As Montana cannabis sales begin for all adults Republicans drag feet on expungements

The new year on the Gregorian calendar brings legal cannabis for all cash-paying adults over 21 in Montana. 

Purchased flower of no more than 35% THC plus edibles, tinctures, vaporizer cartridges, concentrates and topicals produced only in Montana will be placed in reusable "exit bags” to prevent children and potentially triggered Republicans from seeing what's inside. Patients in the state's therapeutic cannabis program are exempt from the 100mg of THC cap in edibles. 

All product will be tested in Montana-based labs for bacteria, mold, heavy metals, potency and other compounds. Rigs and CBD products purchased at the dispensaries can be manufactured outside of Montana. In the short term demand for product is expected to far exceed supplies. 

Green counties tend to be in Democratic western Montana while red counties where sales are forbidden tend to be in the Republican east. Go figure. But, despite Republicans messing with the wills of voters the Apsáalooke Nation will wean itself from coal and move forward on building a cannabis industry.
Possession of more than 1 but less than 2 ounces of marijuana is now a civil infraction, a designation lower than a misdemeanor that carries a sentence of community service or a fine. Possession of 2 or more ounces of cannabis, or 16 grams of marijuana concentrate, remains a felony. For example, the former cut-off between a misdemeanor and a felony was 60 grams, but under the new law that limit is 2 ounces; 60 grams equates to 2.12 ounces. Additionally, it was previously a felony to distribute cannabis in any fashion, but new laws allow a person to "gift" up to 1 ounce to someone else. Consequently, a felony distribution charge could be expunged if details in the case show the cannabis was gifted, but not if it was sold. [Expungement process off to a slow start for former cannabis convictions]
Democratic Montana Senator Jon Tester has been a veterans advocate since before he even went to Congress. His VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act directs the VA to begin clinical trials to test the effects of cannabis as therapy for chronic pain and to treat the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress.

Learn more about that linked here.


It's official: legal cannabis for all adults and war for water underway in New Mexico

The Cannabis Regulation Act was signed by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and became effective June 29, 2021. On Tuesday the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department's Cannabis Control Division announced that the rules for businesses to manufacture, sell and transport are now in effect. Sales are expected to start by April 1 and more than 300 applications for licenses have been submitted. 

Here in the Land of Enchantment supporters are lauding cannabis legalization as a way to diversify New Mexico’s economy, bring in tax income and address inequities left by the war on drugs while balancing the state's water crisis with growers who must prove they have valid and sufficient water rights. But groundwater is notoriously corrosive in much of New Mexico while prolonged drought bleeds supplies to critical and coveted acequia rights can literally be to die for. 

In September, Bureau of Indian Affairs officers confiscated nine, yes nine, cannabis plants from a home garden on the Picuris Pueblo that was tended by a local resident who is enrolled in New Mexico's therapeutic cannabis program but is not a member of one of 23 federally recognized tribal entities in the state. Picuris has been battling with irrigators in the Mora Valley for water since 1820 when the first diversion from the Rio Pueblo de Taos, a tributary of the Rio Grande, became an acequia into the Mora, a tributary of the Canadian and Arkansas Rivers.

The New Mexico Department of Health will continue to maintain the patient registry for the therapeutic cannabis program while ensuring sales remain tax-free. 


USAF trying to clean up after decades of environmental disasters

In 2018 it was revealed per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS have been spewing from Cannon Air Force Base, home of the plane that dropped a Massive Ordnance Air Blast or 'Mother of all Bombs' on Afghanistan. 

