Thursday, March 21, 2024

Other Voices: New Mexico Marijuana Bust; Big Hopes Go Up In Smoke; Pot Guru Says Stagnant Sales; Too Many Pot Shops, Inflation, Cheap Fentanyl And Under The Table Dealing Cited As Reasons.  

What a bust. 

The state's two year old legal marijuana industry looks like a too-crowded flea market. 

MLG pounded the table for legalizing pot and finally got it by calling the Legislature into special session and pressuring lawmakers to no end. 

Legal cannabis sales began April 1, 2022 and in spite of indicators pointing in the wrong direction the Governor is celebrating:

Cannabis sales in New Mexico have topped $1 billion in adult-use and medical sales. . .Cannabis consumers have purchased more than $678.4 million worth of cannabis products and $331.6 million in medical products since April 1, 2022. To date, the state has recorded more than 21 million transactions with $75 million in cannabis excise taxes going to the state general fund and local communities. “This is a huge milestone for New Mexico’s cannabis industry,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. Nearly two years after beginning sales, New Mexico is on the map as a premier hub for legal and safe cannabis and the thriving business community that comes with it.” 

"A premier hub"? Try an oversupplied and stagnant hub. A "thriving business community." That's a mirage mainly visible from airy loft of the Fourth Floor of the Roundhouse.

And $75 million in excise taxes over two years from a billion in sales? That's piddling in a $10 billion state budget. 

Don't take it from this corner. Duke Rodriguez, CEO of Ultra Health, the state's largest cannabis retailer, fact checks the Governor and weed advocates with the cold, hard facts that reveal an industry in turmoil.

The truth is that New Mexico’s regulated cannabis market is not thriving, but barely surviving. The truth is that New Mexico’s cannabis sales are likely headed for decline and contraction, rather than growth.

Now, it is certainly true the cannabis market has grown since April 2022 in certain places. Smaller towns along the Texas border did see large sales increases over the past two years.

However, the central Metro areas experienced a much different reality. In April 2022, Albuquerque did $14.9 million in combined medical and recreational cannabis sales, Las Cruces did $3.7 million, and Santa Fe did $3.5 million.

Sadly, nearly two years later for the most recent month of February 2024: Albuquerque is flat at $15 million, Las Cruces is down to $3.2 million, and Santa Fe is down to $2.9 million. Those numbers come from the Cannabis Control Division’s own “Cannabis Reporting Online Portal.”

Duke Rodriguez
This means that over the past two years, the cannabis market in New Mexico’s three largest and most stable population centers has not grown. It has stayed flat and even shrunk by a million dollars. At the same time, the number of retail locations has exploded. The proverbial pie has not gotten bigger, but the slices for each business have gotten a lot smaller.

Every cannabis enterprise must face this truth to responsibly evaluate the trajectory of its business. After two flat years in most places, additional growth is, frankly, not likely. A continued decline in overall cannabis revenue is the more likely scenario.

If cannabis licensees do not face this truth. . . .then they will be in for a very rude awakening in 2024, 2025, and beyond. Likewise, municipalities that build cannabis taxes into their budgets need to plan for flat or even declining cannabis tax contributions.

If cannabis licensees want to reverse these trends and start growing the pie again, they will need to analyze why overall revenue has stagnated everywhere that is not within 15 miles of Texas.

Inflation in the rest of the economy may mean cannabis consumers spend less on weed. Cheap fentanyl may pull the most desperate into its terrible vortex. Cannabis licensees operating in the red may sell under the table and out the back door. The cannabis trend may simply have peaked.

Whatever the reasons, cannabis licensees cannot create solutions to these challenges until they acknowledge the problem.

One problem Rodriguez touched upon is the marijuana black market which refuses to be undersold. That was supposed to go away, promised the legalization crowd. 
The favored few who got in early on legal pot with new licenses--often with political connections--have been the big beneficiaries of legalization. The rest of the state? Not so much.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Ethnic Politics Pops Up In Newly Designed ABQ Senate District; Irish Names Look For Hispanic Support 

With names like O'Malley and O'Neill voters might think the Dem primary battle in state Senate District 13 is between two champions of the Irish. It isn't but ethnic politics could play a pivotal role in the outcome. 

