New Mexico becomes 16th state to legalize marijuana, a rebuttal to America’s ‘failed war on drugs’

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New Mexico has joined 15 other states and the District of Colombia in legalization the recreational use of marijuana, with retail sales to begin by April 2022.

  • Adults in New Mexico will soon be able to possess and grow marijuana.
  • The state legalized recreational use of cannabis this year, with retail sales to begin by April 2022.
  • “We’re going to start righting past wrongs of this country’s failed war on drugs,” Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham said.
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Beginning this summer, New Mexicans 21 and older will be able to both possess and grow marijuana. The state on Monday became the latest to legalize the recreational use of cannabis – with retail sales to begin by early 2022.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat who in March convened a special session of the legislature to reform the state’s drug laws, signed a legalization bill into law. She also put her signature on a companion bill that will give many with past marijuana convictions a clean record.

“We’re going to start righting past wrongs of this country’s failed war on drugs,” Lujan-Grisham said in a statement. “And we’re going to break new ground in an industry that may well transform New Mexico’s economic future for the better.”

One of the country’s most impoverished states, a legal cannabis industry could spawn a $318 million market and more than 11,000 jobs, according to an economic analysis trumpeted by the governor.

Although New Mexico’s political scene has long been dominated by Democrats, the state for years struggled to move forward with marijuana legalization, with reform efforts thwarted by more conservative members of the party. In 2020, however, several of those conservative Democrats lost primary races to more progressive challengers who went on to win in November, shifting the state Senate to the left.

While marijuana will become legal on June 29, New Mexico residents will, for a time, need to grow their own (under the new law, they are allowed up to six plants each). That’s because the state will first need to develop both a regulatory infrastructure and sufficient commercial supply before allowing retail sales, which could begin as late as April 2022.

The upside for marijuana consumers is that, unlike in California and some other states that have legalized cannabis, local governments will not be able to issue blanket prohibitions on sales within their jurisdiction, the Albuquerque Journal reported. And anyone whose past offense would now be legal, or would have resulted in a lower sentence, will have their criminal record automatically expunged, per the Las Cruces Sun News.

Although New Mexico is known for its libertarian streak, the state’s Republicans are displeased.

“Recreational marijuana is hardly a pressing issue,” the New Mexico GOP said in a statement on Monday, arguing that cannabis legalization “will lead to even more crime, underage use, and impaired driving.”

In fact, surveys have found that the rate of marijuana use by young people has either remained the same or declined in states that have legalized its recreational use. Studies have also failed to detect a clear connection between road safety and the legal status of cannabis. And researchers have found little to no impact on crime.

Sixteen states and the District of Colombia have now legalized recreational marijuana. Colorado, in 2012, was the first.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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4 tips for reopening your workplace safely from a COVID compliance officer for Netflix and Amazon Prime

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Even as vaccines rollout, employers will need to stay vigilant with COVID precautions.

  • Demerie Danielson left her nursing job in fall 2020 to become a COVID compliance officer for VIP StarNetwork.
  • She now ensures the sets of Netflix and Amazon productions comply with COVID safety regulations.
  • Her tips to safely reopen your workplace include planning for rule breakers and staying strict.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Almost a year after COVID-19 shut down offices across America, many physical workplaces remain in stasis. But six months ago, Demerie Danielson was hired to help bring at least one industry back to working in person: the film industry.

Danielson, a registered nurse, left her job at an Albuquerque hospital for a brand-new position: COVID Compliance Officer for VIP StarNetwork, a health care contractor for major local movie and TV sets. It’s a subsidiary of Inverse Medical, a medical equipment supplier. With her medical expertise in her back pocket, Danielson learned how to safely reopen a workplace on the fly – and has since done so for seven Netflix and Amazon Prime productions, including the upcoming film “The Harder They Fall,” starring Jonathan Majors and Idris Elba.

Her experience could prove crucial for America’s business owners, especially those pondering their own return to the office amid the country’s vaccine rollout. Here are Danielson’s top four recommendations.

Tailor your solutions to your company’s specific needs

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution here, Danielson said. Each of her productions have different COVID-19 plans, customized to the number of people involved and the types of locations being used. As New Mexico’s coronavirus guidance shifts month to month, she adjusts each film set accordingly, such as modulating the amount of sanitization on touch points like doorknobs as local cases have risen and fallen.