An area dairy operator has been dumping milk and destroyed some of his herd because area wells were contaminated with "forever chemicals." If Highland Dairy owner Art Schaap chooses to replace his herd he is not currently covered under the US Department of Agriculture's Dairy Indemnity Payment Program but help is on the way.
U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger-Fernández, a New Mexico Democrat, was one of those pushing for the USDA to change the rule. She said the Air Force has given intermediary support for water filters designed to remove PFAS from water supplies, but “we are still a long way away from the treatment plant the Air Force is in the process of building.” [Dairy farmers facing PFAS contamination now eligible for payment for their cattle]
According to the Environmental Working Group the Department of Defense has not fully briefed farmers about the likely pollution of surface and groundwater near some 36 of 126 military bases with the highest parts per trillion of PFAS contamination.
PFAS levels detected at seven of these bases are among the highest detected by the DOD, according to its own records, and they are surrounded by farms. PFAS levels at the bases range from hundreds of thousands to more than a million parts per trillion, or ppt. These bases include Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma, with 329,000 ppt of the two notorious PFAS known as PFOA and PFOS, Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, with 551,000 ppt of PFOA and PFOS, Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, with 453,000 ppt of PFOA and PFOS, and Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station in New York, with 1,310,000 ppt PFOA and PFOS. [Forever chemicals from military bases may be lurking in agricultural water supplies]
Officials at Ellsworth Air Force Base say nine private drinking water wells in Box Elder tested above the US Environmental Protection Agency health advisory level for two chemicals, PFOS and PFOA, compounds in a foam used to fight petroleum-based fires at a site where pit fires are common. The Cheyenne River is already a toxic waste dump.


Today's intersection: range fires increase as windbreaks age out

The grassland fire danger index will be in the extreme category again Wednesday and Thursday for Republican counties throughout the High Plains where desertification driven by overgrazing and poor land management practices has turned parts of the region into scorched earth.

Ag producers have destroyed shelter belts to plant industrial crops that deplete aquifers and now drought is blowing toxin-laden silt into downwind states. In Kansas alone recent wildfires blazed across some 400,000 acres during what meteorologists are now calling a derecho that traversed some 1500 miles beginning on the Front Range in Colorado. Record high winds fanned fires some forty miles wide consuming power lines, fences and domestic livestock.
Bob Atchison, coordinator of the Kansas Forest Service’s rural forestry program, said the Great Plains Initiative 2 is a continuation of an inventory of windbreaks in Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas that first began in 2008 and is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service. The most recent inventory of windbreaks in the Great Plains – completed in 2019 – indicates windbreaks throughout the region are deteriorating. To illustrate the importance of windbreaks, Atchison pointed to the fact that Kansas has 2.5 million acres of cropland where the soils are particularly susceptible to erosion, many of these in southwest and south-central Kansas. [Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service]
The forestry division of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department is now taking orders for native seedlings delivered in the Spring to plant for reforestation, erosion control, windbreaks, streambank restoration, and wildlife habitat improvement.


Kinney, Elkton boy win Butte County cannabis grow/ops

In 2018 after being frustrated with the inability of activists and advocates to herd the booze-soaked, ecocidal South Dakota Legislature and the Republican Party apparatchiks in Pierre into the corral of cannabis common sense an interested party reached out to Matt Kinney, a Spearditch-based attorney who specializes in the defense of clients caught up in the morass of cannabis law in my home state. In 2015 he represented former Butte County State's Attorney Heather Plunkett after she was railroaded into dismissal by then-Attorney General Marty Jackley. 

Cal Reilly attended St. Mary's and graduated from Brookings High School but his late father was Superintendent of the Elkton School District.

Located off of Helmer Road outside of Belle Fourche, Black Hills Bud, LLC, submitted two applications - one for a dispensary facility license and one for a cultivation facility license. Calvin Reilly is listed as the registered agent on the business’ articles of organization. With a principal address listed off of Ridge Road near Belle Fourche, Center of the Nation Cultivation, LLC, applied for two licenses – one for a production manufacturing facility license and one for a cultivation facility license. Matthew Kinney, of Spearfish, is named as the company’s registered agent. [Black Hills Pioneer]

Heather Plunkett had been a Republican who once served as county vice-chair elected by the central committee of Butte County GOP per the bylaws. She is the daughter of Mike Messmer, a principal in Meade County Republican politics and was appointed State's Attorney in 2010 by scandal-ridden Governor Mike Rounds. She had previously pleaded guilty to one count of possession of cannabis less than 2 ounces, possession of paraphernalia and ingesting a substance other than alcohol. She received a suspended jail sentence, underwent periodic substance evaluations, was on probation for a year and was ordered to pay $861 in fees and fines for exercising her cannabis rights in defiance of South Dakota law. Her husband Ryan pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis and received a suspended jail sentence.

