State says medical cannabis isn’t #NMTrue

By Marissa Higdon / Albuquerque Business First

Published on July 29, 2016

Ultra Health has been denied the right to use the New Mexico True certification on its products by the New Mexico Tourism Department.

The certification program allows producers approved by the Tourism Department to use New Mexico True branding on their products. The goal, according to the organization's website, is to improve the marketing for products that are 100 percent New Mexico made. Qualifying businesses must produce something 100 percent made in New Mexico, or can sell animal products from livestock 100 percent born and raised in New Mexico or market agricultural products 100 percent grown in the state.

Duke Rodriguez, president and CEO of Ultra Health, says his product is 100 percent locally grown and so it should qualify for the program.

The New Mexico Department of Tourism disagrees.

"This program helps place a national spotlight on some of the state's finest products that are made, grown, and born and raised in New Mexico," the tourism department told Albuquerque Business First in an email. "For example, handcrafted wool blankets, New Mexico raised beef and chile-infused mustards. These are products that can be enjoyed on vacation and taken back home. As you know, a medical cannabis card is required to purchase that product in New Mexico. Therefore, it's not available to people outside of the state."

Rodriguez says, while it's true that out-of-state visitors can't buy New Mexican cannabis, he expects that to change in the future. In a few states already, like Nevada, patients with a medical cannabis card can purchase medical cannabis, even if they're from another state. This practice, called reciprocity, is common with prescriptions. You can go to a pharmacy anywhere in the nation and get your prescription filled.

"Moving forward, patients will have more options because of reciprocity," Rodriguez said.

He says the company applied for the certification to encourage patients to buy local.

"We wanted the New Mexico True certification to align our product with the quality name of New Mexico," he said.

Ultra Health will be the title sponsor for the Gathering of Nations Powwow, but the organization was recently denied a sponsorship at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

According to the New Mexico Department of Health, medical cannabis producers in the state brought in almost $9.9 million in total receipts in the first quarter. The Santa Fe Reporter reports that Ultra Health brought in about $727,000 of that money.

Ultra Health is the sixth-highest-grossing medical cannabis producer in the state, according to reports obtained by the Santa Fe Reporter.

State says marijuana cannot be certified ‘New Mexico True’

By Associated Press

Published on July 29, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) – State officials say no matter where marijuana is grown it is not eligible for New Mexico True certification.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that Ultra Health President Duke Rodriguez says he has been denied the chance to participate in the New Mexico Tourism Department initiative despite the fact that his product – medical marijuana – meets the requirements.

The program is aimed at promoting products made, raised or grown in New Mexico.

Rodriguez, who used to be the Human Services Department Secretary, says he applied for entry into the True program earlier this year.

Tourism Department spokeswoman Heather Briganti says the program was designed for products like wool blankets or raised beef that can be enjoyed and taken home and medical marijuana does not fall in that category.

New Mexico True campaign rejects medical marijuana grower’s application

By Sandra Ramirez / KOAT Action News

Published on July 29, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE —The state Tourism Department said there's nothing "New Mexico True" about medical marijuana.

The campaign rejected Ultra Health's application for the coveted certification. Ultra Health is New Mexico's largest medical marijuana grower.

"Because of its illegal nature, I guess you could say, it was denied," Ultra Health Vice President Leonard Salgado said.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Tourism Department said the company helps spotlight projects that are made or grown in New Mexico.

"For example, handcrafted wool blankets, New Mexico-raised beef and chile-infused mustards," said Heather Briganti, communications director for the Tourism Department.

One popular homegrown crop that is New Mexico True is green chile.

Salgado said his homegrown medical cannabis meets the requirements and is having just as much of an impact.

"Certainly from an economic standpoint, we're bigger than green chile. The industry alone will do $45 million this year, and when you compare that to green chile, I believe their numbers came in at $41 million," Salgado said.

Briganti said the goal of the New Mexico True campaign is to attract people from out of state by promoting items that they can enjoy on vacation, and take back home. The problem with medical cannabis is that a medical marijuana card is needed in New Mexico, and is not available to people who live outside the state.

