Enrollment in NM cannabis program up 25 percent

Albuquerque Journal / ABQ Journal Staff
Published on June 8, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico’s medical marijuana program has grown by about 25 percent over the past year, with nearly 11,000 new patients, according to state figures.

As of the end of May, 53,585 people were licensed to use medical marijuana, the Department of Health reported.

Continue reading “Enrollment in NM cannabis program up 25 percent”

Big Pot & The Race for the ‘Biggest Marijuana Grow’

Cannabis Now / Bill Weinberg
Published on April 29, 2018

New Mexico is the latest state to announce that it will play host to the biggest legal cannabis grow operation in the United States. But other claims to that title over the past years have still not panned out, and a facility in Arizona now occupies the number one slot. Meanwhile, as various U.S. states vie for the honor, Canada is far in the lead of its southern neighbor.

New Mexico’s largest cannabis producer last week announced plans for a massive expansion, boasting that it would make the Land of Enchantment the top-producing state in the country and earn the distinction of biggest marijuana grow.

Continue reading “Big Pot & The Race for the ‘Biggest Marijuana Grow’”

Legal Weed Could Be a Godsend For American Indian Tribes

Published on April 23, 2018

This article, along with others about the growing legalization of marijuana, is featured in Newsweek’s Special Edition: Weed Nation.

Twenty-nine dollars and 85 cents. That’s the amount of money on the property tax bill received by Russell and Helen Bryan, a modest sum that led to the creation of a multi-billion-dollar industry. The Bryans, an Ojibwe couple living in Minnesota’s Leech Lake Indian Reservation, took umbrage at Itasca County taxing their property, land they felt the United States government had no right to tax. They took their case to the Supreme Court, which ruled in 1976 that absent a Congressional declaration, states cannot tax American Indians living on reservations or regulate their activities on reservations.

That unanimous opinion of the justices cleared the path for the casinos and legal gambling establishments that have become the economic engine for many tribes of American Indians. Now, with cannabis legalization sweeping through the United States, many in the tribal business community have been eyeing the potential cash crop as a complement to the blackjack tables and slot machines generating revenue for a population that is generally impoverished.

The economic opportunity offered by cannabis rests on the particular legal relationships between American Indian tribes and both the federal and state governments of the United States, a byzantine labyrinth of Congressional acts, Supreme Court rulings and arbitrary decisions by government bureaucrats. According to the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, the federal government deals with American Indian tribes as it would with any other sovereign nation. The bureau also attempts to clarify what authorities states have over the American Indians living on reservations within a state’s borders. “Furthermore, federally recognized tribes possess both the right and the authority to regulate activities on their lands independently from state government control,” reads the Bureau’s website. “They can enact and enforce stricter or more lenient laws and regulations than those of the surrounding or neighboring state(s) wherein they are located. Yet, tribes frequently collaborate and cooperate with states through compacts or other agreements on matters of mutual concern such as environmental protection and law enforcement.”

One of those entrepreneurs, Duke Rodriguez, sees nothing but opportunity in Native American reservations. A former Secretary of Human Services in the New Mexico state government, Rodriguez founded Ultra Health in 2016, a company specializing in operating dispensaries and helping with cultivation of cannabis for medicinal use. “Ultra Health was conceived with the vision that we would be actively engaged with the tribal communities,” Rodriguez says. He speaks passionately about the good legal cannabis can do not only for the physical health of American Indians living on tribal land, but their economic well-being. “If you already have an understanding of issues of sovereignty and self-determination you understand that it’s a powerful tool for the tribes,” Rodriguez says.

He also recognizes the beneficial attributes of working on tribal land. Because both the property and water rights are owned by a single entity—the tribal government—cutting down on the red tape, which is just one of the attractive qualities drawing cannabis businesses to tribal lands. “Right now, tribal reservations touch, I believe, between 60 to 80 percent of the U.S. population in 100 miles,” Rodriguez says. “And due to their sovereignty they’re able to present products generally at more favorable economic terms than non-Indians since they can avoid certain taxation.”

The grand opening in October 2017 of Nuwu Cannabis Marketplace, the largest dispensary in the United States, on land belonging to the Paiute Tribe in downtown Las Vegas lends credence to Rodriguez’s argument that many tribes are betting on green for their economic survival. “What we’re trying to do is create an economic driver for the tribe and create an economic driver for this area,” Paiute Tribe Chairman Benny Tso told local news KSNV during a tour of the facility. “There’s lots of need for jobs over here.”

