State Expands Medical Cannabis Program, Officials Seek To Fill Sen. John Pinto's Seat

Jun 6, 2019

New Mexico Expands Medical Marijuana Program - By Morgan Lee Associated Press

New Mexico is expanding its medical cannabis program to include people suffering from adverse effects of opioid use.

Health Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel on Thursday added opioid use disorder to the list of qualifying conditions for patients who can participate in the program.

She also approved the addition of Alzheimer's disease, autism spectrum disorder and three degenerative neurological disorders.

New Mexico joins at least eight states — from Maine to California — that already recognize opioid dependency as a qualifying condition, either explicitly or within the bounds of significant medical conditions.

Opening up New Mexico's program to people struggling with opioid use and addiction was among the campaign pledges of first-year Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

There are now more than 73,000 patients enrolled in New Mexico's program, most for chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Navajo Nation Reviews Spending After Proposing $167M BudgetGallup Independent, Associated Press

Navajo Nation officials are looking for cost-cutting measures after proposing a budget that is $5 million short of the current one.

The Gallup Independent reported this week that the tribe expects to have $167 million in revenue for the 2020 fiscal year that begins in October.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer said in a joint statement that their administration is reviewing department operations to look for "duplicate services, stagnant federal dollars, excessive spending, and other cost-saving measures."

They said they also are looking for ways to reduce personnel expenses, and they have instructed division directors to limit travel to conferences, summits and meetings.

They said the revenue decline is projected from the closures of the Navajo Generating Station and the Kayenta Mine.

Officials Look To Fill New Mexico Sen. John Pinto's SeatFarmington Daily Times, Associated Press

Officials are requesting letters of interest and resumes from those looking to fill the seat previously held by state Sen. John Pinto.

The Farmington Daily Times reports San Juan County commissioners want the applications by June 14 so they can recommend a name to Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The governor will name the replacement for the northwestern New Mexico district.

Pinto served in the state Senate for more than four decades, making him the state's longest-serving senator.

The 94-year-old Democrat and Navajo Code Talker died last month.

Pinto's term was set to expire next year. The person appointed to the role will have to run in the 2020 election.

Authorities ID 2 Hospitalized After Fireworks Explosion – Associated Press

Authorities have identified two firefighters critically injured in a fireworks explosion in New Mexico that remains under investigation.

The explosion Wednesday in Roswell injured a dozen firefighters at a fireworks storage area. A city spokesman says 46-year-old Jeff Stroble and 36-year-old Robert "Hoby" Bonham were hospitalized, while others were treated at the scene.

Authorities do not know what prompted the fireworks to explode as firefighters were moving them for an upcoming Fourth of July show.

Spokesman Todd Wildermuth said in a statement that Stroble has been with the Roswell Fire Department for 17 years. Bonham has worked for the department for 18 years.

They are being treated at a hospital in Lubbock, Texas, about 173 miles east of Roswell.

New Mexico State Police are investigating the explosion.

12 Firefighters Injured In Fireworks Explosion In New Mexico - Associated Press

A dozen firefighters were injured in an explosion at a fireworks storage area in eastern New Mexico.

State police and officials with the city of Roswell say the blast happened around noon Wednesday at the Roswell International Air Center as firefighters were boxing fireworks for an upcoming Fourth of July show.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says two firefighters were hospitalized, with one in critical condition and the other stable. The others were treated at the scene for minor injuries.

Authorities do not know what caused the blast.

Federal and local authorities are assisting state police in the investigation. The state fire marshal also was en route to the scene.

Images from the scene showed a black plume of smoke rising from the area. Crews continued to work hotspots Wednesday afternoon.

US Land Managers Shift Position On Chaco Protection Bill - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

U.S. land managers are open to legislation that would limit federal leases for oil and natural gas development near a national park in New Mexico held sacred by Native Americans.

Bureau of Land Management Deputy Director of Operations Michael Nedd told members of a congressional subcommittee Wednesday that the agency had no objection to the bill.

The agency shifted its stance following a recent visit by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

Bernhardt said the agency will defer leases within 10 miles of the park over the next year while regulators prepare a new management plan for the region's resources.

Tests Show Elevated Lead Levels At Some Albuquerque Schools - Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Testing results show elevated levels of lead were found in some fountains and sinks at Albuquerque elementary schools.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Wednesday that Albuquerque Public Schools started receiving test results last month after submitting water samples from 69 schools to state agencies beginning in April.

District Chief Operations Officer Scott Elder said about 5% of the more than 800 sinks and water fountains tested were above the federal threshold for lead.

He says the district replaced the faucets or fixtures where high lead was found. The district is waiting for results after retesting these sites.

Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority spokesman David Morris says the lead problem is with the school fixtures and not the water supply.

The 69 schools tested were built before 1990.


Audit Finds Deficiencies With Albuquerque Postal Facilities - Associated Press

The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General has issued recommendations following an investigation into maintenance, safety and staffing concerns at postal facilities in New Mexico's largest city.

The inspector general's audit was prompted by requests from members of the state's congressional delegation.

