WED: Medical Marijuana Producers Seek Tax Refund Worth Millions, + More

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Medical Marijuana Producers Seek Tax Refund Worth Millions – Associated Press

A major business in New Mexico's burgeoning market for marijuana wants the state to refund millions of dollars in taxes that were levied in recent years on sales of medical marijuana but not against most prescription medications.

Integrated cannabis provider Ultra Health said Tuesday that it has asked the state Supreme Court for the opportunity to provide arguments in a legal dispute between another medical marijuana company and the state Taxation and Revenue Department.

New Mexico lawmakers and cannabis regulators made clear this year that a limited personal supply of medical cannabis will be available tax-free starting June 29. The provision is part of legislation signed in April by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to legalize recreational marijuana sales by April 2022 and waive taxes on medical marijuana this year.

“We are very glad the New Mexico Legislature had taken the initiative to include that clause for the deduction,” said Marissa Novel, chief marketing officer at Ultra Health. “What's still up for debate is years worth of (past) medical cannabis activity.”

In its Supreme Court filing, Ultra Health says it paid nearly $2.7 million in gross receipts taxes in 2020 alone on $39.5 million in sales.

Medical marijuana provider Sacred Health contends that medical marijuana qualifies for a tax deduction as a prescription drug, and won a favorable decision in the New Mexico Court of Appeals last year before legalization reforms were approved.

State taxation officials have asked the state Supreme Court to reverse that decision. They say the Legislature's decision to waive taxes on medical marijuana sales demonstrates that the tax previously applied.

New Mexico Financial Trustees Weigh Social Responsibility – Morgan Lee, Associated Press

Custodians of New Mexico's two multibillion-dollar financial trusts that underwrite public education and infrastructure spending are weighing whether to give greater weight to issues of social responsibility and sustainability in investment decisions.

The State Investment Council headed by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Tuesday kicked off deliberations about its investment strategies and a possible policy change to give greater consideration to a host of environmental, societal and governance concerns, from climate change to issues of racial injustice.

The conversation takes place as giant asset manager BlackRock has placed greater emphasis on the risks and rewards of environmental, social and governance issues, sometimes challenging the direction of company executives.

Investment council members including State Treasurer Tim Eichenberg and Catherine Allen indicated support for giving greater consideration to social responsibility and sustainability issues.

“It's appropriate risk management for us to be taking this into consideration,” Allen said.

Council member Leonard Lee Rawson of Las Cruces said he would prefer that the Legislature decide whether to explicitly incorporate social responsibility into the council's investment considerations.

He cautioned the council against activism on lightning-rod issues such as climate change when evaluating investment risks and opportunities.

Lujan Grisham and State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard, the council vice chairwoman, were absent from the discussion Tuesday. No formal action was taken, with further debate scheduled for a meeting in August.

The State Investment Council last year adopted a strategic plan for renewable energy that allows investments in New Mexico solar and wind projects to offset other energy investments including fossil fuel activities. The plan was promoted by a Democratic-sponsored state House memorial in 2020.

The council oversees the state Land Grant Permanent Fund and Severance Tax Permanent Fund, with combined assets of roughly $29.5 billion as of May 31.

4 People Win $250K Apiece In New Mexico Vaccine Sweepstakes Associated Press

State health officials announced Tuesday that four people have each won $250,000 prizes as part of the New Mexico vaccine sweepstakes.

They were the first four winners of Vax 2 the Max Sweepstakes.

The $10 million cash sweepstakes is funded by federal stimulus and intended to incentivize COVID-19 vaccinations.

Four vaccinated New Mexicans — one from each public health region of the state — are each confirmed winners of $250,000 as drawn at random Friday by the New Mexico Lottery.

Non-winning entries will be carried over to each successive $1 million drawing.

New Mexicans who have opted in to the sweepstakes don’t have to opt in again to remain eligible for future drawings.

Four more $1 million Friday drawings, with four regional $250,000 winners each, will occur throughout the summer.

A grand prize drawing of $5 million is scheduled for early August.

Navajo Nation Reports 5 New COVID-19 Cases And 1 More Death – Associated Press

The Navajo Nation on Tuesday reported five new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death.

Tribal health officials said the sprawling reservation that stretches into New Mexico, Arizona and Utah has seen 30,972 known cases of the coronavirus since the pandemic began more than a year ago.

The known death toll now stands at 1,347.

The tribe had reported no cases and no deaths on Monday.

“We are not out of this pandemic yet, but we are making progress each day,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a statement Tuesday.

Last Friday, the Navajo Department of Health lifted the tribe’s stay-at-home order, easing restrictions to allow in-person meetings and ceremonies of 25 people or fewer and drive-thru gatherings of up to 100 vehicles.

Face masks are required by everyone on the Navajo Nation, whether or not they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

New Mexico School District To Discuss Transgender Athletics – Associated Press

School board members in southern New Mexico plan to discuss a proposal that could restrict participation in sports by transgender athletes.

The Alamogordo school board scheduled a work session for Saturday that will include time for the public to comment on the proposed resolution.

Jerrett Perry, the school district superintendent, has said that allowing transgender girls to compete in girls' sports would impede the opportunities for biological female student athletes on the court and the field.

“I support this stance and will adamantly defend the integrity of biological female athletes,” he told the Alamogordo Daily News.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico is taking issue with the proposal. The organization sent a letter Tuesday to the school board saying such a policy if adopted by the district would violate state and federal law.

Citing previous federal court rulings and New Mexico statutes, the ACLU wrote that the "proposal flies in the face of civil rights and liberties. This is about protecting our children from discrimination by the very professionals we trust to keep them safe.”

The move comes as lawmakers in more than 20 states have considered bills that would restrict which teams transgender students can join. Supporters of the legislation say many transgender students of the biological male sex have an unfair advantage since they are physically stronger. Opponents, including the ACLU, argue such bans can exacerbate mental health issues that affect transgender students.