The plans of Rodriguez, Tso and others, counting on a growing relationship between cannabis and tribal lands, look particularly fragile under President Donald Trump and his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. In 2016 Sessions, then a senator for Alabama, argued that the government needed to promote “knowledge that this drug is dangerous, you cannot play with it, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about…and to send that message with clarity that good people don’t smoke marijuana.” In January of 2018, Sessions as attorney general announced Department of Justice attorneys no longer had to follow the strict Obama-era guidelines requiring proof of a cannabis-related crime’s harm on larger society before prosecuting.

For tribes that had been dipping their toes into the legal cannabis industry, the change of attitude in Washington had a chilling effect on many of their ambitions. While sovereign entities, many tribes heavily depend on the federal government for block grants and other aid—deals that could be jeopardized by explicitly engaging in an activity illegal on the federal level that the Department of Justice now considers a priority.

“For a handful of states, we have witnessed U.S. attorneys more than browbeating tribes—literally threatening them,” Rodriguez says. “They’re saying, ‘Aren’t you worried that we will take away some of your federal grants, or [be] forced to take action against [the tribes]?’”

When asked for comment about the current relationship between the legal cannabis industry and tribal land, the Department of Justice emailed Newsweek: “The Attorney General is committed to reducing violent crime in Indian Country and to enforcing the laws as enacted by Congress, and the additional guidance provided by the Cole Memo is unnecessary. As was the case prior to the Cole Memo, the United States has the jurisdiction to enforce federal law in Indian Country, and we will continue to work with our tribal partners to keep communities safe.”

Where does that leave tribes curious about investing in legal cannabis? In a confusing and frustrating no man’s land. Businesses currently operating on American Indian land, such as NuWu Cannabis Marketplace in Nevada or Agate Dreams, a dispensary located on Suquamish tribal land in Washington State, do so in the permanent shadow of a federal shutdown. It’s the uncomfortable risk familiar to most who are pioneering the brave new world of legal cannabis.

This article, by Senior Editor James Ellis, was excerpted from Newsweek’s Special Edition: Weed Nation. For more on the changing laws and attitudes on legalization pick up a copy today.

New Mexico company aims to build the largest cannabis cultivation site in North America

Albuquerque Business First / Justina Grant
Published on April 19, 2018

New Mexico’s largest medical marijuana company is raising the stakes even higher.

Ultra Health, the state’s top-grossing medical marijuana company, is set to construct its new cultivation site, Ultra Health Tularosa, on 200 acres of farmland in Otero County, according to a news release.

Ultra Health announced its plans for the Tularosa cultivation facility in January, billing it as the largest cannabis cultivation campus in the state. But with over 8.7 million square feet, the Ultra Health Tularosa site will also take over as the largest cannabis cultivation facility in North America, according to Growers Network, a private community for cannabis professionals.

The company says the site is in anticipation of the legalization of cannabis for social use and large-scale hemp production in New Mexico. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Apodaca recently called for the legalization of recreational marijuana use, reported KRQE. Apodaca said New Mexico could be missing out on potential jobs and an estimated $200 million in tax revenue brought on by the industry.

Ultra Health’s mission is to “supply New Mexico with a diverse variety of high-quality cannabis that satisfies each and every client and propels the Land of Enchantment to unprecedented heights.”

The new site will include 20 acres of indoor cultivation, 80 acres of outdoor cannabis fields, 100 acres of outdoor hemp fields and 120,000 square feet of production buildings, says the release.

Ultra Health says the new facility will have the capacity to accommodate other licensed producers in New Mexico. There are 35 licensed nonprofit producers of medical marijuana in the state.

Ultra Health also says it aims to lead in sustainability by integrating modern agribusiness and green technologies, including solar, wind and rainwater harvesting. The sustainable site will take advantage of natural sunlight and secure water rights to 1,000 acre-feet of water, equivalent to 325.9 million gallons of water per year, according to the release.

“Ultra Health Tularosa was conceived to solve a challenge and to seize an opportunity,” said Ultra Health CEO and president Duke Rodriguez in the release. “This new facility will ensure the commitment of continuing to produce and deliver the highest quality, most affordable and convenient cannabis in the state.”

Representatives of Otero County are said to be in support of Ultra Health’s new venture, reported Alamogordo Daily News.

“Your company will bring much needed jobs and economic development to our county and we offer our support to your project,” wrote the Otero County Board of Commissioners in an official letter to Rodriguez.

Ultra Health Tularosa plans to employ 100 local residents, says the release.