Former Bernalillo County Commissioner and City Councilor Debbie O'Malley is working to defeat Senator Bill O'Neill who has held the seat since 2012, but the district was radically redistricted. 

While the ABQ North Valley and its Anglo Dems once dominated, the district now sprawls to downtown and other heavily Hispanic areas that over the years O'Malley has won.

That being said, the former commissioner's latest campaign piece rolls out her mother Lydia Romero Smith to remind the many old line Hispanic families of her connection o them:

I am the fifth generation of my family to grow up in the heart of our city. . . My mother, Lydia Torres-Romero. . .worked on an aircraft assembly line during World War II. When she and my father, Nick Werner-Smith, got married and moved into their first home at 15th and Sawmill, there was no running water. My mother grew so tired of rinsing her children’s diapers outside that she started a door-to-door petition drive to put in water and sewer lines in the Sawmill neighborhood — and it worked. Her victory  has stayed with me, and I have worked for years at the grassroots level to redevelop the Sawmill area. In 1998, I founded the Sawmill Community Land Trust, a not-for-profit community development corporation. . .

Talk about all politics being local. Not that O'Neill is defenseless. He has fought some health battles but is known as an intrepid campaigner and is already burning up shoe leather. 

Also, the "Fighting Irishman," as we nicknamed him from his days in the state House, can be soothed by knowing that the affinity between the Irish and New Mexico Hispanics is also sewn into the fabric of this historic district. 

Still the redistricting is a daunting obstacle. Over half the precincts are new. O'Neill's North Valley stronghold is still intact but far away precincts in Wells Park, Downtown, Barelas and South Broadway are now the heart of the district where O'Malley, whose last name results from her marriage to Mike O'Malley, has chalked up many victories. 

The winner of the June 4 primary is destined to win the November election. No Republican is running in the heavy Dem area.

O'Malley and O"Neill veer to the left so the race won't mean much to the ideological balance of the Senate. But O'Malley and Dem state Sen, Moe Maestas have turned into public arch-enemies so if O'Malley should get elected and Maestas wins election, Senate President Mimi Stewart would not want them seated next to each other--unless she's starving for entertainment.


A reader writes with this addendum about Tuesday's blog on Rep. Gail Armstrong: 

Gail was raised on a cattle ranch near Datil, in Catron County, not Magdalena in Socorro County which is her current residence. Signed, Leo---Rep. Armstrong's proud former basketball coach. 
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Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Gaming The Next State House GOP Leader; Rep. Armstrong May Have Inside Lane; Sports A Variety Of Credentials  

Rep. Gail Armstrong
Of the three names being bandied about to replace Ryan Lane as state House Minority Leader, Rep. Gail Armstrong is looking like the obvious choice.

Armstrong is the spouse of Dale Armstrong and is co-owner with him of the mega plumbing and AC company TLC that has oodles of customers and a fair share of government contracts. The couple also have a ranch in Magdalena in Socorro County. She was raised on a ranch in Datil, NM in Catron County. 

Rep. Armstrong is already in leadership as the House GOP Caucus Chair. In addition she's been in the Legislature since 2017 and is running unopposed for re-election this year. That gives her plenty of time to hit the phones for campaign cash to keep the House GOP from being pushed further into oblivion by the near super-majority Dems who control 45 of the House seats to the GOP's 25.

In fact, Armstrong is that rare political creature who has never had an opponent--not a Republican, Democrat or independent--and this is the fourth election cycle she's on the ballot. 

She was appointed to fill the Socorro area seat (District 49) when then House Speaker Don Tripp resigned in 2017 and whom she worked for as a legislative aide. 

Importantly she has the ability to work with both the Trumpers and non-Trumpers in the divided GOP. 

Calm, open and sporting a collaborative style is how former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish describes her. 

So Armstrong checks numerous boxes but what about policy chops? Well, she is the senior Republican on the House Appropriations Committee and has been active with health care and education issues. 

Just this week she invited MLG to ride along with rural students to and from school as the debate continues over a state rule that could eliminate the four day school week and that much of rural New Mexico is not fond of.