Ultra Health also applied for sponsorship at Balloon Fiesta, but was also denied. The company will be the sponsor of Gathering of Nations for the next five years.

State says no to ‘New Mexico True’ pot

By Phaedra Haywood / Santa Fe New Mexican
Published on July 28, 2016

Pickles, pistachios and paintings are all made-in-New Mexico products that have been given permission to use the coveted New Mexico True Certified program stamp.

But not medical marijuana, also a New Mexico product.

Duke Rodriguez, a former state Human Services Department Secretary who is president of Ultra Health — one of 35 nonprofits licensed to grow medical cannabis by the state Department of Health — said he’s been denied the opportunity to participate in the program despite the fact that his products meet the requirements.

The program is a state Tourism Department initiative aimed at promoting uniquely New Mexican products made, raised or grown in the state.

Rodriguez said the decision is shortsighted one on the part of state Tourism Department officials who seem not to recognize the positive financial impact the cannabis industry could have on the state, even though recreational marijuana is not legal here — yet.

“I don’t think tourism has woken up to realize how big this industry is today and how much bigger it’s going to get very quickly,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said he applied for entry into the program earlier this year, only to be informed by Outreach and Partnerships Director Aimee Barabe that the Tourism Department wouldn’t accept his application.

“Cannabis is still illegal under federal law and New Mexico limits consumption for medical purposes only,” Barabe wrote in an email to Ultra Health. “The Tourism Department primarily advertises/markets outside of New Mexico, including the New Mexico True Certified program, and therefore, we cannot accept your application for participation in the program.”

The website that outlines the requirements for the New Mexico True Certified program says to qualify for the promotional program, plant products must be grown in the state and carry marks that make it possible to trace them to the place of harvest. The website doesn’t say what criteria may be used for excluding a product from the program.

Barabe declined to speak to The New Mexican about the issue, but the department’s communications director Heather Briganti said in a statement that the program was designed to promote items such as wool blankets, New Mexico raised beef and chile-infused mustard.

“These products can be enjoyed on vacation and taken back home,” Briganti wrote. “As you know, a medical cannabis card is required to purchase [medical cannabis] in New Mexico. Therefore it’s not available to people outside the state.”

But there are about 26,000 medical cannabis cardholders in New Mexico. And, Rodriguez said, Nevada already has a reciprocity agreement that allows them to purchase marijuana there. Hawaii has a similar agreement pending and Colorado allows anyone to buy their recreational marijuana, so the competition for New Mexicans’ medical cannabis dollars is already in full swing.

“We would like people to get used to buying New Mexico products and viewing them as equal to or better than what is available in other parts of the country,” said Rodriguez, whose company also operates dispensaries in Nevada and Arizona.

Rodriguez said that based on figures released by the state Department of Health for the first quarter of 2016, the medical cannabis industry is on track to generate about $45 million in sales this year, compared to about $41.1 million for another big crop, chile, in 2015.

Medical cannabis is also expected to make about $3.5 million for the state in gross receipts tax revenue in 2016, Rodriguez said, and the industry will contribute millions more in licensing fees to the general fund this year.

“These collected taxes and fees are used to fund efforts such as the New Mexico True Certified program,” he wrote.

Despite the department’s assertions that it markets primarily in other states to non-New Mexico residents, Rodriguez will miss out on a local promotional opportunity funded by the the New Mexico Tourism Department in September. The New Mexico True Fest will take place in conjunction with the New Mexico Wine & Jazz Festival at the state fairgrounds.

Products and businesses enrolled in the New Mexico True Certification program will be in the spotlight during the event, according to a press release from the department, and will not have to pay booth fees for the event.

An assistant to Tourism Secretary Rebecca Latham said she could not be reached for comment because she was traveling.

Rodriguez said he gets a “general feeling” that “given the opportunity,” Gov. Susana Martinez’ administration would prefer to limit the growth of the medical cannabis program.