Plunkett told interested party cannabis helped to curb her alcohol use after learning the number of problem drinkers in the legal profession is more than double that of the general population. She has not renewed her law license but now she and her family live in Colorado.


Extreme white wing signals more violence as climate disruptions wreak havoc in Mountain West

Recall that during the second Obama term a group of armed thugs, including a retired Air Force master sergeant from South Dakota allied with mormon Cliven Bundy, occupied and ransacked not a courthouse but a national wildlife refuge in none other than Harney County, Oregon. 

Today, Montana Republicans are wielding the power of government to stifle free enterprise in a state where freedom is paramount. Now Realtors in Montana are capitalizing on racist paranoia amid Trump’s calls for the End Times. It’s dystopian fantasy run amok.
American Prairie, formerly known as “American Prairie Reserve,” has purchased thousands of acres throughout Montana and has had grazing leases that have been tied to the lands for years. That’s why when it came to renewing those leases through the federal government’s Bureau of Land Management, the organization wasn’t expecting the furor that came from state leaders. When the BLM’s own assessment determined that no significant harm would come from the grazing or leases, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte, along with the leaders from the state’s department of agriculture and the Wildlife, Fish and Parks as well as Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, objected, urging the federal leaders to reconsider and hold more public meetings. Finally, Gianforte criticizes the BLM in a September letter for holding a public hearing session via remote meeting “in the middle of a summer afternoon when the vast majority of those affected were trying to wrest their livelihoods from a devastating drought.” [Gianforte, Knudsen try to stop American Prairie’s bison through political pressure]
The Ridiculous Right brands Black Lives Matter and Native American protesters unemployed slackers but a horde of Huns that takes over a federal facility to wait out the End Days and terrorizes Congress are called patriots. 

Herr Trump's first Interior secretary blamed wildfires in the West on those he called “radical environmentalists” despite most acres burned occur on private ranch land in Republican counties. On the final day of Trump’s presidency his last Interior secretary even restored a grazing permit to the Hammond Ranch whose prescriptive burn escaped onto federal land. Only a tiny fraction of public lands offered by the Trump Organization to the extractive industries were even leased yet Republicans see the Biden White House as hostile to their causes especially after the Hammonds' grazing permits were again rescinded.
The vast rangelands of the American West have been the site of competition and conflict for hundreds of years. And drought has been an integral part of that landscape for centuries. But going forward, the climate emergency threatens conditions completely foreign to modern agricultural producers in western North America; the federal measures needed to mitigate their devastation may conspire to heighten the risk of conflict over federal management of the region’s most vital resource. In an era in which an increasing portion of the American public views violence as a legitimate means of resolving political disputes, the risk of land-centered enmity motivating conflict cannot be ruled out. As extreme drought withers livelihoods and the federal government moves to limit the suffering in an equitable manner, the chance that dismay and anger escalate into violence grows. [Federal Intervention, Conflict and Drought in the American West]
Only 3 percent of the Earth's surface remains untouched by human development and a sixth mass extinction is underway. Putting the country on the path of protecting at least 30 percent of its land and 30 percent of its ocean areas by 2030 (30x30) is imperative to preserving public lands and moving the US Forest Service from the US Department of Agriculture into the Department of Interior would be just one step toward that goal. 
Chris Bugbee, a field ecologist for the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity, has spent the last year and a half assessing the health of critical habitats in Arizona and New Mexico. He and his team of three have traveled hundreds of miles and produced reams of reports cataloging critical habitat ruined by cattle: widened streams, cow pies leading to algae blooms and oxygen-starved water, and forests with no new trees because sprouting trees are browsed to nubs. [In Arizona's riparian areas, cattle compete with imperiled species for fragile resources]

Learn more about the successes of the Yellowstone to Yukon at the Missoulian.


Lee stock soaring after rejecting takeover bid

In March of 2017 Lee Enterprises was trading at $2.58. Friday morning it's almost $30. 

