Published on November 22, 2016

Just days after Nevada voted to legalize marijuana for all adults 21 and over, HIGH TIMES announced plans for the first-ever Las Vegas Cannabis Cup. The iconic magazine’s premiere event and competition will serve as the official kick-off to the 2017 HIGH TIMES Live & Legal Cannabis Experience Tour.

Presented in partnership with Ultra Health, this pioneering celebration of the new and evolving world of legal cannabis will take place March 4 and 5 at the Moapa River Indian Reservation, just a short ride away from the famous Las Vegas Strip.

“We’re so proud of Nevada for continuing our national march towards legalization and showing that this community should be celebrated, not denigrated,” said Mary McEvoy, HIGH TIMES’ Chief Events Officer. “So naturally, we’re planning one of our biggest and best Cannabis Cups ever to usher in this new era in a style befitting of Las Vegas’s reputation.”

By approving Question 2, Nevada voters legalized the creation of a regulated commercial cannabis industry, while allowing all adults 21 and over to legally possess up to one ounce of cannabis or 1/8 of an ounce of concentrated cannabis, effective Jan. 1, 2017.

“HIGH TIMES has always been synonymous with cannabis, and Las Vegas with entertainment,” said Duke Rodriguez, CEO and President of Ultra Health. “We are pleased to partner with HIGH TIMES in the ultimate celebration of social and medical cannabis use and setting the standard for future landmark events.”

Since 1987, HIGH TIMES has hosted Cannabis Cups around the world to celebrate cannabis with music, speakers, vendors and interactive cannabis experiences, where attendees can learn hands-on about cultivation, legalization and connoisseurship, while coming together as a community to take part in the world’s premiere cannabis competition.

The HIGH TIMES Las Vegas Cannabis Cup will feature a live cannabis grow room, live trimming, a cannabis chef cooking competition, edibles seminars, product launches and more—like a World’s Fair of Weed. Musical acts and speakers will be announced in the coming weeks.

And of course, HIGH TIMES will crown the top three winners in each of the 13 Cannabis Cup competition categories. The Cannabis Cup is the original and highest honor of independently lab tested and judged cannabis products, and winners represent the best in Nevada and the United States.

Tickets go on sale for the 2017 U.S. Cannabis Cup in Las Vegas beginning Thursday, November 24th, 2016 on CannabisCup.com. Single Day, Weekend and VIP ticket options, complete with transportation to and from the Cup, will be made available.

Ultra Health, HIGH TIMES Partner for Cannabis Cup in Las Vegas

The first Cannabis Cup in Las Vegas will mark merger of the medical and social cannabis use

(Las Vegas) – Ultra Health®, a national medical cannabis leader and New Mexico’s largest provider, is partnering with HIGH TIMES, the premier cannabis brand for 42 years, to introduce the first HIGH TIMES Las Vegas Cannabis Cup on March 4 and 5, 2017.

The event, to be held at the Moapa River Indian Reservation just a short ride away from the Las Vegas Strip, will kick off HIGH TIMES’ 2017 Live & Legal Cannabis Experience Tour. It comes just a few months after Nevada’s social cannabis use will be legalized on January 1, 2017.

Nearly 55 percent of Nevada voters chose to approve Question 2, which will legalize cannabis possession of up to one ounce of flower and one eighth of an ounce of concentrate for adults 21 and older. Continue reading "Ultra Health, HIGH TIMES Partner for Cannabis Cup in Las Vegas"

New Mexico Medical Cannabis Revenues Hit New Record in Third Quarter

New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program revenues continue upward growth in third quarter

(Albuquerque) – The Medical Cannabis Program’s total patient revenues for the first nine months ending September 30, 2016 exceeded $35.5 million, representing a 66 percent increase over the same period in 2015. The thirty-five licensed New Mexico medical cannabis producers are on pace for a record setting year of $48.4 million.  