In an attempt to redefine the cannabis dispensary experience, Ultra Health also recently announced the establishment of another upcoming venture — Ultra Health’s Emporio in Albuquerque — which will include a live cannabis plants display, cooking with cannabis demos, film screenings on the history of cannabis, a hemp boutique, gift shop and on-site medical certification help.

Ultra Health is ranked No. 1 on Business First’s list of Medical Marijuana Companies in New Mexico. In 2017, the company earned $10.5 million in total revenue, as reported by Business First.

Sale of medical cannabis is expected to reach $88 million by 2022 in New Mexico.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller recently signed a bill to decriminalize possession of an ounce or less of marijuana punishable with a $25 civil fine.

New Mexico became the 12th state to legalize the use of regulated medical marijuana with the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act in 2007, according to the NM Department of Health.

Largest Cannabis Cultivation Facility in US Proposed for New Mexico

NBC San Diego / Associated Press
Published on April 19, 2018

A project described as the largest cannabis cultivation facility in North America was proposed in New Mexico Thursday.

Ultra Health announced the acquisition of farmland while unveiling a three-dimensional rendering of what the facility will look like via social media.

The property spans nearly one-third of a square mile in Otero County. It will include 20 acres of indoor cultivation, 80 acres of outdoor cannabis fields and another 100 acres of outdoor hemp fields.

Ultra Health president and CEO Duke Rodriguez said the company is preparing for a future in which New Mexico stands to benefit from an expanded medical marijuana market and legalized recreational use.

The company says the grow facility is expected to employ about 100 people.

Legalization is shaping up to be among the campaign issues in the gubernatorial race.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Apodaca is calling for the expansion of New Mexico’s medical marijuana program and for the legalization of recreational use.

Apodaca released his plan Thursday, saying New Mexico is losing out on jobs and tax revenues that could be generated by the industry.

New Mexico’s medical program has grown exponentially and now has more than 50,000 patients. Record sales were also reported in 2017.

At a recent forum, Republican Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Steve Pearce expressed reservations about legalization.

Among the other Democratic candidates, U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham says she would support a measure that includes adequate health and enforcement measures to prevent underage use and workplace problems.

State Sen. Joseph Cervantes has sponsored unsuccessful legislation to decriminalize possession of small quantities of pot but has said the state isn’t ready yet to legalize.

Santa Fe County sees ‘green rush’ as number of medical marijuana cardholders grows

The New Mexican / Daniel J. Chacón
Published on February 10, 2018

A longtime sufferer of insomnia, Judith Thornburgh has experimented with a variety of natural remedies over the years — hoping to end her real-life nightmare of incessant sleepless nights.

Nothing ever worked.

Nothing, that is, until the 75-year-old tried medical marijuana.

“Forty years of insomnia, and I’m sleeping like a baby,” Thornburgh said Wednesday morning before walking into a medical marijuana dispensary to buy a bag of weed.

“I’m new to this,” she added. “I only got my card this year.”

Thornburgh is part of a growing trend in Santa Fe County, where the number of medical marijuana cardholders increased nearly 43 percent from January 2017 to January 2018, according to statistics from the New Mexico Department of Health.

Of the state’s nearly 48,000 medical marijuana cardholders, about 1 in 10 — or 5,245 — live in Santa Fe County.

After Bernalillo County, which includes the Albuquerque metropolitan area, Santa Fe County has the second-highest number of medical marijuana cardholders in the state.

Budding entrepreneurs have taken notice.

“They call it ‘the green rush’ right now,” said Lane Stevens, manager of Ultra Health’s medical marijuana dispensary on St. Michael’s Drive. “It really is huge.”

New crop of dispensaries

Santa Fe County is home to seven medical marijuana dispensaries, including two that opened for business less than two weeks apart in December. One of those new businesses, Minerva Canna Group on Cerrillos Road, claims to be the largest in the state, at least by square footage.

“As far as operating dispensaries in the state of New Mexico, hands down, we’re the largest,” Minerva manager Katie Bright said.

At least two more medical marijuana dispensaries are on the way.

An eighth dispensary is expected to begin doing business on Early Street, south of downtown, in a matter of days, and a ninth is scheduled to open on Siler Road within a month or so.

“I have a lot of people asking me that live on Agua Fría and like my old school friends, they’re like, ‘Hita, why don’t you open over here?’ ” said Minka Ingersoll, co-founder of Kure Cannabis, a medical marijuana dispensary on North Guadalupe Street that opened in December and plans to branch out with a smaller facility on Siler Road.