This blog has argued that the Gannett Company should have bought Lee Enterprises which owns the Rapid City Journal and 45 other daily newspapers. It was my rant then that Lee Newspapers of Montana would survive as part of a Bismarck Tribune, Rapid City Journal, Casper Star-Trib marriage and not become part of a Gannett takeover.
The board of directors at Lee Enterprises, which owns the Post-Dispatch, on Thursday unanimously rejected a New York hedge fund’s unsolicited offer to buy the company. Lee Chairman Mary Junck said Alden Global Capital’s $24-per-share offer grossly undervalued Lee and failed to recognize the strength of its business, especially its growing digital news platform. “We remain confident in our ability to create significant value as an independent company,” Junck said in a news release. Praetorian President Harris Kupperman, who said in a filing he owns 7.3% of Lee, predicted that if the company’s digital news business continues at its current pace, shares could soon be worth a few hundred dollars each. [Post-Dispatch owner rejects purchase offer from hedge fund Alden]


As Republicans feign moving against meat packers Koch driving spikes in fertilizer costs

In red states like South Dakota freedom equals the right to pollute. 

Recall Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling or MCOOL was repealed during the second Obama term to shield American commodities from scrutiny because every ag product, meats both wild and domestic not grown organically in the United States is contaminated with atrazine, neonicotinoids, glyphosate, dicamba, DDT, mercury, lead, cadmium, PFAS, E. coli, Imazalil plus other toxins and pathogens. 

Now Republican candidates risk biting the hands that feed them. Meat packer Cargill has given big bucks to Republican senators like John Thune and Mike Rounds and to South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem. Rounds says he wants a federal investigation into allegations of antitrust violations by packers and for MCOOL to be reinstated.

Former Governor Rounds was elected to the US Senate with cash from the Kochs’ National Federation of Independent Business. The so-called “Americans for Prosperity” is a Koch-soaked dark money group with an agent in Sioux Falls. South Dakota's GOP legislators and candidates enjoy millions in lobbyist benefits from the Kochs and their American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC.

Koch Industries' relationship with the late Republican Kansas Senator Bob Dole not only helped to delegitimize the issue of oil theft it allowed the company to build an ecoterrorism empire. Charles Koch was a member of the John Birch Society and Koch Industries has given loads of cash to Mike Rounds, Howdy Doody Dusty Johnson and John Thune.

Today Koch is one of four corporations that control the production and sale of nitrogen-based fertilizer in the US. The others are Yara-USA, CF Industries and Nutrien so the Family Farm Action Alliance, a 501c3 non-profit group has asked the Department of Justice to investigate the reasons behind the avaricious rises in fertilizer prices

The United States gets much of its nitrogen fertilizer from Belarus through the Persian Gulf but a Trump era tariff and Hurricane Ida in the Gulf of Mexico slowed the movement of product to markets up and down the Mississippi River. Nitrogen fertilizer is normally applied to subsidized corn then ends right back up in the Gulf of Mexico where it kills whole ecosystems.
Ammonia prices have skyrocketed in the Midwest, with Koch announcing new levels as high as $1,100 per short ton (t) free-on-board (FOB) at its Corn Belt terminals and plants -- a near two-fold increase on prices of $650 to $680 in the Midwest seen at the end September. CF and other producers and sellers in the region followed Koch, with CF setting a new price in the Northern Plains and Iowa of $1,200/t FOB for overpull delivery volumes. [Global, Domestic Fertilizer Prices Continue to Rise]
Learn how the Republican Party has become the John Birch Society linked here.


Progressive Santa Fe not immune to hysteria over CRT

Critical race theory is a framework usually studied at the university level and describes how systemic racism in the United States enforces racial inequalities so no lawyer practices in the United States until they learn how the court favors white privilege. 

New Mexico endures multitudinous symbols of conquest, genocide and colonization. The Royal Road of the Interior that extended 1600 miles from Mexico City to Santa Fe was established some 400 years ago by Spanish Conquistador Juan de Oñate, infamous for the 1599 Acoma Massacre.

Today, after consultations with stakeholders New Mexico's Public Education Department hopes to provide instruction that is relevant to English language learners and Indigenous students alike by adding ethnic, cultural and identity curricula to the state's social studies standards by emphasizing tribal sovereignty, social justice and sustainable futures. 

The Santa Fe School Board has submitted written comments in favor of adopting the proposals despite New Mexico Republican Party falsehoods associating the standards with CRT. 

