Former Gov. Bill Richardson left office almost nine years ago. Two of his pipe dreams — legalizing medical marijuana and luring a National Football League team to New Mexico — bear revisiting as they reach milestones.
Richardson in 2007 signed into law a bill legalizing cannabis to treat certain illnesses and disorders. Now medical marijuana is one of New Mexico’s growth industries.
A total of 4,310 people had state approval to use the drug in 2011, just after Richardson’s second and final term ended. New Mexico’s population has been flat since with about 2 million people. But the number of medical marijuana patients reached 77,168 in September.
Not everyone is happy with the booming business of medical cannabis.
Trudy Read, assistant property manager of the San Isidro Apartments in Santa Fe, recently informed tenants the complex has “zero tolerance” for marijuana on the premises.
“San Isidro will not consent to tolerate, allow or permit the use, possession and/or cultivation of medical marijuana at this property,” Read wrote in a memo to renters.
She went on to say the complex at 4501 San Ignacio Road might investigate odors of marijuana by entering individual apartments without notice.
“If the issue persists we will conduct random inspections to determine from whence the problem is originating,” she wrote.
Read declined to comment on her memo. Her employer, Monarch Properties Inc., did not respond to a request for an interview.
One tenant said Read’s memo amounted to a harassment tactic. The renter cited a state statute saying tenants must receive written notice 24 hours before an inspection, and it must include the purpose of the owner’s entry.
Spot inspections aside, the apartment complex appears to be on sure footing with its prohibition against marijuana use.
Though cannabis is legal under New Mexico law for authorized patients, the drug remains illegal under federal law.
“There is no known court precedent for any applicable statute regarding places where patients can use medical cannabis,” said David Morgan, a spokesman for the New Mexico Department of Health. “Federal law still stands as primary. Marijuana is still a banned substance and property law allows owners to make the determinations as to substance use.”
Democrats in the state Legislature plan to try again to legalize recreational marijuana during the 30-day session starting in January. Even if they fail, most anyone who wants to obtain a medical marijuana license has a good chance of getting it.
A total of 39,304 people in New Mexico are designated as medical marijuana patients because of post-traumatic stress disorder. This is the largest category of patients by far.
One doesn’t have to be a military veteran who saw combat to get a marijuana license because of PTSD. I know medical marijuana patients who say they were traumatized in a car wreck.
Medical cannabis has exploded in ways that Democrat Richardson might never have expected. In contrast, his interest in establishing an NFL franchise in New Mexico didn’t go anywhere, though a California-based company received a six-figure payment to study the long-shot idea.
With small television markets, few corporations to buy up sky boxes and no stadium an NFL team would accept, New Mexico wasn’t positioned to land a franchise. Richardson admitted this as early as 2004.
But, he said at the time, New Mexico might be able to secure an NFL team in 10 or 15 years. He persuaded the state Legislature to appropriate $300,000 for a feasibility study on what New Mexico needed to do to attract a team.
The state spent $166,000 of that total, hiring the Barrett Sports Group of Manhattan Beach, Calif., to examine New Mexico’s chances of obtaining an NFL team. The company never filed a written report, but supposedly offered a pessimistic view.
Many New Mexico residents said they could have supplied the same information at no cost. The state lacked everything the NFL wanted in terms of population and corporate wealth. Just as important, New Mexico would have had to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build a stadium that would host eight regular-season games annually.
Fifteen years after Richardson’s push for an NFL team, New Mexico’s economy has stagnated while neighboring states became wealthier.
The NFL has not expanded in that stretch, but a couple of its franchises have relocated. St. Louis stole the Rams from Los Angeles. Then Los Angeles, with its own pirates, regained the Rams.
The Chargers ownership, petulant over not receiving a new stadium in San Diego, also moved to Los Angeles. The team has failed to develop a following in the nation’s second-largest market.
Richardson once called an NFL franchise “the crown jewel of professional sports.”
That’s true for the Rooneys, the Maras and other wealthy families that own a team.
New Mexico is different. The grass is green in the business of medical marijuana, not on any football field.
Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at email@example.com or 505-986-3080.