Ultra Health Denied New Mexico True Certification

Medical cannabis denied participation to state tourism program

(Albuquerque) – Ultra Health, a regional medical cannabis leader, has been denied from
becoming an industry partner with the state’s New Mexico True Certified program.

The program brings national attention to the quality, care and craftsmanship behind products that
are uniquely New Mexican. True Certified products must be manufactured in New Mexico.
Plant-­based products must use plants or non-­meat agricultural products originating from New
Mexico with proper traceable documentation.

All of Ultra Health’s medical grade cannabis products sold in New Mexico are produced in the
state and therefore fully meet the criteria to be considered for the program.

Continue reading "Ultra Health Denied New Mexico True Certification"

Cannabis Supply in Checkmate

Producer says low plant limit stunts job growth

By Peter St. Cyr / Santa Fe Reporter
Published on July 25, 2016

An internal report produced by New Mexico Department of Health’s Office of Policy and Accountability reveals that Medical Cannabis Program administrators, who have been struggling to keep up with new patient registrations and annual program renewals, only processed 62 percent of them on time between January and March.

State law requires the paperwork be approved or denied in 30 days or less, but the report (see page 49) shows that administrators set a goal to complete only 97 percent of the applications within the legal timeframe even though the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act doesn’t provide them that option.

A SFR investigation reveals the backlog that's lasting up to 60 days for some applicants is just the tip of the iceberg.

Duke Rodriguez, the president and chief executive officer of Ultra Health, which already manages six cannabis dispensary locations in New Mexico, tells SFR that he’s prepared to create 85 new dispensary jobs around the state with an average pay of $15 per hour, but the health department is dragging its feet. He wants them to approve his plan to open 13 new dispensaries in rural cities without full-time dispensaries (stores that are open at least 40 hours a week.)

Rodriguez, who is already writing rent checks for leased, but still unoccupied spaces in Alamogordo, Silver City, Deming, Carlsbad and other cities, says Charles Castillo, a health department compliance officer, emailed his staff last Friday to express concerns about Ultra Health’s ability to reliably supply enough medication to the proposed new locations.

Growers currently pay a $90,000 annual licensure fee, but are limited to 450 plants.

“The issue which has affected further consideration of your organization’s amendments requesting additional dispensaries relates only to your ability to adequately supply those proposed dispensaries with a steady and reliable supply of usable medical cannabis,” writes Castillo. “Simply stated, you yourself have indicated on numerous occasions that with the maximum 450 plant count it would be extremely difficult, even under optimal conditions and an ideal production cycle, to adequately serve the needs of even six dispensaries with that plant count.”

Instead, Castillo wants Rodriguez to negotiate wholesale agreements with smaller producers without a large dispensary infrastructure or Ultra Health's marketing expertise.

“You were advised on several occasions that if you could produce Memorandums of Understanding (MOU), Memorandums of Agreement (MOA), or other formal agreements between yourselves and such producers, that we could move forward in considering additional dispensaries,” writes Castillo.

Castillo's explanation doesn’t sit well with Rodriguez or Ultra Health General Manager Leonard Salgado. They tell SFR that before last Friday they had not heard anything from program staff since the end of April and that they were never told that “adequate supply” was the sole concern for delaying their business expansion.

After reviewing Castillo’s email, Rodriguez and Salgado want the department to provide them any modeling data that shows how the regulators calculate adequate supply based on patient demand, since the number of enrolled patients is up 93 percent since last summer.

They also want to know what regulatory criteria being used to consider other growers’ requests to open additional locations, like New Mexicann Natural Medicine’s newest stores in Taos, Española and Las Vegas.

At the same time, Rodriguez is expressing another level of frustration.

He claims that prospective employees, just like patients, are having to wait up to two months for their Licensed Nonprofit Employee cards to be processed.

“By the time we call them, they’ve already found other jobs,” says Rodriguez. "Most people can't wait two months to start work."

Last week, SFR asked health department spokesman Kenny Vigil why employee cards are also being delayed, but after initially stating he'd check, we didn't get an answer before publication. If we hear back we'll update the post.