Five providers, including Ultra Health®, had patient sales over $1 million in the third quarter alone, which is an industry first. The top 10 providers account for nearly three-quarters of total medical cannabis nine month revenues in New Mexico, while the 12 new providers licensed in December 2015 account for slightly over 2 percent of the total. Ultra Health® was the top percentage gainer and top producer for the third quarter with revenues up by 31 percent. Continue reading "New Mexico Medical Cannabis Revenues Hit New Record in Third Quarter"

Pot-showing company hit with sanctions

By Coleen Heild / Albuquerque Journal

Published on November 5, 2016

When a three-week-old medical marijuana seedling named Dorothy made her public debut at the New Mexico State Fair in September, state officials scrambled to pull the plug on her appearance.

Now the New Mexico medical cannabis company that sponsored Dorothy’s field trip is facing state sanctions that could cost the company more than $100,000, said Duke Rodriguez, owner and CEO of Ultra Health LLC, one of the state’s 35 licensed medical cannabis producers.

“With this kind of damage to our reputation, to our patients, and to our ongoing business, we certainly are going to defend this,” Rodriguez told the Journal on Friday. A hearing on the appeal on the matter is set for Nov. 30 in Santa Fe.

The seedling was slated for a 10-day stint at a booth Ultra Health rented at the fair, but the plant was ejected on opening day, Sept. 8, after New Mexico State Police and fair officials were notified.

Rodriguez told the Journal the seedling was “displayed wholly for educational purposes.”

But health department officials informed Ultra Health that removing the medical marijuana plant from the company’s Bernalillo production facility to the State Fair violated state law that requires cannabis production facilities “be housed on secured grounds.”

“The removal of a cannabis plant to an off-site location constituted both a change of location for the nonprofit producer’s production and a substantial change to the entity’s production plan,” states a Sept. 16 letter to Ultra Health from state medical cannabis program director Kenny Vigil.

The penalty imposed is suspension of “all sales and distribution” by the company for five days, and a $100 fine, according to the letter.

Rodriguez told the Journal the sanction is an overreaction.

“Never did we say we were intending to produce, cultivate or distribute cannabis for the state fairgrounds,” he said.

As for the security concerns, Rodriguez told the Journal, “The plant was under the control and administration of our licensed personnel the entire time and the maximum amount of time that the plant stayed on that campus was less than nine hours,” Rodriguez said. He said the seedling wasn’t flowering and had only trace levels of THC, a mind-altering ingredient in marijuana.

“If they would simply have left it at a $100 fine we might be open to a settlement of such a minor fine, but what they have proposed is a sanction greater in value than $100,000,” Rodriguez said. “The $100,000 is just the immediate cash impact. The long-term damage to the program and the patients is even greater.”

New Mexico has authorized more than 30,000 cardholders to legally use pot for any one of more than 20 medical conditions.

“For example, in Hobbs, we are 95 percent of the market,” Rodriguez said. “Those patients will have no alternative other than going back to the black market to secure their medicine, which is the absolute wrong message to patients or for the program.”

Ultra Health to Host Sock Drive

Ultra Health, the state’s leading medical cannabis provider, will host a sock drive at all it’s dispensaries during the first week of November through December 20. As part of Ultra Health’s corporate giving program, it is committed to giving back to the communities it serves, and will match each pair of socks donated.

The number one needed clothing item for the homeless is socks, as people very rarely donate them. Socks can make a world of difference for someone in need. New socks reduce the risk of skin infections, prevent frostbite and foster good hygiene.

"Success for an organization should not be defined by what we get, but by what we give," said Duke Rodriguez, CEO and President of Ultra Health®. "The Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act was created to provide compassion and relief to those in need. We would like to extend this commitment by helping the charities serving less fortunate New Mexicans.” Continue reading "Ultra Health to Host Sock Drive"

Meet Me at the Fair

Medical cannabis grower faces stiff punishment for educational booth at Expo New Mexico

By Peter St. Cyr / Santa Fe Reporter

Published on November 3, 2016

The decision to exhibit a live cannabis plant at the State Fair earned New Mexico’s top-selling medical cannabis provider a hefty punishment from the Department of Health.

