Legalization to Avoid Overdoses

As the prescription drug overdose epidemic in the United States is increasingly getting out of control, it is time to explore safer alternatives to these highly addictive narcotics.

More than 14,000 people died in the United States from overdoses involving prescription opioids in 2014, according to the Center for Disease Control. During that same year New Mexico had the second highest total drug overdose death rate in the nation.

Between 2010 and 2014, 85 percent of New Mexico’s 33 counties had higher rates of drug overdose than the national average, some NM counties reaching 5 times the national rate, according to the New Mexico Department of Health. As this epidemic continues, more people are lost to prescription related deaths each year.

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Health Department Under-Reports Medical Cannabis Sales

Who's growing and selling the most and where? SFR obtains financial data for the first time

By Peter St. Cyr / Santa Fe Reporter

Published on June 23, 2016

New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program is growing at an even more rapid pace than reported by the public health agency tasked with regulating the industry.

Financial reports from growers that were made public for the first time this spring show total receipts during the first three months of 2016 topped $10.2 million—more than a quarter-million dollars above the $9.9 million claimed by the New Mexico Health Department on May 26. That figure does not include revenue from the 12 new producers who are still in various stages of setting up their grow sites and dispensaries.

Patient registrations, which reportedly have been taking up to 90 days to process, are also on the rise. The number of people legally permitted to use cannabis for medical relief in the state has almost doubled since February 2015, from 13,000 to more than 25,000 today.

SFR pored over individual profit-and-loss statements for 22 of the 23 licensed producers operating in New Mexico. (Grass Roots in Albuquerque did not file a quarterly report.)  After crunching the numbers, we built this online database.d by five growers.

Tracking the cannabis growers' financial and production results is a big deal and something that wasn’t possible before February when the agency amended its confidentiality rules, which had shielded information since the inception of the program. The rule change came after a public hearing and a lengthy legal battle with open government advocates, including this journalist.

An analysis of the producers’ financial paperwork shows the health department miscalculated first-quarter sales (or total receipts) by $256,112. SFR questioned the department’s number after determining Fruit of the Earth Organic’s $246,545 gross profit could not have been generated from $7,068 in sales listed on the group's financial summary sheet. By any accounting process, that just didn’t add up.

A spokesman for the health department says staff used the numbers provided by producers to add up the Q1 sales total, but It appears the regulators didn’t double-check the numbers on Fruit of the Earth's cover sheet against the grower's underlying profit and loss statement before making the statewide 2016 First Quarter Report Summary public.

Justine Freeman, the deputy chief of staff at the State Auditor’s Office says the health department needs to develop a method to catch errors and ensure the accuracy of their accounting before making reports public.

“Sound financial reporting is key to the public’s understanding of how the medical cannabis program is working,” Freeman tells SFR.

Ultra Health’s Duke Rodriguez is among those who have been pushing Health Department Secretary-designate Lynn Gallagher to remove the grower’s plant limits. He tells SFR that if lawmakers or voters approve cannabis for social use by adults, he predicts annual dispensary revenues could top $525 million in the first year.

That estimate is based on close to $1 billion in sales in Colorado last year, adjusted for New Mexico’s smaller population and lower income rates.

Rodriguez, who made a presentation to Legislative Finance Committee Director David Abbey and staff analyst Eric Chenier on Jan. 4, says if the state taxed legal sales, it would generate between $78 million and $131 million in new tax revenue depending on the tax rate adopted by lawmakers.

The new tax revenue, Rodriguez suggests, could be used to prop up the state’s Medicaid fund and that money would then make the state eligible for close to another $325 million in federal matching funds.

"Money spent on health care would have a huge impact on the state’s economy," says Rodriguez. “It would generate 15,000 new jobs and fill the equivalent of 125 football fields in office space.That would benefit not only hospitals, but real estate agents, landlords and bankers."

Like Freeman at the auditor's office, Rodriguez says he’s concerned about the department’s first-quarter reporting error.

“If you found the error during your simple macro analysis, you can only imagine what other errors may have been easily missed,” says Rodriguez. “These are huge numbers which add up quickly, so it is easy to get the reporting materially off."

The first-quarter results, while not a trend, do provide important market insights. Production reports provided by the health department since 2013 have indicated that not all growers are producing large harvests. Indeed, SFR’s analysis shows that almost 60 percent of the quarter’s 1.2 ton yield was harvested by five growers: R Greenleaf Organics, The Verdes Foundation, Compassionate Distributors, Minerva Canna Group and Medzen.

Willie Ford’s Reynold Greenleaf Associates, which manages R Greenleaf and Medzen dispensaries in Albuquerque, produced 28 percent of the total yield. Eric and Rachel Speegle’s Verdes Foundation, which topped the sales charts with over $1.1 million in Q1, generated close to 10 percent of the harvest between January and March.

Statewide, producers reported a total net gain of $986,105 between January and March on gross profits of just over $6 million. Red Barn, a producer in Grants, did not report its gross profit or net income or loss. On average, producers netted almost $47,000. Mother Earth Herbs reported breaking even. Seven other producers claim they are losing money and reported an average loss of $41,045. R. Greenleaf reported the quarter's largest net income loss: $82,382.