For now, Rodriguez and Salgado estimate the state will receive up to $3.5 million in gross receipts taxes from medical cannabis sales this fiscal year. They want lawmakers to propose bills to lift plant limits imposed by the health department and consider transferring regulator control from the health department to the regulation and licensing department.

Rodriguez also suggests that if lawmakers return to the Roundhouse for a special session to deal with a looming budget deficit, they once again consider legalizing cannabis for social use.

“It could generate up to $131 million in new revenues, depending on the tax rate” says Rodriguez, who cautions about more deep spending cuts.“We do not have a spending problem; we have a revenue problem. In healthcare it is well understood that if you cut too deeply, you are no longer cutting into fat but are cutting into needed muscle,” says Rodriguez, adding the cannabis could be the perfect prescription for what ails New Mexico.

Medical cannabis firm to sponsor Gathering of Nations

By Rick Nathanson / Albuquerque Journal
Published on July 7, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Native people have a long history with natural healing and the use of herbal remedies. That’s why Gathering of Nations founder Derek Mathews says the powwow’s new title sponsor, regional cannabis producer Ultra Health, “is a great fit.”

Mathews said Wednesday that he and Ultra Health CEO and President Duke Rodriguez have signed a five-year sponsorship agreement with an option for another five years. Neither would reveal the amount of that investment, only saying it was “in the six figures.”

The Gathering of Nations earlier this year separated from the University of New Mexico, which hosted the powwow for more than three decades in the Pit basketball arena. The annual event will now be held on the grounds of Expo New Mexico, and its new formal title will be Ultra Health Gathering of Nations.

“It’s really great security for the powwow, long-term,” Mathews said. “When we renew our contract with the fairgrounds, Ultra Health’s investment increases.”

The Gathering of Nations has a four-year agreement with Expo New Mexico and an option for an additional four years.

The event is billed as the largest powwow of Native people in the world, attracting more than 3,000 singers and dancers from more than 700 tribes across the United States and Canada. The three-day event generates an estimated $20 million in local spending annually.

Arizona-based Ultra Health has seven locations in New Mexico – six dispensaries and one cultivation site. The company’s revenue from medical cannabis in New Mexico is about $5 million a year, said Rodriguez, a former chief operations officer with Lovelace Health Systems and the former Cabinet secretary for the state Human Services Department under Gov. Gary Johnson.

Ultra Health is looking to “reach out to the tribes because they feel the cannabis industry represents economic stability and because they believe the Indian casino industry has peaked,” Mathews said. “They’re looking at helping tribes invest in cannabis,” and having a presence at the Gathering of Nations will help convey that message, he said.

Ultra Health is building two dispensaries and an 84,000-square-foot cultivation facility in Las Vegas, Nev., on property of the Las Vegas Paiute tribe, Rodriguez said.

In January, a survey commissioned by Ultra Health showed that Native peoples were the population that looked most favorably on natural healing and the use of cannabis. Hispanics were the second-largest “favorable” population, followed by people with higher educations and larger incomes, Rodriguez said.

Ultra Health was recently rejected in its bid to be a sponsor of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

“They think it’s too soon,” Rodriguez said, but they were “open to reconsidering it in the future.”

There are currently 25,000 medical cannabis card holders in New Mexico and 35 growers.

Gathering of Nations gets cannabis producer as sponsor

By Kayla Root / KRQE
Published on July 7, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) — A cannabis producer is now the title sponsor of the Gathering of Nations.

The event which is billed as the largest pow-wow of Native American people in the world will now be called the Ultra Health Gathering of Nations.

Ultra Health, an Arizona based cannabis company which runs six dispensaries and one cultivation site in New Mexico, has signed a five year sponsorship agreement with the Gathering of Nations.

Ultra Health was recently rejected in its bid to be a sponsor of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. But Gathering of Nations representatives say native people have a long history with natural healing and the use of herbal remedies so it’s a good fit.

The Gathering of Nations will be held at Tingley Coliseum this year, after being at The Pit for more than three decades.