Investigators found deficiencies at all 13 postal facilities in Albuquerque that were part of the audit. The problems ranged from minor oversight infractions to more serious structural issues.

Officials with the postal workers union say the findings confirmed complaints made over the past year about dilapidated and unsanitary conditions and late mail delivery for certain customers.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall says filling vacancies and maintaining safe, secure facilities must be a top priority for the service. He plans to follow up to ensure the recommendations are implemented.

Authorities Accuse Teen Of Peddling Drugs, Guns On Snapchat - Associates Press

Authorities say they have arrested a New Mexico teenager accused of using social media to peddle fentanyl, assault weapons and other firearms.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez on Wednesday announced the 17-year-old's arrest. Authorities said it came after a multi-agency investigation that involved the FBI and state police.

The teen is expected to make an appearance Thursday in Children's Court on drug-related charges and unlawful possession of a firearm. The Associated Press is not naming the teen because of his age.

An FBI search warrant showed the teen was arrested early Tuesday morning at a house in southwest Albuquerque.

FBI and state police agents' list of items seized included 60 tablets they suspected to be the powerful opioid fentanyl and a loaded AR-15 pistol with a 30-round magazine.

Bernalillo Police Officers Involved In A Fatal Shooting - Associated Press

New Mexico State Police say they are investigating a fatal shooting involving police officers from the town of Bernalillo.

They say Bernalillo police were dispatched about a shots-fired call at an apartment around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

When officers arrived, they reported seeing a man with a gun.

He was later identified as 28-year-old Fabian Rivera of Bernalillo.

Two Bernalillo police officers fired shots at Rivera, who was transported to a trauma center where he was pronounced dead.

State Police say details about the incident including what led up to the shooting is under investigation.

Fire Danger Increases On New Mexico's Gila Forest - Associated Press

Officials with the Gila National Forest say warmer temperatures and windy conditions are increasing fire danger across the southern New Mexico forest.

The conditions have prompted managers to bump up the fire danger rating to "high." That means fine fuels can ignite readily and unattended campfires are likely to escape.

Officials considered several factors in raising the level, including data from weather stations across the forest.

They're asking people to be vigilant and avoid using anything with an open flame or spark. For example, chain saws should have spark arrestors and the use of lawn mowers should be avoided as the blades can strike a rock and produce sparks.

Officials also say cigarettes should be properly extinguished and trailer chains shouldn't be allowed to drag on the pavement to prevent sparking.

Former New Mexico Governor Joins National Memorial Board - Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Former New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez is joining an advisory board of a group working on a national memorial in Washington, D.C., for soldiers who fought in recent wars.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the Republican was recently appointed to the board of the North Carolina-based Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation. The group is seeking to honor those who fought in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places connected to conflicts called the war on terror.

Martinez says she's grateful for the opportunity to support the effort.

Former President George W. Bush is the honorary chairman of the foundation.

Foundation President and CEO Michael "Rod" Rodriguez is a former Green Beret who says his hometown is Las Cruces, New Mexico, where Martinez served as district attorney before becoming governor.

New Mexico Engineer Warns Of Dam Risks After Wet Winter - Santa Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

New Mexico's engineer says dams are at risk of overflowing or bursting following the wet winter and strong spring runoff.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports state engineer John D'Antonio told lawmakers Tuesday that one or more of the approximately 300 dams in the state could have problems that could lead to flooding.

D'Antonio says 170 dams are considered "high hazard," meaning a failure at one of these dams would likely result in at least one death.

He says 33% of these dams are in satisfactory shape and 30% are in poor or unsatisfactory condition.

He says the state is working to repair some of the most at-risk dams, but there is not a state fund dedicated to address the problem.

Activists To Use Bob Dylan's Birthday To Help Migrants - Silver City Sun-News, Associated Press

Activists in southwestern New Mexico hope to use Bob Dylan's birthday to raise money for Central American migrants seeking asylum.

The Silver City Sun-News reports advocates scheduled the "First Bob Dylan Birthday Concert" for Saturday in Silver City and plan to earmark event proceeds for migrants coming through Deming, New Mexico. The legendary musician is not expected to perform but the concert will feature local artists like Amos Torres.

Dylan, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016, turned 78 years old on May 24.

The Deming City Council voted last month to declare an emergency in response to the increasing number of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

Deming is located 51 miles north of the border.

Fugitive Mistakenly Released After Capture In New Mexico - Associated Press

Authorities say an escaped Arkansas inmate who was arrested in New Mexico is on the lam again after he was mistakenly released.

State police say 47-year-old Geronimo Espericueta had not yet been detained Wednesday after a Doña Ana County magistrate judge released him a day earlier.  State Police spokesman Dusty Francisco tells the Albuquerque Journal that Espericueta was released because an officer put his paperwork in the wrong box, which sent it to the wrong judge.

Authorities say Espericueta and another inmate escaped from a Little Rock jail last week by apparently crawling through a bathroom ceiling. They were captured in southern New Mexico.

Espericueta was being held on drug charges in Arkansas before he escaped. The other inmate — 31-year-old Jason Michael Brown — was being held on robbery, burglary and theft charges.