Santa Fe County sees ‘green rush’ as number of medical marijuana cardholders grows
Tom Wilkie, chief operating officer of CG Corrigan, a new dispensary on Early Street, on Friday sets up the store, which is expected to begin doing business in a matter of days. Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican

The new dispensary on Early Street, called CG Corrigan, will be located just a block north of an already existing dispensary.

“We’re not here to sell more; we’re here to help more people,” said Tom Wilkie, CG Corrigan’s chief operating officer.

Both medical marijuana patients and people who work in the industry see the swell of cardholders and dispensaries as a sign that New Mexico is moving closer to legalization of marijuana for recreational use, similar to the neighboring state of Colorado. Polls consistently show strong support for marijuana legalization in New Mexico.

But whether existing medical marijuana dispensaries could get into recreational sales would depend on how the state would structure such a program. Other states that have legalized recreational marijuana generally have given existing businesses the first crack at recreational sales.

It’s an issue some say will be debated in New Mexico in the near future.

“I think that both New Mexico and the U.S. are on the road to fully legalizing cannabis. There’s 29 states that have passed medical cannabis legislation. That’s already over half of the U.S.,” Wilkie said.

“Is legalizing good? I think it would be good for all citizens to have another legal medicinal choice besides opioids,” he said. “Medicine is something personal. It should be our choice.”

For now, the new crop of medical marijuana dispensaries has sparked concern among some business owners and employees about an oversaturated market, but all say they’re confident the quality of their product and customer service will keep their doors open.

“All of a sudden I do worry a little bit about what that’s going to look like, how it’s going to even out, level out in the next couple of months,” said Jennifer Guadalupi, manager of Fruit of the Earth Organics Natural Health, a CBD shop connected to Fruit of the Earth’s medical marijuana dispensary on Early Street.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is what’s known as a cannabinoid, a chemical component that naturally occurs in both marijuana and hemp. It is nonpsychoactive. In other words, it won’t get you high. CBD products, which most medical marijuana dispensaries offer in their stores, can be purchased without a medical marijuana card. Products range from lotions and topical salves to dog treats.

While Fruit of the Earth Organics has a lot of repeat customers, the opening of another dispensary nearby is cause for concern.

“I know our boss is nervous about the dispensary that’s opening just literally a stone’s throw down the road,” Guadalupi said. “But we’ll see. Who knows what they’re going to offer that’s totally different from what she offers.”

Whether there is enough business to go around remains to be seen, but visits to several dispensaries in Santa Fe indicate the demand is high.

“We get new patients every single day,” said Stevens, manager of Ultra Health’s medical marijuana dispensary.

“As a matter of fact, since we’ve been sitting here, we just registered a new patient, and that’s probably the second one today, and we’ve only been open for about an hour and a half,” he said Tuesday morning. “We usually get anywhere from six to 10, sometimes 15, new patient registers here at this shop a day.”

At each dispensary visited by The New Mexican, there was a steady stream of customers, no matter the time of day.

“In my eyes, it’s green, it grows naturally. Why not use it?” said Adele Baca, a 56-year-old Santa Fe woman who obtained her medical marijuana card a few months ago.

Santa Fe County sees ‘green rush’ as number of medical marijuana cardholders grows
Julayne Farmer, chocolatier and candymaker at Minerva Canna Group, makes leaf-shaped gummy candy Tuesday at the Cerrillos Road store. Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican

Dispensaries are driving part of the growth in cardholders, facilitating appointments at their businesses between would-be patients and doctors with prescribing authority.

At Fruit of the Earth Organics on Wednesday, people waited 30 minutes or more in a makeshift waiting room to meet with Dr. Florian Birkmayer, a psychiatrist, with the intent of obtaining a medical marijuana card or getting a renewal.

Under the state’s Medical Cannabis Program, patients must meet at least one of 21 qualifying conditions to obtain a medical marijuana card, such as cancer, epilepsy and HIV. The vast majority of patients, however, have qualified for a medical marijuana card for PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, and severe chronic pain.

Among them is Jose Salaz, 53, a recovering alcoholic who has served time in the penitentiary. Salaz said he qualified for a medical marijuana card in 2011 because he was diagnosed with PTSD.

“I’ve been smoking cannabis for a long time, but what messed me up was the drinking, the hard liquor, the whiskey,” Salaz said during his one-on-one consultation with Birkmayer.

“Alcohol kills more people than all the wars in the world,” Birkmayer responded.

