NewsThe West

OUT WEST ROUNDUP | Oklahoma fast-tracks medical marijuana, faces pushback

Author: Associated Press - July 20, 2018 - Updated: August 7, 2018

In this July 10, 2018, file photo, medical marijuana supporters hold signs outside of an Oklahoma Board of Health meeting in an overflow room in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)In this July 10, 2018, file photo, medical marijuana supporters hold signs outside of an Oklahoma Board of Health meeting in an overflow room in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)


Oklahoma fast-tracking medical marijuana, but with pushback

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma pushed ahead last week with emergency rules aimed at fast-tracking operations of the medical marijuana industry, but not before concerned health officials tacked on requirements that cannabis advocates say will only slow things down.

The state Board of Health narrowly voted to prohibit the sale of smokable marijuana and require that dispensaries must have a pharmacist on staff. The board’s own attorney advised against the additions, and the changes rankled medical marijuana proponents who accused the board of defying the will of the people.

“The people were clear. They wanted to be able to smoke medical marijuana,” said former state Sen. Connie Johnson, a longtime advocate for legalized marijuana. “This flies in the face of what the people wanted.”

Legal wrangling has gummed up the rollout of medical marijuana in several other states, including in neighboring Arkansas, where a proposal approved by voters in 2016 remains on hold because of a legal challenge. There were years of court fights in Michigan after voters there approved medical marijuana in 2008.

But state lawmakers and Republican Gov. Mary Fallin stepped aside after residents of traditionally conservative Oklahoma voted June 26 to legalize medical marijuana , paving the way for a quicker start. Nearly 57 percent of voters said yes to one of the least-restrictive laws in the country that makes it legal to grow, sell and use marijuana for medicinal purposes. The law, which made it to the ballot through signature petition, outlines no qualifying conditions, which would allow physicians to authorize its use for a broad range of ailments and gives a 60-day timeline to implement.

Implementation could face strong head winds, though, from opponents in the business, medical and law enforcement fields that pushed hard against the proposal. Groups representing doctors and hospitals, both of which opposed State Question 788, recommended the ban on selling smokable marijuana and the pharmacist requirement.

New Mexico

Top New Mexico prosecutor fears drawbacks to zero-tolerance

SUNLAND PARK, New Mexico — The attorney general for the border state of New Mexico warned last week that the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy on illegal border crossings has the potential to impede and detract from efforts to prosecute organized crime along the southern U.S. border.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas visited the border fence to talk with local elected and law enforcement officials about crime and public safety. Later, he met in El Paso, Texas, with prosecutors from the Mexican state of Chihuahua.

Balderas, a Democrat, said by phone that he fears some law enforcement efforts and cooperation could be undermined by the Trump administration’s policy of referring all illegal border crossing cases for criminal prosecution.

U.S. attorneys may be overburdened by low-level immigration cases, playing into the hands of international criminals, he said. Balderas also fears tough rhetoric on immigration might discourage immigrants from cooperating on human trafficking cases.

“We need families to feel safe and work with local law enforcement,” he said. “But if you’re putting children and men and women in cages, and you’re putting immigrant communities in the shadows, you could actually increase crime at the border.”

Balderas said crime rates are relatively low in Sunland Park — a working class community whose modest homes stand within a few yards of a tall metal border fence that was reinforced in 2016 and 2017 — in comparison with the state’s largest city, Albuquerque.

He said his trip to the border was designed to increase cooperation among local and state law enforcement agencies — including collaboration with state prosecutors in Mexico who routinely travel to the New Mexico for professional training.

Congresswoman says home state shouldn’t be heroin capital

SANTA FE — Congresswoman and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham is promising to change New Mexico’s reputation as the heroin capital of the nation.

Lujan Grisham launched a 30 second video advertisement last week that says opioids and crime are problems all across New Mexico, and that as governor she would force pharmaceutical companies to “stop pushing opioids and start paying for treatment.”

Overdose deaths in New Mexico have hovered well above the national average even as the state has implemented pioneering policies to rein in fatalities. The crisis drew attention this year as President Trump praised an Albuquerque police officer for agreeing to adopt the unborn baby of a pregnant heroin user.

Lujan Grisham’s ad says the state reduced overdoses through treatment when she was secretary of health, without citing statistics.


Senate candidate shuffles cash to keep excess donations

HELENA, Montana — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Matt Rosendale used excess donations from deep-pocketed GOP donors to pay himself back for personal loans from a previous congressional run, then he turned around and loaned that money right back to his Senate campaign, according to campaign records.

That accounting shuffle, first reported by The Daily Beast, has given the Montana candidate a way to fund his campaign against incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester with money given by donors above the individual campaign contribution limits.

Campaign finance watchdogs said that what Rosendale is doing is unusual but legal, and effectively raises contribution limits from $5,400 to $8,000 for some donors.

Montana Democrats cried foul and said Rosendale is skirting campaign finance rules.

“This kind of deceptive tactic is par for the course for Matt Rosendale,” said Brooke Bainum, spokeswoman for the Montana Democratic Party. “It’s no surprise that an out-of-state guy depending on out-of-state special interests to prop up his campaign would resort to shady fundraising tactics that skirt the law to benefit himself.”

Rosendale spokesman Shane Scanlon did not return a call or email for comment.

Rosendale, who is trying to deny Tester a third term, is furiously fundraising after an expensive four-way June 5 Republican primary depleted his campaign of cash. He has attracted the interest of Republican donors and outside groups as a challenger in one of 10 races in the nation where a Senate Democrat is defending a seat in a state won by President Donald Trump in 2016.

In Rosendale’s May campaign finance report, he re-designated $22,300 in contributions from nine donors as debt repayments for Rosendale’s failed 2014 campaign for U.S. House. Two other donations totaling $6,900 had been requested for re-designation.

On May 14, Rosendale’s campaign cut Rosendale a check for $32,831 to pay off a portion of the personal loans Rosendale made to the 2014 campaign.

The next day, May 15, Rosendale issued his Senate campaign a new loan in that same amount — $32,831.


Arizona lawmaker apologizes after video shows 140 mph brag

PHOENIX — An Arizona state lawmaker was seen telling a sheriff’s deputy he sometimes drives as fast as 130 or 140 mph after he was pulled over for speeding, and the deputy said in a report later that the driver claimed to have legislative immunity

State Rep. Paul Mosley was stopped on March 27 outside of Parker, Arizona. The rural area near the California border is in Mosley’s district and more than 150 miles west of the state capital in Phoenix.

A body camera video obtained by KLPZ and first published on its website shows a La Paz County Sheriff’s deputy warning Mosley to slow down. Mosley was going 97 mph in a 55 mph zone on state Route 95.

Mosley then says he sometimes drives “130, 140, 120,” while trying to get home to surprise his wife. He says he doesn’t notice the speed because of his vehicle’s nice wheels and suspension.

The deputy’s written report said Mosley told him not to waste time on the incident because he has legislative immunity, KLPZ reported.

“I don’t break the law because I can, but because, you know, I’m just trying to get home,” Mosley says in the video.

Mosely posted an apology on his Facebook page, referring to the comments to the deputy as a joke.

Mosley, a Republican from Lake Havasu City, was elected in 2016; he is running for another two-year term in November.

The Arizona Fraternal Order of Police withdrew its endorsement of Mosley and condemned his speeding.

“Potentially lethal speeding isn’t a joke,” the group’s president John Ortolano said in a statement. “We will not stand with those who think it’s acceptable or funny to risk the lives of others while behind the wheel of a lethal weapon.”

Associated Press

Associated Press