Commission postpones vote on cannabis policy

Front, from left, the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office, Lt. John Castañeda, accepts Commissioner’s discretionary check from Commissioner Jay Block on Thursday to buy a new working dog for Deputy AJ Noriega. In the back are Commission Chairman Dave Heil, left, and Commissioner Kenneth Eichwald. Stephen Montoya photo.

BERNALILLO – The Sandoval County Commission has postponed a decision on updated cannabis-free workplace guidelines.
At their meeting on Thursday evening, commissioners voted 4-1 to postpone the decision to their August 19 meeting to give staff time to investigate whether government agencies have lost federal funding for not having zero tolerance marijuana -Politics. Commissioner Michael Meek cast the dissenting vote.
In May the commissioners voted unanimously to move the policy forward by informing the unions of the possible changes. The rules would prohibit employees from having cannabis, including cannabidoil, in their systems at work, even with a medical marijuana card.
On Thursday, County Manager Wayne Johnson said the updated policy was necessary to comply with federal law and protect the county’s federal grants after New Mexico legalized recreational marijuana. Cannabis remains illegal under federal law.
“Sandoval County has always been a drug-free workplace,” said County Attorney Robin Hammer, adding that the policy update confirms that status.
Johnson said all controlled drugs and alcohol are prohibited for employees in the county store or in county facilities. Employees who have prescribed drugs that cause impairment should not use them at work if there are safety concerns.
He said the difference is that unlike many other substances, cannabis can stay in the body for over 30 days.
“But be aware that we are treating this (cannabis) just like any other drug or drug in Sandoval County,” Johnson said.
Commissioners Katherine Bruch, Jay Block and Kenneth Eichwald expressed concerns about the ban on medical marijuana.
“I don’t think we should adopt a blanket drug-free policy in this regard,” said Eichwald, specifically mentioning the attitude of veterans who could use medical marijuana for post-traumatic stress disorder. “… There are some people who need that in order to function.”
As a judge for 24 years, he said he never saw anyone in his courtroom on allegations of violence under the influence of marijuana.
Bruch said she wanted to comply with federal law and have a drug-free job, but some people need certain medications.
Meek said doctors don’t prescribe cannabis, but rather certify that patients have a medical condition that qualifies them for a medical cannabis card. Then when the state enrolls a patient in the medical marijuana program, the person will consume cannabis without further instructions on dosage or frequency, he said.
Meek said he believed the county must have the cannabis ban until the federal government legalized marijuana.
Bruch and Block asked if a state or local government lost federal grants for not banning marijuana for employees.
“You see states that are ahead of the curve in federal law on many issues,” said Block.
In other business, commissioners:
• Moved the meeting from July 1st to July 29th.
• Ratified an agreement with the New Mexico Public Education Department that provides the district with nearly $ 71,000 for its summer internship program.
• Approved an agreement with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees on behalf of the Sandoval County Detention Center employees. Johnson said the deal was similar to that of other groups of workers, including a 2 percent pay increase.
• Approved a zoning change for approximately 500 acres to allow PNM to advance the construction of a solar power plant there. Laurie Moye, PNM representative, said it would be a 50 megawatt installation, and 1 megawatt could typically serve 800 households. The proposed system could supply 40,000 typical households with electricity.
• Approved a $ 217,000 contract with Verizon to provide service to more than 350 cell phones in the county.
• Approved an amendment to a 2016 economic development agreement with Interfaith Leap LLC in Peña Blanca. According to the agreement, Interfaith Leap must have three jobs for at least two years in its newly converted large kitchen. The district acts as a fiscal representative, but does not contribute any money.
• commended Block’s use of $ 15,000 in discretionary funds to purchase a new working dog and its training and equipment for the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office. One current dog, Candice, is going to jail. Block is allowed to name the new dog Titan.

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