Ultra Health says Deming dispensary will open

By Algernon D'Ammassa / Deming Headlight
Published on August 31, 2017

A proposed medical marijuana dispensary in downtown Deming remains empty almost one year after the City Council approved a special use permit for New Mexico Top Organics-Ultra Health to open here. The storefront is located at 117 E. Spruce.

With the opening of a new location in Alamogordo on Tuesday, however, the Bernalillo-based provider tells the Headlight they are confident Deming will soon follow.

“In my opinion,” said Ultra Health spokeswoman Marissa Novel, “allowing us to open Alamogordo is a reflection of [the Department of Health’s] willingness to recognize a Licensed Non-Profit Producer's right to produce, possess, dispense, and distribute cannabis…without arbitrary limitations.”

The New Mexico Department of Health limits licensed providers to a total of 450 plants, and has blocked Ultra from opening more locations, arguing that it cannot it stock more dispensaries and legally comply with the plant count. Meanwhile, by July of 2017, the number of authorized patients in the Medical Cannabis program has increased by 42 percent to more than 45,000 individuals.

An amendment that would have allowed Ultra Health to open the Deming location was denied late last year. For 207 Luna County patients enrolled in New Mexico’s medical cannabis program, the nearest dispensaries are in Las Cruces, a trip that requires passing through a border patrol checkpoint where federal laws forbidding possession of marijuana for any purpose are in force.

Members of the Deming City Council voted to approveBuy Photo
Members of the Deming City Council voted to approve a special-use permit for Ultra Health's medical marijuana dispensary downtown in September 2016. (Photo: Bill Armendariz - Headlight Photo)
In a civil lawsuit heard in Santa Fe earlier this month, Ultra Health argued the plant count limit is arbitrary and prevents licensed providers from serving the growing number of New Mexico cannabis patients. Ultra Health CEO Duke Rodriguez, reached by phone on Monday, said he was confident of a favorable ruling. “This case is going to become probably the single-biggest decision since the beginning of the program,” he said.

The Department of Health would not comment on the pending litigation, but in a written statement for the Headlight DOH spokesman David Morgan said, “Our job is to assure that there is enough medicine available for patients. Ultra Health continues to request approval for opening still more locations while admitting publicly that it can’t sustain them.” Rodriguez argues that Ultra would be able to stock locations through wholesale purchases.

For patients, blocked access

While Ultra Health seeks to expand its share of a lucrative and growing market in more parts of the state, for Luna County patients, as in other rural parts of the state, the issue is access to legally prescribed medicine.

“Having a local, licensed dispensary in Deming would be the difference between having a card but no care,” said Deming resident Jennie Kirchen, a cancer patient struggling to pay for treatment while also seeking employment. She travels to Las Cruces for her medication and says that while the border patrol hasn’t stopped her yet, she is aware during every trip that “they are federal agents and have the legal right to inspect and confiscate my medication if they believe I am transporting an illegal federal substance.”

On Kirchen’s budget, the medication is hard to afford. In Las Cruces, she pays between $20 and $40 for one gram of concentrated product. She said she may apply for a permit to grow her own, although that comes with its own restrictions and challenges.
Novel attributes high prices to the plant count, which she said allows less than 1/3 of a plant for each patient enrolled in the program. “Because the plant count is so restrictive, many providers cannot ramp up to economies of scale which would reduce costs for patients,” said Novel. Rodriguez added that DOH regulations prevent volume discounts that would save patients money.

William Wiggins of Deming enrolled in the state medical cannabis program for treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and says the difficulty and expense of obtaining his medicine has exacerbated his anxiety. “It’s scary at times going through the checkpoint,” he said, although he has not had his medicine confiscated either. Wiggins estimates his costs for a round trip to Las Cruces at about $25 on top of his medication. He adds, “Because of the lack of product in southern New Mexico, the prices get jacked.” Some dispensaries will deliver, but they add a service charge. He said a Deming dispensary would be “a game-changer” for himself and other patients in town.

When the city approved Ultra’s special-use permit last year, Rodriguez said the company anticipated $600,000 to $1 million in revenue in the first year, and on Monday he told the Headlight the number of patients from Luna County would likely increase if medical cannabis could be purchased in Deming.

Novel said that Ultra Health has resubmitted an amendment that would permit the Deming location to open. “We believe once we hear word from NMDOH about an inspection date we can have the location operational within 30 days of the inspection date…Driving all the way to Grant County for an alternative medicinal option is unfair, and we plan to establish increased access and patient choice across the entire state of New Mexico.”

Ultra Health officially opens its door in Alamogordo

By Jacqueline Devine / Alamogordo Daily News
Published on August 28, 2017

Ultra Health, New Mexico’s number one medical cannabis company, will officially be opening its doors today and will be in service seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

This will be Ultra Health’s eighth location in New Mexico. The opening comes after a long-awaited inspection from the New Mexico Department of Health.

According to a press release from Ultra Health, it initially submitted its amendment to open a dispensary in Alamogordo in May 2016. There are currently more than 45,000 enrollees in the state’s Medical Cannabis Program, 980 are from Otero County.

The Medical Cannabis Program was made possible by the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act which was passed by the New Mexico Legislature in 2007.

The Senate bill states that licensed producers are exclusively granted the authority to produce, possess, distribute and dispense cannabis.