“There’s a little saying,” Salaz told the doctor. “If you have a group of people getting drunk, there’s going to be a fight, there’s going to be a rumble. But if you have a group of people smoking medical cannabis …”

“The worst that will happen is they’ll all start giggling,” Birkmayer interrupted, laughing.

High demand

Despite the hallucinogenic effects, medical marijuana is sober, serious business.

The city of Santa Fe doesn’t track how much revenue the industry generates at the local level, but the state alone pocketed $2.91 million in relicensure fees from licensed nonprofit producers last year, according to the state Medical Cannabis Program’s License and Compliance Division.

 “The demand is growing,” said Stevens, the 29-year-old manager of Ultra Health’s medical marijuana dispensary on St. Michael’s Drive.

“I believe it to be the education,” he said. “People are being more educated on the benefits of medicinal cannabis, so the more people are educated and know the benefits and what it can actually do for you, the more people are actually changing their way of thinking as opposed to just listening to the reefer madness and all the false propaganda.”

According to the state, the Medical Cannabis Program was created under the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act. The purpose of the law “is to allow the beneficial use of medical cannabis in a regulated system for alleviating symptoms caused by debilitating medical conditions and their medical treatments.”

Stevens said most people who have a medical marijuana card genuinely need one. But he acknowledged some people have figured out how to cheat the system.

“Probably more than what I’d like to believe, but from what I’ve seen in the shop and dealing with patients, a lot less than you would think,” he said.


Santa Fe County sees ‘green rush’ as number of medical marijuana cardholders grows
Bud tender Alejandra Avila, right, lets Adele Baca of Santa Fe sniff a sample of Cataract Kush at Ultra Health on St. Michael’s Drive on Tuesday. Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican

Miracle drug

Stevens said medical marijuana works wonders on people with a variety of ailments. His clientele ranges “anywhere from 18 [years old] all the way up to their 80s.”

Ultra Health, considered the biggest medical marijuana player in the business in New Mexico, offers a wide array of products, from smokable bud and marijuana-infused chocolates to suppositories.

“There’s people that come through here that have never tried it in their life,” Stevens said. “But they’re just at a crossroads. They need to do something, anything, to help them.”

Sam Atakra, who obtained his medical marijuana card about a month and a half ago, said he was looking for a remedy to his insomnia.

“I’ve had insomnia since I was like a little kid,” he said. “I can sleep like two to four hours at the most on any given day.”

Atakra said the indica strain of medical marijuana that he buys now helps him go to sleep and stay there.

“The funny thing is I actually quit smoking marijuana when I was 18 because I moved up to Humboldt County, Calif., which is one of the biggest marijuana producers in the entire world,” he said. “I had smoked pot up until then, but I didn’t like a lot of the people who were in the marijuana industry. I thought they were kind of dangerous, so I just stopped smoking pot.”

Atakra said he will still smoke marijuana occasionally, but he prefers edibles and teas.

“This tastes like gelatin,” he said Thursday night after popping a green, bottle-cap shaped gummy candy into his mouth at his home in southwest Santa Fe. “It’s 10 milligrams per gummy.”

By 9:30 p.m., he said he was feeling “a little drowsy.”

“The tea should kick in in like half an hour,” he said via Facebook. “I did 70 milligrams of THC, which is standard for me on any given night.”

Thornburgh, the 75-year-old who also uses medical marijuana to treat her insomnia, said a little medicine goes a long way. Since she started using medical marijuana, she said she’s been able to sleep throughout the night.

“It’s just like a miracle,” she said. “Can you imagine? Forty years [of insomnia]?”

Thornburgh said she hadn’t considered medical marijuana until it was suggested by a friend.

“You can’t help but hear about it all over the place,” she said. “Everyone is talking about how it’s just changing their lives for the better.”

Luna County medical marijuana enrollment outpaced state in 2017

Deming Headlight / Algernon D’Ammassa
Published on February 8, 2017

DEMING – Luna County patient enrollment in New Mexico’s medical marijuana program increased by nearly 46.5 percent during 2017, according to statistics from the New Mexico Department of Health.

The number of registered patients in the county reached 271 last month, compared to 145 in January 2017.

The county’s enrollment growth outpaced the state’s 37 percent rate of growth last year. During 2017, New Mexico registered 17,599 new cannabis patients, reaching 47,840 by January 31. Every county saw an increase in enrollment.

Ultra Health, the largest medical marijuana provider in the state, predicts enrollment will top 60,000 by the end of 2018.