Start by gauging the risk, particularly around air circulation and ability to socially distance. Then build protocols around personal protective equipment, COVID-19 testing, and surface sanitization. When in doubt, Danielson added, refer to your state’s or city’s local COVID guidance.

“We’re always going to want to make sure we have the proper filtration of air flow if we’re inside of a building,” she said. “We’re going to always make sure we’re keeping people socially distanced.” But employees should know, she said, that your policies could shift at a moment’s notice.

Prioritize quick-turnaround COVID-19 testing

As vaccines are still sparsely available, your testing protocol could make or break your return to the office. Danielson typically divides workers into two categories: People who interact regularly with each other, and people who only visit in-person occasionally. Infrequent visitors need two consecutive negative tests before they show up to work, while regulars get tested every single day – sometimes multiple times per day.

The daily testing only works because VIP StarNetwork’s labs can turn around test results in a matter of hours. Even a 24-hour turnaround, Danielson said, wouldn’t be fast enough. Contracting with a private lab to achieve that goal is a potentially expensive proposition: Johonniuss Chemweno, CEO of both VIP StarNetwork and Inverse Medical, said his company typically spends five to 20% of a film’s overall budget on COVID safety. One of Danielson’s recent projects, Zack Snyder’s upcoming Netflix movie “Army of the Dead,” has an estimated budget of $70 million. 

Still, Danielson stressed that until you can afford to build a truly rigorous same-day testing program, you simply can’t risk bringing your workers back on a daily basis. “If you don’t have the opportunity to get your results in a matter of hours, you could possibly expose all the people within your business and have to shut them down,” she said. “Shutting your business back down for days or weeks again is costly.”

Plan for rule breakers

Most of your employees will probably be just as dedicated as you are to staying safe and healthy, particularly if their ability to work depends on it. Some, however, could push the boundaries on your mask-wearing or testing policies, and you need a plan to deal with them in advance.

Danielson said that most protocol violations she’s seen come from a place of habit – people accidentally behaving like they did pre-pandemic – so she rarely reacts angrily. Rather, she works to gain the offender’s trust through honesty and education, explaining why the policies exist and how they connect to local positivity rates. Repeat offenders get sent home, as they’ve become health hazards for everyone else.

“You don’t really get to say no,” Danielson said. “You’re going to have to do it if you want to work.”

Stay strict, even as vaccines roll out

It’ll be tempting to relax your standards for vaccinated employees, especially as vaccines become more available to the general public this year. Not so fast, Danielson said: Until more is known about how well the vaccines are working, particularly against multiple new and highly contagious virus strains, you’ll need to stay vigilant.

Plus, your employees might be vaccinated, but their families might not – and it’s yet unknown whether vaccinated people can still spread the virus as carriers. “Social distancing is going to be around for a while,” Danielson said. “We’re going to need to keep using the protocols that we’ve implemented for sanitizing high-touch areas. Even the need to test, I feel like that’s still going to be around for a while, until we know how well our vaccines are working.”

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‘Cowboys for Trump’ leader detained by FBI after pledging to bring guns to DC

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Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin speaks Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, in Santa Fe, N.M., as hundreds of advocates for gun rights rallied at the New Mexico Statehouse against a proposed red-flag gun law that has the support of Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

  • Couy Griffin, the founder of “Cowboys for Trump,” was arrested Sunday in Washington, DC, after pledging to bring guns to the city on the day of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
  • Griffin, an ally of President Trump with a history of inflammatory and racist remarks, is an elected Republican county commissioner in New Mexico.
  • The FBI’s Washington Field Office told Insider that Griffin was detained by US Capitol Police due to an arrest warrant over his participation in the January 6 insurrection.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The far-right leader of “Cowboys for Trump” has been arrested in Washington, DC, after last week pledging to bring guns to the nation’s capital on the day of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

In a statement, the FBI’s Washington Field Office told Insider that Couy Griffin, an elected Republican county commissioner in New Mexico, was detained Sunday afternoon by US Capitol Police, who then notified the bureau. Griffin “was the subject of an arrest warrant for his role in the January 6 Capitol riots,” the FBI said.

A criminal complaint, dated January 15, accuses Griffin of entering restricted grounds without lawful authority.

