
Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0
Three strain varieties at a recreational dispensary.

New Mexico rolls out education campaign for recreational marijuana use - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

After more than a year of recreational marijuana sales, New Mexico is rolling out its first campaign to educate people about responsible use.

The first batch of billboards is now going up around the state while TV, radio, print and digital advertisements will be running through the month of June. The media buy is worth $400,000.

The state Cannabis Control Division confirmed Wednesday that it started working on the campaign last year, but the contract for the work was finalized only recently. An Albuquerque-based marketing company won the contract following a competitive bidding process.

The "Yes & Know" campaign is built around the phrase "Yes — cannabis is legal. Know — the rules."

"We recognize the need for education in this new cannabis industry. This campaign opens the conversation for responsible storage and safe cannabis consumption," said Linda Trujillo, who heads the state Regulation and Licensing Department, which oversees the cannabis division.

New Mexico is among more than 20 states nationwide that have legalized marijuana for adults. Sales began in April 2022, after lawmakers passed legislation that had been championed by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. The state already had a medical marijuana program.

In the first year of recreational sales, New Mexico issued around 2,000 cannabis licenses — including licenses to more than 630 retailers and over 500 manufacturers.

Sales for the first year topped $300 million, with monthly sales marking their highest levels in March, April and May, according to data from the Cannabis Control Division.

The new campaign suggests that users start with low doses and go slow, saying cannabis effects everyone differently. It also tells people to keep cannabis away from kids and pets, to not store it in cookie jars or take it across state lines or drive impaired.

The state Transportation Department earlier this year held a summit to increase awareness of the risks associated with driving under the influence of cannabis and to look at evidence-based approaches for preventing impaired driving.

While police in New Mexico's largest city have not noticed a significant increase in cannabis-related crashes or other crimes, Albuquerque police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said the department was working to get more officers trained to conduct such investigations.

Disaster recovery efforts boost initiative to map acequias in the state - By Megan Gleason,Source New Mexico

Hundreds of acequias, key irrigation systems that farmers and ranchers depend on to keep their crops thriving, are scattered across New Mexico. Tracking down all those systems is a difficult feat the state has been working on for years.

Last year’s massive disasters have provided a push in getting more mapping work done. With the aid of the nonprofit New Mexico Acequia Association, led by executive director Paula Garcia, the state could soon have new, updated data on acequias in different parts of the state.

“I think it’s a work in progress,” Garcia said. “It’s a really big undertaking.”

The Office of the State Engineer estimates there are around 2,000 acequias in New Mexico dating back to the Spanish colonial period centuries ago, all of them predated by Puebloan irrigation methods, spokesperson Maggie Fitzgerald said.

“There is no definitive, proven number, of active acequias in the state,” she said.

What acequias the state is aware of are shown in a map from the Office of the State Engineer, though this could miss out on more that officials don’t know about.

In the state map, about 73% of the acequia systems listed are unnamed. Fitzgerald said that’s because stewards — the people in charge of the acequias — haven’t reported the systems to the state.

Garcia said there’s a lot more work to get done on mapping and data-collecting efforts, but her association is pretty focused on disaster recovery right now.

Historic fires and flooding tore apart acequias on both ends of the state last year, flipping over headgates, cracking concrete water paths and eroding ditches. Stewards strained to find help, facing damage that would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix — money not available in their small bank accounts.

The Acequia Association has been helping the disaster-ridden areas in northern and southern New Mexico. Along the way, Garcia said the team is gathering information, like names and locations of acequias, and filling holes in their last rough map.

Back in 2017, she said, the Acequia Association conducted a survey in different parts of the state to track irrigation systems. She said about 300 acequias responded — 15% of all the systems the state assumes exist — but that information is way outdated now.

“Now that we’re doing disaster work, we have a better sense of how many we actually missed,” she said.

She said her organization has figured out a better method than a survey to get information this time around — word of mouth. It works best to go village by village, she said, cultivating good relationships with stewards in order to get more data from acequias.

She said that’s how her team is going about this effort in disaster areas.

“Ask, ‘Who’s the mayordomo for this one?’” she said. “And then contact that person and build the relationship and build trust and go out and map that acequia.”

Because disaster recovery work is taking so much time, Garcia said there’s been a bit of a delay in sharing information with the state.

“When things slow down a little bit, we’ll catch up and be sharing some of the basics with them,” she said.

