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KUNM News Update

Wed: New rules in effect for marijuana industry, Tribal concerns over new LANL power lines+ more

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The New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department's Cannabis Control Division enacted new rules governing the manufacture, sale and transport of recreational marijuana

New rules now in effect for New Mexico marijuana industry—Associated Press

New rules governing the manufacture, sale and transport of recreational marijuana in New Mexico are now in effect.

The New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department's Cannabis Control Division made the announcement Tuesday, saying the rules allow the division to continue streamlining the process for cannabis businesses to get licensed as the state moves toward recreational sales over the coming months.

Under legislation passed earlier this year, the rules needed to be in place by Jan. 1. Sales are expected to start by April 1.

More than 300 applications for licenses across all sectors of the cannabis industry have been submitted so far, according to the Cannabis Control Division. Each one is being reviewed.

"Every day brings us closer to the first adult-use cannabis sales in New Mexico," Division Director Kristen Thomson said, adding that "businesses and consumers can be confident that all necessary support and protection is in place to ensure a thriving cannabis industry in our state."

The rules that took effect Tuesday include final manufacturing requirements that replace emergency rules that were adopted in the fall to protect workers and improve workplace safety. The rules also cover the licensing of retail stores and transport guidelines for the safe delivery and distribution of cannabis products by licensed couriers.

New Mexico tribes concerned about plan to power nuclear lab—Susan Montoya Brown, Associated Press

New Mexico Indigenous leaders are concerned about a proposed multimillion-dollar transmission line that would cross what they consider sacred lands.

The transmission line planned by the U.S. government would bring more electricity to Los Alamos National Laboratory as it looks to power ongoing operations and future missions at the northern New Mexico complex that include manufacturing key components for the nation's nuclear arsenal.

The proposed transmission line would stretch more than 12 miles (19 kilometers), crossing national forest land in an area known as the Caja del Rio and spanning the Rio Grande at White Rock Canyon. New structural towers would need to be built on both sides of the canyon.

The All Pueblo Council of Governors — which represents 20 pueblos in New Mexico and Texas — recently adopted a resolution to support the preservation of the Caja del Rio. The organization says the area has a dense concentration of petroglyphs, ancestral homes, ceremonial kivas, roads, irrigation structures and other cultural resources.

The tribes say longstanding mismanagement by the federal government has resulted in desecration to sacred sites on the Caja del Rio.

The U.S. Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration announced in April that it would be working with federal land managers to assess the project's potential environmental effects. But pueblo leaders claim there has not been adequate tribal consultation on the proposed project.

All Pueblo Council of Governors Chairman Wilfred Herrera submitted a letter to the Santa Fe National Forest on Dec. 17, requesting that forest officials comply with consultation requirements.

Herrera, a former governor of Laguna Pueblo, said preservation of the Caja Del Rio's sacred landscape is a collective priority for the council as it works to protect ancestral homelands around the region. He said Caja del Rio is home to pueblo ancestors and spirits.

"We encourage the federal government to understand that to fully engage with the pueblos, we need your commitment and cooperation, especially during this time of year marked by transition and rest. APCG stands ready to support decision-making that protects pueblo cultural resources in perpetuity," he said in a statement issued last week.

Federal officials have said they will try to avoid known biological, recreational, cultural and historical resources, such as the Camino Real Aldentro National Historic Trail. Another goal would be minimizing visibility of the transmission line from residential areas.

The project — which could cost up to $300 million — calls for new overhead poles with an average span of 800 feet (244 meters), access roads for construction and maintenance and staging areas where materials can be stored.

Part of the line would be built along an existing utility corridor, but a new path would have to be cut through forest land to reach an electrical substation.

Environmentalists, residents and others already have voiced concerns about potential effects, saying the area encompasses wide Indigenous landscapes and is a scenic gateway to northern New Mexico.

The area has seen an increase in outdoor recreational use and it serves as a migration corridor for wildlife.

The Los Alamos Study Group, a watchdog group that has been critical of Los Alamos lab's expansion plans, has said the lack of an overall analysis of the cumulative effects that plutonium core production and more weapons work could have on the surrounding communities is another concern.

Sentencing set for US airman convicted in teacher's killing—Associated Press

A U.S. Air Force airman who was convicted of killing a Mennonite woman after kidnapping her in New Mexico and taking her to Arizona will be sentenced next month.

An Arizona judge during a status hearing on Tuesday scheduled Mark Gooch's sentencing for Jan. 19. His attorney and the prosecution agreed they were ready to proceed and asked the judge to schedule the sentencing as soon as possible.

Gooch, 22, faces up to life in prison.

Jurors in October found Gooch guilty of kidnapping and first-degree murder in Sasha Krause's killing. The two didn't know each other and lived hundreds of miles apart but shared an upbringing in the Mennonite religion. Krause committed to the church, while Gooch did not.

Krause, 27, was last seen in January 2020 at the church in her tight-knit Mennonite community outside Farmington, where she was gathering material for Sunday school.

Her body was found more than a month later in a forest clearing outside Flagstaff, nearly 300 miles (480 kilometers) away. A camper collecting firewood spotted Krause face-down among pine needles near a national monument. Krause's wrists were bound, and she had been shot in the head.

During the trial last fall, jurors heard 10 days of testimony from those who knew Krause and investigated her disappearance. They heard from ballistics experts who disagreed on whether the bullet taken from her skull was fired from a .22-caliber rifle Gooch owned.

Gooch's attorney, Bruce Griffen, tried to raise doubt by pointing to a lack of forensic evidence and to testimony about another car seen in the Mennonite community the day Krause went missing. He said Gooch was peaceful and volunteered information to a detective who interviewed him at Luke Air Force Base in metropolitan Phoenix, where he was stationed.

Authorities used cellphone and financial records as well as surveillance video to tie Gooch to the crimes.

Teen arrested in fatal carkacking and kidnapping plot—Elise Kaplan, The Albuquerque Journal

A 17 -year-old suspect has turned himself into police after a warrant was issued for his arrest in connection with a carjacking and kidnapping plot that turned fatal.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Adrian Avila has been charged with murder and conspiracy along with other crimes in the February 11th death of 24-year-old Elias Otero.

Police are still looking for 18-year-old Anna Bella Dukes, who is suspected as being Avila’s accomplice and is facing the same charges.

According to a criminal complaint, Dukes met Elias’s brother, Nicholas Otero, on Snapchat, and after meeting in person, commented on his diamond encrusted necklace, asking him where he kept his money and if he had any guns. Then, police say three armed men appeared and forced Nicholas into another car before taking him to Elias’s home in southwest Albuquerque, where they threatened to kill Nicholas unless Elias gave them one thousand dollars.

Elias pointed a gun at the men and Police say that’s when Avila responded by opening fire and killing him. The suspects crashed Nicholas’s car and escaped in a different vehicle police say they had carjacked from another man Dukes had met online the night before.

Albuquerque, Belen police investigate death of missing man—Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Police in Albuquerque and Belen are investigating the death of a man whose body was discovered in a charred vehicle.

Michael Yarbrough, 52, was reported missing to Albuquerque police on Dec. 21. His body was later found in a vehicle that burned earlier in the month on Interstate 25 in Belen.

Authorities are working with the state fire marshal to determine what happened.

Yarbrough's death is being investigated as a homicide.