State officials ordered Ultra Health to suspend sales at all six of its dispensaries in New Mexico for five consecutive days and pay a $100 fine as punishment for displaying a single seedling at the New Mexico State Fair in early September.

Kenny Vigil, the director of New Mexico's Medical Cannabis Program, issued the disciplinary action eight days after fair officials asked the firm to remove a 21-day old nonflowering marijuana plant from their preapproved visitor's booth.

State Fair officials admit they overlooked a plan Ultra Health submitted describing their intention to display the plant to educate the public about medical cannabis before they signed an exhibit contract, which specifically prohibits displaying drug related merchandise or paraphernalia, with the firm.Public records show that on the first day of the event, Larry C Trujillo, a director of fair security, and New Mexico State Police Lieutenant David Ben Romero checked with then-medical cannabis program compliance manager Ken Groggel. He determined that Ultra Health violated a program rule that prohibits cannabis production to be in view of the public when it moved the plant from its greenhouse to the fairgrounds.

"The removal of a cannabis plant to an off-site location constituted both a change of location for the non-profit producer's production and a substantial change to the entity's production plan," new program manager Kenny Vigil wrote in a Sept. 16 letter to Leigh Jenke, the president of the grower's nonprofit organization.

Jenke insists that Ultra Health never intended for the booth display to be considered a new or alternative production facility and that the plant was "secured, guarded and controlled by our licensed personnel at all times." In her October 12 response letter, Jenke writes that Ultra Health "acted in good faith with full disclosure," adding that the company received a full refund from fair administrators. Jenke's letter also reveals that Vigil never contacted the company to ask questions or inquire about the booth's preapproved status before handing out the disciplinary action.That upsets Jenke. She says the proposed punishment is inconsistent with any sanctions ever imposed by the Medical Cannabis Program.In fact, documents obtained through a public records request show that other growers caught violating program rules have simply had to provide the regulators formal corrective action plans.

New MexiCann Natural Medicine, a Santa Fe dispensary, however, did receive a $13,000 fine from OSHA following a gas explosion that seriously injured two employees, but no monetary sanction from the health department and was prohibited from using gas extraction methods to manufacture cannabis products for 12 months.

Duke Rodriguez, the president of the Ultra Health's shared management company, tells SFR he thinks the unprecedented punishment is retaliation for a lawsuit the company jointly filed in August with Nicole Sena, the mother of an infant patient, challenging the department's 450-plant cap limitation. Rodriguez says the seedling taken to the fair from a greenhouse in Bernalillo amounted to less than one percent of the company's 450-plant total.

"There is no way that this constituted a substantial change to Ultra Health's production or distribution plans," says Rodriguez. "The Department of Health has run roughshod over the cannabis program with rules detrimental to patient care, delaying cards, excessive taxes and fees, low plant counts, historical and continuous adequate supply issues and now threatened sanctions."

If the department's sanction sticks it could cost the provider substantially more than a $100 fine. Rodriguez estimates Ultra Health stands to lose around $100,000 in total sales by shutting down all six of its New Mexico dispensaries for nearly a week. The long-term impact could be even bigger as loyal customers seek alternative providers during the shutdown.

Roger Posey, a Hobbs resident, who uses cannabis to treat his post-traumatic stress disorder, tells SFR via a telephone interview that if Ultra Health is forced to shutter its dispensary he will probably turn to street dealers.

“I need the medical grade we get here at Ultra Health. On the street, you never know what people are putting into it,” says Posey, adding that driving 192 miles to the next closest dispensary in Ruidoso “is out of the question.” Another dispensary in Hobbs is only open a few hours a day.

Health department spokesman Paul Rhien contends “patients will not lose access to medicine because of this disciplinary action.”

The health department has retained Albuquerque attorney Craig Erickson to hear both sides of the issue at a closed-door meeting on Nov. 30. His recommendation is nonbinding. Instead, acting Secretary of Health Lynn Gallagher makes the final decision to uphold or deny the disciplinary action.

In the meantime, Ultra Health is planning to return to Expo New Mexico and Tingley Coliseum next spring as the title sponsor of the annual Gathering of Nations.