Garcia said the Acequia Association has mapped about 70% of the channels running through or near the Hermits Peak-Calf Canyon Fire and Black Fire burn scars, meaning they know who runs the system, where the point of diversion is, and the location and length of the ditch.

She said it’s more difficult to get information from areas that haven’t had water rights finalized in court yet and are lacking state attention. Those places can often be starting from scratch, Garcia said.


Jonathan Martinez is the acequia bureau chief at the Interstate Stream Commission, part of the Office of the State Engineer. He said via email it’s important to track all the acequias and their data so everyone can be prepared when disasters hit.

“Having an accurate spatial accounting of acequias is especially important when natural disasters occur so that funding from state and federal sources can be distributed,” he said.

Garcia agreed. She said mapping an acequia is a documentation of its existence and the normal state of a system, pre-disaster.

“Visiting an acequia after a flood, you go out there and you might not even be able to see where the acequia used to be,” she said.

Plus, Garcia said, stewards can use the data themselves to do infrastructure planning. For example, she said, some stewards have already used data compiled from the mapping efforts to create five- to 10-year plans that address immediate and long-term needs.

She said some stewards are worried about the data and mapping being shared publicly. In addition to concerns about people using it to buy up water rights, she said, the association has to be careful not to tread on private property near irrigation ditches.

“It’s sensitive,” she said. “You’re passing through people’s private property, and you have to respect people’s privacy.”

Garcia said all the data the association is collecting belongs to the acequias and she asks stewards’ permission before sharing anything with state agencies.

“We’ve tried to keep it to really official purposes for disaster work and infrastructure work,” she said.

There’s no formal timeline for getting a comprehensive map done, she said. And once it is, keeping it updated will be a whole different challenge, she said. Garcia said the data goes out of date pretty quickly.

“I think it will be done on an as-needed basis when there’s a particular need in a particular basin,” she said.

Martinez said the mapping will take years to finish “but is important to have for our state.”


Garcia said she hopes each local acequia community can do their own mapping in the years to come and use it as a tool. She said she wants to see a database stewards can tap into to add their own information and projects.

The map could go beyond just data, too, she added. She said stewards could add stories about the acequias or transform it into a hub for cultural and traditional resources, making it more personal.

“Click on a map, you’re not just getting a picture about a concrete diversion, but maybe they’re getting a story, a vignette or some kind of small video of an elder talking or telling a story about the acequia,” she said. “Or maybe a memory about place name or why the acequia’s named a certain way or who the prominent families were in that village.”

This effort could be a great opportunity to get young people involved, Garcia said, teaching them more about the irrigation channels and giving stewards a way to get a sense of how the systems are doing before irrigation season starts.

“I can imagine having youth crews go and walk the ditch every early spring, and then come back and share the data with each acequia,” she said.

Garcia said this would help build acequias’ capacity and increase place-based knowledge. And, she added, it would be a locally led, living process.

“With that foundation, we can start to develop some other more creative ideas for how to use mapping skills,” she said.

US agency says rare flowering plant found only in New Mexico should be listed as endangered — Associated Press

A rare flowering plant found only in one spot in southern New Mexico should be granted federal protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Wednesday.

The agency is proposing to list the swale paintbrush as endangered. Also known as the glowing Indian paintbrush, the plant's bright yellowish flowers produce nectar and support pollinators.

Historically, the plant was native to grasslands in Hidalgo County in southwestern New Mexico and used to grow at sites in the Sierra Madre Occidental region, which spans parts of the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Durango.

Biologists listed drought, altered water flows, wildfires, excessive grazing and a warming climate as some of the threats to the species.

The Center for Biological Diversity supported the proposed listing, saying the plant has an extremely limited known distribution and that the last confirmed siting in Mexico was in 1985.

"The Endangered Species Act has prevented the extinction of so many other plant and animal species," said Michael Robinson, a senior conservation advocate with the center. "In this instance, the law will help save a unique flower that's part of what makes the Southwest not only botanically interesting but also beautiful."

The Fish and Wildlife Service will be accepting public comment on the proposal through Aug. 7.

If the agency moves forward with the listing, it will then have to develop a recovery plan for the plants. That will likely call for reintroducing the paintbrush to other habitats in case its current known population is wiped out.

Alamogordo to host bench warrant safe surrender event — KUNM News

Anyone with a bench warrant in New Mexico will have the opportunity to address it without having to go to jail if they can make it to Alamogordo in the next two days.

The Alamogordo Magistrate Court on Wednesday announced a safe surrender event to be held Friday, June 9, from 3 until 8 p.m. and Saturday, June 10, from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m.