Santa Fe growers New Mexicann Natural Medicine, Sacred Gardens, Ultra Health and Fruit of the Earth Organics generated $2.4 million in total sales during the quarter and provided patients almost 350 pounds of cannabis. The Santa Fe nonprofits also paid $203,455 in gross receipts taxes during the quarter. Overall, the tax department collected $768,605 in taxes from the growers in Q1.

New MexiCann’s $656,000 gross profit generated a quarterly income gain of $61,000, while Zeke Shortes’ Sacred Garden, which has the third highest overall cannabis staff payroll, reported a net income loss of $78,142 on its $492,536 gross profit. Lyra Barron’s Fruit of the Earth Organics, with a net income gain of $116,332, bested all the other Santa Fe-based producers.

Producers, who are still working out bugs using the health department’s new “seed to sale” tracking software, which requires them to enter product test results for plant potency and microbiological contaminants, reported spending nearly $80,000 on laboratory testing services in Q1. Two producers did not report their test numbers, and Vivian Moore’s Mother Earth Herbs in Las Cruces is exempt from testing since her dispensary is located south of US Border Patrol checkpoints. The amount producers spend on testing is expected to increase in the second quarter, as testing is now mandatory for all harvest batches and cannabis-derived products.

Ultra Health Partners with Edibles Council

NM’s largest medical cannabis company committed to patient education

Ultra Health, a national medical cannabis leader with a large New Mexico presence, becomes the first medical cannabis provider in New Mexico to partner with the Oregon Responsible Edibles Council, (OREC). OREC, formed in late 2015, is a non-profit trade association of Oregon edible cannabis processors, with a mission of educating the public regarding the safe and responsible usage of edible cannabis products for adults 21 and over.

Ultra Health will be joining other Oregon-based dispensaries and edible cannabis organizations in sponsoring the responsible use of edible cannabis products. Ultra Health believes patient education must become a priority, as the medical cannabis program in New Mexico has grown nearly 80% to 25,000 patients in the past year and will continue to grow.

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Cannabis company denied Balloon Fiesta sponsorship

By Marissa Higdon / Albuquerque Business First
Published on June 20, 2016

Ultra Health, a regional medical cannabis company with six locations in New Mexico, has been denied a sponsorship at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta this year.

“We didn’t fit the profile of what they wanted in balloon sponsorship,” Duke Rodriguez, CEO and president of Ultra Health, told Business First. “They didn’t feel it’s appropriate for a family-style event.”

According to an official statement by the Balloon Fiesta, the Fiesta’s board and Ultra Health discussed sponsorship, and the company submitted an application to be a sponsor for the event. The board decided that Ultra Health “would not be a good fit,” the statement said.

The statement added that Balloon Fiesta would be willing to revisit having Ultra Health as a sponsor in the future — a sentiment echoed by Rodriguez, who says he hopes to work with the organization again.

Rodriguez says Ultra Health has 65 employees in the Southwest region, and brings in $5 million in revenue from its five New Mexican dispensaries and single cultivation site in the state. The company’s corporate headquarters are in Arizona, and it plans on opening new locations in Nevada sometime soon.

“It really surprised me,” he said of the Balloon Fiesta’s decision to deny sponsorship. “It’s not street marijuana.”

In a press release, Ultra Health cited a letter written by the board of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta stating that the majority of board members believed medical cannabis “should be considered a mainstream pharmaceutical.”

Rodriguez says Ultra Health was hoping to give back to the community through the sponsorship and raise awareness about medical marijuana in the state. According to the New Mexico Health Department, there are almost 25,000 medical marijuana cardholders in the state, and Rodriguez says the industry has seen almost 70 percent growth in the last year.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, New Mexico’s medical marijuana industry brought in $10 million in total receipts from sales of medical cannabis in the first quarter of 2016, which is almost double the amount brought in during the first quarter of 2015.

Ultra Health had proposed a balloon design for this year’s Balloon Fiesta (see accompanying image). While that balloon won't be taking off this year, perhaps you'll see it in years to come.

Ultra Health Opens Sixth Location in New Mexico

NM’s largest medical cannabis company committed to opening additional rural locations

(Albuquerque) – Ultra Health, a national medical cannabis leader with a large New Mexico presence, is opening its sixth location on June 22, 2016 in Albuquerque, making it the largest medical cannabis operator in the state. The new Albuquerque Westside location is a 1,200 square foot facility located at 5515 Coors Blvd NW Suite A.

This location will be Ultra Health’s third dispensary in the metro Albuquerque area – with two others in Albuquerque’s Northeast and Nob Hill area. Three other Ultra Health dispensaries are located in the communities of Santa Fe, Bernalillo and Hobbs. The Albuquerque Westside dispensary would mark Ultra Health’s sixth New Mexico location.

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Cannabis Company Denied Sponsorship at Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Ultra Health, New Mexico’s largest medical cannabis company, denied balloon presence

(Albuquerque) – Ultra Health®, a national medical cannabis leader with a large New Mexico presence, is denied sponsorship for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta® (AIBF), the largest balloon event and most photographed event in the world.

In a letter received on June 16th, 2016 from Paul Smith, Executive Director of the AIBF, “…several members of the Board related stories of how their patients or members of their family had received great results from medical cannabis. Most of the Board agreed that medical cannabis should be considered a mainstream pharmaceutical.” However, the Board declined Ultra Health’s sponsorship request.

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