The leading qualifying conditions for state-approved marijuana prescriptions are Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, severe chronic pain, and cancer.

Luna County’s rapid growth comes in spite of the fact that the county’s single dispensary still cannot open. Ultra Health acquired a single-use permit from the City of Deming in 2016 to open a dispensary on Spruce Street, but 17 months later the storefront remains empty as the provider fights with the Department of Health over opening the location.

The DOH has maintained that Ultra Health cannot operate additional locations and comply with the department’s limit of 450 plants per licensed provider. The plant count regulation is the subject of a lawsuit that concluded last year and is awaiting a ruling in Santa Fe’s First District Court.

Ultra Health spokeswoman Marissa Novell told the Headlight, “We remain committed to opening our dispensary in Deming regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit.”

County supports cannabis producing site in Tularosa

Alamogordo Daily News / Jacqueline Devine
Published on February 8, 2017

ALAMOGORDO – County Commissioners were in full support of Ultra Health’s proposal, a medical cannabis company, to construct a cannabis production and distribution site in Tularosa at their regular County Commission meeting Thursday.

Ultra Health announced the plan in January saying that the medical cannabis cultivation site will be the largest in the state.

The growth site will sit on 200 acres on Old Tularosa Farm Road, which is on county land. It will include indoor and outdoor medical cannabis cultivation, as well as hemp production.

Ultra Health President and CEO Duke Rodriguez said the Tulie cultivation site will employ about 120 local residents.

Ultra Health’s largest and most advanced cultivation center is currently in Bernalillo, New Mexico. The cannabis cultivation campus sits on 11 acres and is home to a total of 90,000 square feet of greenhouse space and production buildings where the medical cannabis is grown and processed.

“The site in Tularosa will be an upgrade beyond that,” Rodriguez said. “This hasn’t been done anywhere around the country, yet alone New Mexico.”

He said the economic impact of the cultivation site will be huge for southern New Mexico that could bring millions of dollars of revenue a year.

“New Mexico has 600 continuous miles with Texas. It’s the second largest state in the country and we’ve never been able to tap the economic power available from Texas,” Rodriguez said. “This location in Tularosa will really provide the fuel for tapping into that economy.”

He said he believes cannabis will be legalized in a few short years. Rodriguez also said New Mexico tapping into the industry would be a smart move and follows the lead of other states like Colorado and California.

More: Ultra Health to open state’s largest cannabis producing site in Tularosa

“We are anticipating for the future, we’re making an investment,” he said. “We are not drug dealers, we are not potheads. We’re experienced medical and business professionals who are committed to doing this right. The best proof is to visit our facilities, stores and locations. I have no embarrassment to say I am fully committed to cannabis. It’s good for the economy, good for our people and it’s not toxic or addictive. It’s not a gateway drug either, it improves lives.”

There are currently about 1,123 enrolled patients from Otero County in the state’s Medical Cannabis Program.

“I am pleased to tell you that the program in the next 30 days will top over 50,000 enrolled patients in the Medical Cannabis Program,” Rodriguez said.

According to Ultra Health, there should be over 60,000 enrolled patients in the program by the end of December.

The cultivation site in Tularosa will allow students from New Mexico State University-Alamogordo to have internship opportunities which are also available at the Bernalillo site.

According to a previous Daily News Report, the cultivation site will also take advantage of natural sunlight and secure water rights to more than 1,000 acre feet of water, the equivalence of 325.9 million gallons of water per year.

The medical cannabis plants will be grown indoors on 20 acres in air-supported, wind-assisted greenhouses. The outdoor medical cannabis fields will stretch across 80 acres of land on the west side of the ultramodern greenhouses. Behind the cannabis fields will be the area where hemp is produced where it will be manufactured into high CBD oils, topicals and concentrates as well as fibers and other products which will be available at the Ultra Health’s Emporio in Albuquerque.

Commissioners asked Rodriguez about security measures which was a concern for them.

Rodriguez said the company has been in communication with the Otero County Sheriff’s Office and are aware of the project.

More: Ultra Health officially opens its door in Alamogordo

He also said the growth site will be equipped with motion detectors and surveillance cameras.

 “Crime is a big issue in New Mexico right now but there has not been one successful robbery,” Rodriguez said. “One tried to enter the facility in Santa Fe, but he was caught right away. Neighbors actually say they feel safer because of all the cameras and lights.”

Tularosa Mayor Ray Cordova who was in attendance for the meeting said he is also in full support of the cannabis cultivation site and has spoken to residents who also support it.