The Administrative Office of the Courts Deputy Director Karl Reifsteck says the event allows anyone with an outstanding warrant to avoid jail, the suspension of driving privileges, or other consequences by appearing before a judge.

Reifsteck says anyone who appears voluntarily will receive favorable consideration when requesting a new court date, or payment plan, for example.

If you are unsure if you have a warrant out, call the court information hotline at 855-268-7804, or check nmcourts.gov online case lookup.

DeSantis recruiters eyed Catholic church for migrant flights that bishop calls 'reprehensible' - By Olga R. Rodriguez And Elliot Spagat Associated Press

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' recruiters set their sights on Sacred Heart Catholic Church in the Texas border city of El Paso in search of asylum-seekers they could take from its bustling migrant shelter to California's capital on taxpayer-funded private jets.

Intentionally or not, envoys for Florida's Catholic governor and Republican presidential candidate infused an element of his own religion into his latest move on immigration, which has drawn sharp criticism from El Paso's Catholic bishop.

"Without going into the details of the politics of it, it does seem clear that they were being used not out of concern for the migrants but in an effort to make a political point," Bishop Mark Seitz told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Seitz said many migrants arriving in the U.S. don't know the geography, including how far cities and states are from one another, and are just anxious to move on.

"If you're seeking to help a person who needs to get to a certain destination where they have a sponsor, where they have a job or something like that, that is a commendable act," Seitz said. "But if they are being moved simply in order to use them to make a political point, that is reprehensible. It is taking person who already has lost everything — everything. They have nothing, not even a nation they can really call their own because they have had to flee that nation. And then using them for your own purposes: That is not morally acceptable."

DeSantis has acknowledged that Florida paid to transport 36 mostly Venezuelan migrants from Republican-led Texas to Sacramento on charter flights last Friday and on Monday. The first group was dropped off in front of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Sacramento, also the headquarters of Catholic Charities, apparently without warning. Local advocates and officials met the second group at the airport after learning of their arrival.

The governor says they made the trip voluntarily — a claim that some migrant advocates challenge. He also says they signed waivers to that effect and that California effectively invited them with its welcoming policies.

"I think the border should be closed. I don't think we should have any of this. But if there's a policy to have an open border, then I think the sanctuary jurisdictions should be the ones that have to bear that," DeSantis said Wednesday at an event for law enforcement officials in Sierra Vista, Arizona.

Asked about the bishop's criticism, DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern said the governor's previous comments "stand on their own."

In May, DeSantis signed a law allocating up to $12 million for migrant flights, like two that Florida funded last year from San Antonio to the pricey Massachusetts island of Martha's Vineyard.

References to the Martha's Vineyard flights have become a staple in DeSantis' presidential stump speech and often draw hearty applause from Republican primary voters. The Sacramento flights are part of a broader effort by certain Republican-led states to send migrants to Democratic-leaning parts of the country, including New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

President Joe Biden is also Catholic and, like DeSantis, he has clashed with bishops, though in Biden's case over LGBTQ+ rights and abortion. In addition to immigration, DeSantis has split with bishops over the death penalty, which the governor supports and the church doesn't.

Seitz, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' migration committee, has been bishop for a decade in heavily Catholic El Paso, which sits in one of the busiest corridors for illegal border crossings. Sacred Heart is downtown, a few blocks from Mexico.

Two men and a woman working for the Florida government recruited migrants outside Sacred Heart with promises of jobs and housing in California, said Imelda Maynard, director of legal services at Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services Inc., which is part of the Diocese of El Paso.

A Venezuelan man said he was lured to a distant motel with his wife and four children for three days, Maynard said. He became suspicious and pulled out after being told he would have to fly separately and the rest of his family would follow on a different flight because there wasn't enough room for them to go together.

The man didn't know where the motel was, but Maynard suspects it was in Deming, New Mexico, which was where the charter flights departed for Sacramento. The family hitchhiked back to Sacred Heart.

A passenger who was on the first flight called the Venezuelan migrant to say he had been duped, Maynard said.

"Don't come. It's a scam. There are no jobs here, there is no room and board. They just dumped us in the middle of nowhere at this church and no one knows what's going on," the Venezuelan migrant recounted being told.

Sacred Heart is a well-known shelter, particularly among Venezuelans. It is indicative of the many Catholic charities along the southern border from San Diego to Brownsville, Texas, that provide food, showers, housing and transportation to migrants seeking a rest stop before leaving for their final destinations in the United States.

