Land and Conservation Fund Expires
Four fifths of New Mexico’s congressional delegation, including Albuquerque’s Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), favor continued funding of the Federal Land and Conservation Fund. This program insures efforts to acquire and protect land and water resources within privately held land near federally protected areas. The fund has been in place for 50 years but was allowed to expire at the end of September. It gets its money from royalties paid by energy companies extracting resources from publicly owned areas of the Outer Continental Shelf of North America. While democrats such as Grisham and Representative Ben Ray Luján (D) of District 3 point to the program’s relevance—Luján told the Albuquerque Journal the fund “has helped protect New Mexico’s precious land and water resources that are a part of our heritage”—majority republicans feel otherwise. Congressman Steve Pearce (R) has aligned himself with the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, Rob Bishop (R-Utah) in calling for massive revisions to the fund’s purpose and funding sources. NM Senator Martin Heinrich (D) recently introduced legislation to restore funding to the program, while NM Senator Udall (D) recently spoke out about the fund’s positive impact on our state’s economy.
New Medical Cannabis Producers Added
Although Mayor Richard Berry’s veto of an ordinance effectively decriminalizing personal use of marijuana survived override attempts at last week’s city council meeting, the state has begun the process of authorizing 12 new medical cannabis producers. There are currently 23 state-licensed medical cannabis producers in New Mexico; the list has not been updated since 2010. In 2013 it was announced that the program was struggling to supply a growing number of patients. A committee within the Department of Health worked with 86 applicants, vetting each for appropriateness and potential for compliance before culling the list to a dozen finalists. After the process is complete, state officials hope the new producers will add to the efficacy of the program. Since February production has expanded by state mandate to allow each licensed medical cannabis producer up to 450 plants to be grown for medical use. Previously the production limit was set at 150. Together, it is hoped these two new aspects will benefit the approximately 17,500 medical cannabis users throughout the state.
Police Recruitment Tactics Changing
Albuquerque's police department continues to face low recruitment numbers and as a result, growing pains heading into the next year. Additionally, upcoming retirements may leave the department with fewer on-the-beat police officers than it has seen in over 20 years, according to Police Chief Gorden Eden. Eden plans to step up recruitment efforts—only 23 cadets graduated from the most recent local police academy cadre—by enlisting social media and lowering entry qualifications to attract more applicants. Those interested in becoming an APD officer will no longer be required to have at least 60 hours of college credits under their belts, but will be able to earn them as they progress through the process of becoming a certified law enforcement officer. Under Eden’s plan, cadets will be able to earn up to 28 hours of credit while training and then will be required to acquire 32 more hours after graduation—with a strict time limit—if they want to remain on the force. Eden believes such efforts will bring the department up to speed with as many as 900 officers. Right now the number is hovering around 850, though the city has funding for up to 1000 uniformed police officers.