“We took a tour of one of the sites and it was really impressive,” Cordova said. “I talked to residents, and they were all supportive of it.”

Commissioner Janet White said she had no objections to the proposal at this time.

“I have no objection to anything that will improve the livelihood and economy,” White said. “I don’t see any drawbacks right now.”

Commission Chairman Lori Bies said she supports the site in Tularosa because she grew up in northern California and has knowledge of growth sites.

Commissioner Susan Flores who has been very vocal about the site said she thinks it would be a great opportunity for the county, especially Tularosa.

Rodriguez said the cannabis cultivation site should be open by spring 2019.

“If you follow comments on social media, which I usually don’t do, people have been saying that if you don’t know where Tularosa or Otero County is, you’ll know now,” Rodriguez said.

For more information on Ultra Health and its services, visit their website at ultrahealth.com

NM medical marijuana patient enrollment soars

Albuquerque Business First / Justina Grant
Published on January 30, 2017

Medical marijuana patient enrollment in New Mexico soared last year.

As of December 2017, there were nearly 50,000 patients enrolled in NM’s Medical Cannabis Program, according to the New Mexico Department of Health. This is a 61 percent increase from the total number of patients enrolled the previous year.

There are currently 35 licensed nonprofit producers of medical marijuana in New Mexico. Ultra Health was the largest medical marijuana company in the state on our 2017 List of Medical Marijuana Companies. Ultra Health had $10.5 million in revenue in 2017, the company said in a press release. Ultra Health recently announced plans to construct what it bills as the state’s largest cannabis cultivation campus in Tularosa. The site is set to open in 2019 and will be built on 200 acres of land. The cannabis company also plans on expanding its dispensaries to 31 locations statewide by 2020.

With medical marijuana sales rising at exponential rates, the NM Department of Health has faced criticism for actions that could restrict growth of New Mexico’s medical marijuana industry, such as delaying the issuance of cannabis cards and limiting the amount of marijuana plants a licensed provider can cultivate.

The most common qualifying conditions of medical marijuana cardholders in New Mexico are PTSD, severe chronic pain and cancer. PTSD tops the list with over 22,000 NM cardholders facing the condition.

New Mexico became the 12th state to legalize the use of regulated medical marijuana with the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act in 2007, according to the NM Department of Health.

Number of medical marijuana dispensaries to double in Las Cruces

Las Cruces Sun-News / Diana Alba Soula
Published on January 28, 2017
LAS CRUCES – The number of medical marijuana dispensaries in Las Cruces is set to double by the end of March, thanks to the recent or impending openings of three new stores.

A fourth new medical cannabis retail outlet is slated to open in Sunland Park in upcoming months.

The growth in dispensaries is driven by a spike in patient numbers, growing public awareness of the state’s medical cannabis program, and growing acceptance of marijuana as a treatment option, companies said.

More: New Mexico fifth grader mistakenly passes out pot candy in school

State Rep. Bill McCamley to oppose change to federal marijuana policy

New Mexico’s medical marijuana program making changes to keep up with growth

Ultra Health officially opens its door in Alamogordo

The state’s medical marijuana program could be in jeopardy, some say, after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded a 2013 directive by the Obama administration that allowed states to establish their own laws on marijuana use.

The new policy will allow federal prosecutors in states that have legalized marijuana for either recreational or medicinal uses to decide how aggressively to enforce existing federal law. It’s unclear how it would affect the state’s medical marijuana users and vendors.

But it hasn’t stopped a number of new dispensaries from opening in the Las Cruces area.

Up and running

The newest medical cannabis retailer, Sacred Garden, marked a grand opening Friday at its location, 642 S. Alameda Blvd., Ste. A. The parking lot was packed with cars for much of the day, and a steady stream of foot traffic passed through its doors. It’s the company’s first location in Las Cruces.

Sacred Garden had a soft opening Jan. 12, said Zeke Shortes, CEO/president of the organization. So far, he said it’s attracted a lot of interest.

“We’ve had a lot of repeat customers,” he said.

The 3,200-square-foot dispensary actually features two shops — one with non-THC-containing products, which is open to the general public, and another with the THC-containing products, only open to customers who have a state-issued medical cannabis card. THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana.
Sacred Garden doesn’t grow marijuana on site, but transports it from a growing site in Santa Fe.