It is unclear if Sacred Heart was the only place that DeSantis' recruiters targeted. Maynard said she didn't know of any others.

Maynard said standing outside a shelter promising jobs that don't exist was "gross." California Gov. Gavin Newsom, DeSantis' perennial Democratic rival, has suggested it may be criminal.

"It's really dehumanizing to have someone play with you that way because no one took into account these are human beings and they were toyed with," Maynard said.

DeSantis' office has emphasized that its contractor safely delivered migrants to Catholic Charities of Sacramento Inc., which is located at the California diocese. The Sacramento charity has not responded to the AP's requests for comment.

Seitz applauded Catholic Charities' response.

"I'm inspired by the way I see people received here on the border, and, I'm hearing reports, by the way they were received in Sacramento by Catholic Charities," he said. "Catholic Charities was not informed, but they stepped up and received them, and that's the good news in all of this."

Thousands of New Mexicans will have driver's licenses reinstated under new law — Associated Press

Thousands of New Mexicans will have their driver's licenses reinstated under a new law that prevents the state Motor Vehicle Division from suspending the licenses of people who fail to appear in court, or don't pay speeding tickets or other fines.

State officials confirmed Wednesday about 308,000 licenses that are currently suspended will be affected, and MVD staff are being trained on the new requirements.

"There is a fair amount of system reconfiguration that needs to be done, but we expect to be able to have those suspensions removed by September," said Charlie Moore, a spokesman for the Taxation and Revenue Department, which oversees the MVD.

The underlying citations that led to the suspensions will still be reflected on driver records, Moore said.

State court officials say the new law that takes effect next week may lead more people to skip out on court hearings or ignore fines, but advocates see it as a positive change.

Monica Ault, state director with the advocacy group Fines & Fees Justice Center, told Albuquerque television station KRQE that suspensions can have a big impact on New Mexicans who rely on driving to get to work or school.

"What these types of license suspensions do is they force an impossible choice: You stop driving and you lose access to work and basic necessities. Or you keep driving, you risk more fines and fees, arrest, and even incarceration," Ault said.

Research by the center shows that license revocations seem to impact rural New Mexicans more. A survey of 511 residents revealed that those from rural and semi-rural areas were 31% more likely to have their license suspended due to court issues than those from urban areas.

Ault said part of the challenge is that rural residents might not always know they've been ordered to come to court because their physical address on their license is often different from their mailing address and they don't receive a notice.

Lawmakers rewrote the rules related to license suspensions earlier this year. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the bill March 15.

Barry Massey, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of the Courts, said more drivers respond to the court when they are notified of the potential license suspension than the notice that a bench warrant has been issued.

"Bench warrants tend to drive people away from the courts," he said. "Now, when a person fails to appear in court, the only option the court has is to issue a bench warrant."

Ault argues New Mexico's courts still have other tools to ensure compliance. She noted the new law doesn't eliminate any debt from unpaid fines, so Ault said that could act as an incentive to comply and pay.

'The Righteous,' an opera set among American Southwest church communities, to premiere in 2024 — Associated Press

The Santa Fe Opera will present the world premiere of "The Righteous" by composer Gregory Spears with a libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winner Tracy K. Smith on July 13 next year.

The opera, set among church communities in the American Southwest, stars baritone Michael Mayes as a preacher who becomes governor during a period stretching from the Iran hostage crisis in 1979 to the Gulf War in the 1990s, the company announced Wednesday. The cast includes countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, bass-baritones Greer Grimsley and Nicholas Newton, sopranos Amber Wagner and Elena Villalón, and mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano.

Spears and Smith collaborated on "Castor and Patience," which premiered at the Cincinnati Opera last July. Smith won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for poetry and was the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2017-19.

Jordan de Souza conducts a production directed by Kevin Newbury, which will be given six performances through Aug. 13, 2024.

Santa Fe's 2024 season includes a new Louisa Muller production of Verdi's "La Traviata" opening June 28, starring soprano Mané Galoyan and conducted by Corrado Rovaris; a new Stephen Barlow staging of Mozart's "Don Giovanni" opening June 29, starring bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green and conducted by Harry Bicket; a staging of Strauss' "Der Rosenkavalier" first seen at Britain's Garsington Opera in 2021 and starring Rachel Willis-Sørensen; and a revival of Stephen Lawless' 2009 production of Donizetti's "L'Elisir d'Amore (The Elixir of Love).