Cathrynn Brown of Carlsbad and Rod Montoya of Farmington are the other names making the rounds for the leadership post but Armstrong would appear to have the edge in the credentials department. Coming off the short and ill-fated tenure of the inexperienced Lane, that may loom large when the House GOP members make their selection in the days ahead.


In the first draft Monday the name of Senate District 21 candidate John Morton was misspelled and we omitted the name of Dem candidate and retired law enforcement office Philip Snedeker.

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Monday, March 18, 2024

Trump Shadow Emerges In GOP State Senate Primaries; Some Candidates Heap Their Praises; Others Look To Lay Low, Plus: A Blog Reader Who Has Never Missed  

This is New Mexico not Alabama so there are still Republicans here who don't genuflect at the mention of Donald Trump. And that is going to be an issue in GOP state primaries.

Already former Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block is touting his love for Trump as he faces non-Trumper and former state Senator Candace Gould in the GOP race for District 12 in Sandoval County  County and parts fof BernCo. His campaign says:

Commissioner Block (has endorsed Trump). He has been a longtime supporter. At his last campaign rally in New Mexico in 2019 in Rio Rancho Block was honored to have been selected to greet President Trump  and ride in his motorcade. 

Americans, and specifically New Mexicans, have had their backs broken by Biden's failed policies. Our dollar is now worth much less because, instead of building back better, Biden built back broke. As a border state, New Mexicans see the impacts of a wide open border. . . Crime and addiction to fentanyl are at an all-time high. Under Trump's Presidency, our economy was booming. .  Donald Trump had my support in 2016, 2020, and I’m proud to endorse him again in 2024. 

Block looks to cash in on those Trump credentials because Gould was close to the Gov. Martinez's political machine which was not close to Trump.

Supporting Trump may not be Block's only advantage over Gould. The new District 12 is made up of much of Block's old commission district and includes Rio Rancho and Paradise Hills neighborhoods in Bernalillo County.

Gould was defeated in her 2021 re-election bid by Dem Katy Duhigg in Senate District 10. Much of that old district has now been absorbed into District 12. She still has a shot at the win but the chances were higher before Block announced his bid.  
The primary winner stands to take the November election The new district is 37% Democrat and 37% Republican. Phil Ramirez is the sole Dem seeking his party's nomination.


Like Block former state Senator Michael Wiener, who is running in a three way GOP primary for District 21 in ABQ's NE Heights, expects most primary voters to be Trump backers. Wiener, who served in the senate in the 90's and is a former BernCo Commissioner says:

I am adding the words "Endorses Trump' to all my campaign signs because I believe backing him against Biden is essential and because I want to show that there is at least one candidate in the race who is behind him. 

Wiener's opponents in the GOP primary are Nicole Tobiassen and John Craig Morton. Morton is known to be a Trump supporter. Tobiassen is seen as the middle of the road contender who, like ex-Sen. Gould, may try to thread the needle when it comes to the ex-president. 

District 21 is represented by the retiring Mark Moores, the only GOP senator from ABQ. 

Retired law enforcement officer Phillip Snedeker and Athena Ann Christodoulou are seeking the Dem nod in the June 4 primary.


Monahan in 2006 (Bralley)
Longtime reader Patrick Milligan (and we mean longtime) writes:

Hi Joe, this is Patrick Milligan from two decades ago. I ran for ABQ City Council way back in 2003. I just wanted to say hi. I haven’t missed reading a single day of your work since 2003. Great job! 

I retired from Sandia Labs after 32 years two years ago and moved to Abilene, Texas and love it here. It’s a little closer to my political DNA. 

Anyway, I just wanted to say hello and put in a good word for one of my ex-employees from Sandia. Republican Clay Pryor is running for Bernalillo County Clerk. I know he has a tough road ahead but I will be interested to see how he does. 

Again, hello from Texas and I love your work. It’s a must read for me every morning. 

Yikes! That reminds us of how long we've been at this (20 years as of last October) and of the times and memories we've shared with so many New Mexicans and others. Thanks for those kind words, Patrick, and for that incredible streak of checking in here. Here you are on the blog of April 3, 2004

That entry was from a Saturday, reflecting a time when we reported and blogged up to seven days a week as we worked to establish the blog as the go to place for New Mexico politics. 

We succeeded in that ambition, thanks to Milligan and so many others.

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