Medical Marijuana Company Lead Sponsor at Gathering of Nations

By Vincent Shilling / Indian Country Today

Published on July 6, 2016

Ultra Health, a national provider for the healthcare cannabis industry with operations and facilities in Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico, and retail dispensaries to commercial-scale cannabis production in New Mexico and Las Vegas, has become the title sponsor for the Gathering of Nations Pow wow for 2017.

In addition to the sponsorship, the official name of the event will be the “Ultra Health – Gathering of Nations.”

This marks the first time a medical cannabis company has sponsored such an event. Ultra Health has agreed to the title sponsorship for the next five years and holds an option to consider sponsorship through 2027.

“The Gathering of Nations Powwow is a very spiritual and social celebration,” said Duke Rodriguez, CEO and President of Ultra Health in a company release. “At Ultra Health we believe such components are vital to well-being, and sponsoring the event was an obvious decision in light of the importance Native people have historically put on healing and natural medicine.”

According to the release, Ultra Health is committed to fostering positive relationships with Indian tribes. In 2016, Ultra Health broke ground with the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe to build two dispensaries and a major cultivation center on the Snow Mountain Reservation and near downtown Las Vegas. Ultra Health is also in talks with tribes in a number of economic development projects in the cannabis industry including retailing, cultivation and cannabis event promotion.

The Gathering of Nations pow wow, a 3-day event which gathered nearly 90,000 people last year, is a 3 day event, will be held April 27th to 29th, 2017 on the new Pow wow Grounds at Tingley Coliseum/EXPO in Albuquerque.

Though recent polls have indicated 90 percent of Americans approve of medical cannabis, and 54 percent approve of its total legalization, not all sponsorships are so readily accepted, earlier this year, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta denied Ultra Health’s bid for sponsorship.

According to PRNewswire, 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.”

Though the letter voiced some support, the AIBF Board ultimately declined Ultra Health’s sponsorship request.

Deborah White Plume, whose husband, Alex White Plume has been an advocate for the growing of hemp for decades, says she has mixed emotions about the sponsorship. White Plume says she supports the use of medical marijuana as well as the sponsorship, yet is disappointed by Ultra Health’s name on the Gathering of Nations.

“First of all I am curious what the organizers get for sponsorship. But ultimately though I use medical marijuana, I feel this is an exploitative and corporatizing of Native people. I think it would be friendly and respectful if Ultra Health took their name off of the event name, otherwise it is just another exploitative and oppressive gesture to the red nation.”

“We debated whether this was the right thing to do,” Rodriguez told ICTMN. “But we did a lot of research and found the highest rates of support for cannabis is from Native people.”

Though ICTMN submitted requests for comment, GON organizer Derrick Matthews was not yet available to comment.

Medical cannabis provider becomes new Gathering of Nations sponsor

By Sandra Ramirez / KOAT Action 7 News

Published on July 6, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.Native Americans from all over the world make their way to Albuquerque every year for the Gathering of Nations.

The world's largest powwow is moving to a new location next year--Expo New Mexico-- and now there’s more news: medical cannabis provider Ultra Health is the gathering's big new sponsor.

“There has been a connection with cannabis with the Native American community for hundreds of years,” Leonard Salgado, with Ultra Health, said.

KOAT spoke with Gathering of Nations organizer Derrick Matthews who said they've had health and dental clinics at previous powwows. He said this sponsorship is similar and will provide more health and treatment options to the Native American community.

“It's been used for medicinal purposes throughout the United States, particularly in Indian country,” Salgado said.

Ultra Health hasn't had as much luck getting into other big New Mexico events. The company also applied to be a sponsor of this year's Balloon Fiesta, but that didn't work out.

“It was not a good fit at this time. Certainly there was still some question about it being illegal from the federal standpoint,” Salgado said.

Salgado said he'll try to sponsor Balloon Fiesta again but in the meantime he's focused squarely on the gathering.

“We're hoping to have a long-standing relationship with the Gathering of Nations, with the Matthews family for many years to come,” Salgado said.

Ultra Health's sponsorship of the Gathering of Nations runs through 2022 but can be extended for another five years once the deal is up.