Indigenous American intellectuals insist the proposed standards are crucial to providing education to propel Native children beyond colonialization.
So what does the Cultural Affairs Department do with a defunct multi-million dollar museum building sitting in the middle of nowhere? “Obviously the best would be to find another state agency that could put it to good use. If that’s not possible, we’ll actually go out to the public and see if there’s anybody interested in the public in that particular site,” Cultural Affairs Cabinet Secretary Debra Garcia y Griego said. [Middle of Nowhere: New Mexico’s Multi-Million Dollar Blunder]
The extreme white wing of the Republican Party wants a not so civil war over CRT because oligarchs fear an admission of guilt implies liability and they will be compelled to pay reparations to Indigenous and to the descendants of enslaved people. 

ip photo: the New Deal mural entitled “Indian Bear Dance” was painted by Boris Deutsch in 1938 and is installed in the United States Post Office in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.


Interest in geothermal energy heating up in Mountain West

In September the US Department of Energy awarded $12 million to seven projects intended to accelerate development of geothermal potential including $2 million to the University of New Mexico and $1.5 million to Montana State University. 

Geothermal mining has been a topic of keen interest in Montana for decades.

Last month the Bureau of Land Management sold a geothermal lease in Hidalgo County, New Mexico despite a 2016 blowout near a $43 million geothermal electricity plant erected by Cyrq Energy in 2013 when Republican Susana Martinez was governor.

Naming a dark matter lab 5000 feet below Lead after a lecherous, usurious Republican billionaire sticks in plenty of craws in South Dakota yet real science is getting done there. The Homestake Mine represents 8000 feet closer to the geothermal potential capable of powering much of the region. New Mexico's Sandia Labs, Los Alamos National Laboratory, South Dakota School of Mines and others are collaborating on exploring that limitless potential.
Picture this: you’re standing in a drift, 4,100 feet below the Black Hills of South Dakota. The drift you’re imagining is a research testbed on the 4100 Level of Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) and home base for the Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) Collab, a research group interested in extracting renewable energy from Earth’s deep, hot rocks. [To advance geothermal systems, EGS Collab maps the hidden fractures behind a wall of rock]
Colorado could tap orphaned oil and gas wells to supply hot water for electricity generation according to KUNC.

Learn more about the Cyrq Energy lesson at Searchlight New Mexico.


South Dakota-based company likely responsible for destructive Montana wildfire

Utilities are not your friends. 

Recall that in 2009 Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based NorthWestern Energy was responsible for a gas explosion in Bozeman, Montana that destroyed several businesses and killed one person. 

The company reported Wednesday morning that the devastating decrease in the Madison River flow that killed native trout was due to its negligence at the Hebgen Dam. 

In 2012 the fast-moving Ash Creek Fire burned bridges on US212 near Ashland and Lame Deer, Montana while another blaze nearby on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, the Coal Seam Fire spread to some 700 acres. In 2017 wildland fires on private ranch land in southeastern Montana dwarfed those on public ground in the western part of the state. The Sartin Draw Fire near Broadus and the Battle Complex near Birney burned at least 100,000 and 185,000 acres respectively, decades of invasive grasses and poor stewardship to blame. Last year the nearly 50,000 acre Huff Fire burned through the white supremacist town of Jordan, known as the home of the Montana Freemen. The Bobcat fire near Roundup in Musselshell County was over 41 square miles in size. 

Today, central Montana is ablaze again because it’s overrun with dry invasive cheatgrass but as a Republican stronghold it avoids criticism from Republicans. The West Wind Fire is about 60% contained.
Crews continue to secure lines around the perimeter and extinguish any hot spots. Initial assessments show the blaze destroyed 25 primary residences, 18 secondary structures and 6 commercial properties. A NorthWestern Energy spokesperson said late Thursday that the utility is helping investigate the possibility that a strong wind event downed a line southwest of Denton and started the West Wind fire. [Montana Public Radio]
The Big Stone Power Plant in northeastern South Dakota is owned by Otter Tail Power, Montana-Dakota Utilities and NorthWestern Energy. This monster burns 3,500 tons of subbituminous coal every hour so those companies spend millions every year greasing Republican politicians and poisoning waterways. 

NorthWestern Energy is expected to be sued once again for its undying commitment to moral hazard.