A police affidavit in support of the complaint cites videos posted to Griffin’s Facebook page – since deleted – where he boasts of attending the January 6 insurrection and pledges to return in order to plant a US flag on the desk of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“We could have a 2nd Amendment rally on those same steps that we had that rally [on January 6],” Griffin said in another video. “You know, and if we do, then it’s gonna be a sad day, because there’s gonna be blood running out of that building.”

As Insider reported last week, Griffin reaffirmed his intent to travel again to Washington, DC, for Biden’s inauguration, stating at a January 14 Otero County commissioners hearing that he would be bringing two guns in his car along with him. One, he said, would be placed under the front passenger seat – a violation of DC law, which prohibits keeping any firearm within reach of a vehicle’s occupant.

“I embrace my Second Amendment, I will keep my right to bear arms, my vehicle is an extension of my home in regard to the constitution law, and I have a right to have those firearms in my car,” he asserted. Those remarks are cited in the police affidavit used to request a warrant for his arrest.

Griffin has a history of making inflammatory and racist remarks. Last year, he declared that “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat” in a video that was shared on Twitter by President Donald Trump; he also declared that supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement should “go back to Africa.”

Democrats are calling for him to leave public office.

“I am demanding that Couy Griffin immediately resign from the Otero County Commission or my office will seek his removal,” New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said Sunday.

The local Republican Party, for its part, is distancing itself from Griffin.

“Mr. Griffin does not represent The Republican Party of New Mexico nor does he speak for the party,” Mike Curtis, a party spokesperson, told Insider. The state GOP “does not endorse or condone the statements made by [the] Cowboys for Trump founder,” he said, and “condemns violence and any threats of violence against any person or group.”

Griffin could not immediately be reached for comment.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

 

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New Mexico Republicans peddle ‘dangerous’ myth of voter fraud in a state Trump lost by double digits

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New Mexico Republicans are continuing to insist that Donald Trump won the state, despite receiving nearly 100,000 fewer voters than President-elect Joe Biden.

  • The Republican Party of New Mexico is embracing an effort to “decertify” the election results in a state that outgoing President Donald Trump lost by nearly 100,000 votes.
  • The party claims it is justified in seeking to disenfranchise New Mexico voters because of unproven “irregularities.”
  • There is no evidence of serious voter fraud in New Mexico, much less any that would overcome the gap between Trump and President-elect Joe Biden.
  • “These desperate attempts to ignore the results of a legitimate election are not only foolish — they’re dangerous,” New Mexico Democrats said in a statement.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

New Mexico Republicans, unswayed by the disastrous fallout of a pro-Trump insurrection at the US Capitol, are doubling down on baseless allegations of voter fraud in a state that the outgoing president lost by double digits.

In a press release on Thursday, the New Mexico GOP heralded legislation from state Rep. Cathrynn Brown that would disenfranchise the 501,614 voters who handed the state to President-elect Joe Biden over “serious and substantial irregularities” alleged by allies of President Trump, who won less than 402,000 votes.

“We stand by NM Rep. @CathrynnBrown and by President @realDonaldTrump,” the party said on Twitter.

Anissa Tinnin, executive director of the Republican Party of New Mexico, did not respond to Insider’s request for evidence of voter fraud that would justify the move.

There is no evidence of widespread voter or election fraud.

The attempt to discard the results of an election that their party’s nominee lost by over 10%  is just the latest evidence of the New Mexico GOP’s accelerated shift to the right.

Read more: SCOOP: Pence opposes 25th Amendment efforts to remove Trump following Capitol riot, VP advisors tell Insider

Over the summer, several New Mexico Republicans, including a leader of the state party, were set to appear at a rally paying “special tribute” to a far-right paramilitary organization led by a neo-Nazi and a Holocaust denier. The state party declined to condemn the event, which was ultimately canceled after the militia itself pulled out, claiming offense at the presence of other right-wing speakers who had made “racist” remarks.

New Mexico Democrats argue their counterparts are fueling extremism.

“Yesterday’s events did not take place in a vacuum, and every politician that takes part in baseless fear mongering about the 2020 election should be held accountable for their role in undermining our democracy,” Marg Elliston, chair of the state party, said in a statement. “These desperate attempts to ignore the results of a legitimate election are not only foolish – they’re dangerous.”

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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