Shortes said Sacred Garden made the decision to expand into Las Cruces because some medical marijuana patients had been traveling to Albuquerque, Sacred Garden’s nearest location, to buy products. But federal checkpoints near Las Cruces, even though they don’t affect southbound drivers, still make people uneasy about carrying marijuana, even for medical purposes. Plus, he said there’s a demand for the roughly 100 product types created by Sacred Garden. The company focuses on made-from-scratch products, including tinctures and salves.
“We offer a breadth and depth of products they don’t have down here,” he said.

Friday, Jose Aguilar of El Paso waited for his girlfriend, a Sunland Park resident who’s a medical cannabis patient, in the parking lot of Sacred Garden. He said Las Cruces was the closest place she could find to get a supply of medical marijuana. The fact there are new dispensaries shows medical marijuana is becoming more widely accepted, he said.

“I’m very happy people are getting what they need and off the opiates,” he said, referring to prescription painkillers that can be addictive.

Sacred Garden becomes the fourth medical marijuana dispensary in Las Cruces. Others are Mother Earth Herbs, 755 South Telshor Blvd., F201; MJ Express-O, 755 S. Telshor Blvd., Ste. 102A; and Pecos Valley Production, 2460 Locust St., Ste. I. Another company doesn’t have a dispensary but does deliver to clients in Las Cruces.

Sacred Garden a medical marijuana dispensary, sellsBuy Photo
Sacred Garden a medical marijuana dispensary, sells a wide range of medical cannabis products to people with medical cannabis cards. Friday January 26, 2018. (Photo: Josh Bachman/Sun-News)
Vivian Moore, with Mother Earth Herbs, said she’s not sure why the new dispensaries have chosen Las Cruces over more under-served areas of New Mexico, “but they have and it is certainly a benefit to all patients.”

“The more different producers there are in an area, the more selection,” she said. “Mother Earth Herbs is grateful to every patient that has walked through our doors, and we look forward to continuing to serve patietn needs for years to come.”

A fifth dispensary, Budding Hope, is slated to open on Conway Avenue in Las Cruces, said Mario Gonzales, president of the organization. He said the shop is awaiting an inspection from the state department of health, which regulates dispensaries, and could open any day.

Gonzales said the Las Cruces area has been underserved for medical cannabis since the state launched its medical marijuana program. Part of that may be due to the proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border and heightened drug enforcement, he said. Also, patient numbers are growing, as more people learn the process for obtaining a medical marijuana card and more doctors are willing to sign off on the paperwork need to get a card.

But with the new dispensaries in Las Cruces, the situation is changing, Gonzales said.

“It seems like the access is really opening up for the patients of Las Cruces,” he said.

Budding Hope in Las Cruces will be a dispensary only, at least in the beginning, Gonzales said. But it might eventually establish a growing site.

A sixth medical marijuana dispensary, Ultra Health, is slated to open in Pan Am Plaza, 1719 E. University Ave., Ste. 13B, in late March. Ultra Health plans to open a different dispensary in Sunland Park in late February or early March.

Marissa Novel, communications manager for Ultra Health, said the company’s goal is to eventually have a retail store in every county.

Sacred Garden, a medical marijuana dispensary, sells products to people with medical cannabis cards, as well as CBD products to the general public. The store became Las Cruces’ fourth dispensary when it opened this month and celebrated a grand opening Friday, Jan. 26, 2018.Buy Photo
Sacred Garden, a medical marijuana dispensary, sells products to people with medical cannabis cards, as well as CBD products to the general public. The store became Las Cruces’ fourth dispensary when it opened this month and celebrated a grand opening Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. (Photo: Josh Bachman/Sun-News)
“From our perspective, we believe every market is under-served if we aren’t there, just because we do provide patients those products that aren’t available anywhere else,” he said.

The Las Cruces dispensary will be Ultra Health’s 10th in the state.

“We do think this will be one of our most impressive locations, given the renovations we’re going to do there,” she said.

The number of medical marijuana patients in New Mexico has topped 46,600, a more than 60 percent increase over the past year.

Novel said patients’ knowledge about medical marijuana as a treatment option has been growing over the years, and there’s been more publicity about it, which factors into the growth.

“It’s really becoming more mainstream, I would say,” she said.

There are 21 medical conditions that can lead to a person obtaining a medical marijuana card.

Glenn Moore of Las Cruces checked out the new Sacred Garden dispensary Friday on behalf of his wife, who is battling cancer. They’ve also bought medical cannabis from Mother Earth Herbs and MJ Express-O. The products help relieve the pain she experiences from the disease, he said.