“There is a current limitation on how many plants a producer can grow in New Mexico, the cap is at 450 plants. It is the most restrictive model and regulation that any state department has made for producers producing medical cannabis,” said Ultra Health Communications Manager Marissa Novel. "The New Mexico Department of Health took it upon themselves to assume that we were unable to stock our dispensary in Alamogordo because of the plant count that they put in regulation. We believe they are now recognizing those rights, that’s why they finally let us open the store. We bought 200 pounds of cannabis to stock this dispensary.”

Novel said Ultra Health is excited to show the community what they have to offer despite some negative reactions.
“We’re excited to finally engage with the community on a personal level,” said Novel. “I think the stigma really comes from a lot of the propaganda that has been in our country for so long. It basically wanted to scare people into thinking that cannabis was a dangerous drug and that it shouldn’t be used. I think it’s taken a while for the country to overcome that propaganda that was issued by the government and the media.”

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), currently there are two main cannabinoids from the marijuana plant that are of medical interest, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).

THC can increase appetite and reduce nausea. THC may also decrease pain, inflammation (swelling and redness) and muscle control problems, according to NIH.

Unlike THC, CBD is a cannabinoid that doesn’t involve giving patients a high. It may be useful in reducing pain and inflammation, controlling epileptic seizures and possibly even treating mental illness and addictions, according to NIH.

“Chronic pain is the second largest qualifying condition that people in New Mexico need to have to qualify for medical cannabis,” said Novel. “Granted, I will say there is still a lot of research coming out on cannabis and the side effects but I think the message is for people that have exhausted all other methods to medicate safely. A lot of times it’s cheaper than other medications would be.”
“We think that’s important because this is all a part of our effort to give medical cannabis patients in rural communities access to a full time dispensary so they don’t have to drive hours on end to seek an alternative method for medication," said Ultra Health Communications Manager Marissa Novel
According to NIH’s website, many researchers, including those funded by the NIH are continuing to explore the possible uses of THC, CBD and other cannabinoids for medical treatment.

However, the cannabinoids has led to two Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medications that contain cannabinoid chemicals in pill form. Continued research may lead to more medications.

Novel said the dispensary in town will be extremely beneficial to the community because there is almost 1,000 certified patients and counting in the county.

“I think it is especially important to the community being that there was no other dispensary in Otero County. There are 980 patients, almost 1,000, living in Otero County and this is the first dispensary location that they’ve had,” she said. “We think that’s important because this is all a part of our effort to give medical cannabis patients in rural communities access to a full time dispensary so they don’t have to drive hours on end to seek an alternative method for medication.”

Novel said Ultra Health offers a variety of medical cannabis products that include concentrated oils to baked goods containing the cannabis.

“We have the flower which is the regular cannabis in plant form. There are edibles such as baked goods, concentrates and concentrated oils from the flower that people can use,” said Novel. “We currently partnered with an Israeli pharmaceutical company that manufactures medical cannabis into oral tablets and sublingual tablets that dissolve under the tongue. Plus we also offer patches that can be worn discreetly and much more.”

Anyone interested in applying for the Medical Cannabis Program can download an application on the New Mexico Department of Health’s website.

“Before people send in their application to the Department of Health, they must need a nurse practitioner or a doctor to certify them for medical cannabis,” said Novel. “They will give them an exam and give them a recommendation. The application would need to be mailed to the New Mexico Department of Health. The examinations may cost up to $100 but the card is free from the Department of Health.”

On Friday, Ultra Health is inviting the community to join them for their grand opening ceremony.

Novel said Ultra Health will be giving away prizes and more. Peace Medical will also be onsite and will be offering free consultations on how to obtain a medical cannabis card. Medical providers will also be in attendance to complete certifications.

For more information on obtaining a medical cannabis ID card visit the NMDOH’s website.

Meet our Best Places to Work: Good vibes at this medical cannabis company mean relaxed employees

By Ron Davis / Albuquerque Business First
Published on July 25, 2017

We're introducing our 34 Best Places to Work finalists daily leading up to our awards event Aug. 17 at Main Event Entertainment, where our Best Places rankings will be revealed.

Our survey partner, Quantum Workplace, administered anonymous workplace satisfaction surveys of employees at companies that were nominated by the public. The companies that received the highest scores are our Best Places finalists.

Meet Ultra Heath, a medical cannabis company and a finalist in the medium company category, or between 25-49 employees.

Top local exec: Leigh Jenke, President

Employees: 46


255 Camino Don Tomas., Bernalillo, NM 87004

Phone: 505-280-6693

Website: ultrahealth.com

What is the most popular perk at your office?

I think the biggest perk is the relaxed environment. We can wear comfortable clothing and T-shirts, play music, educate themselves and we celebrate employee suggestions and ideas. We allow people to express themselves and be artistic. We allow our employees to have a large degree of autonomy and when people are trusted and respected they live up to their full potential. As the saying goes, a happy employee is a wonderful employee and Ultra Health loves our employees.
What's the average tenure of your employees?

We are fairly new in the industry but the majority of our people come to stay. We have even had employees that have taken another job and come back because they missed our working environment.

Are you hiring? If so, for what positions?

We are expanding and plan to open stores in more rural areas of New Mexico.

NM cannabis industry leaders talk ripple effects on real estate

By Shelby Parea / Albuquerque Business First
Published on July 20, 2017

When it comes to cannabis, usually the discussion concerns revenue and taxes the crop can bring to state and local coffers. But leaders from Ultra Health and PurLife who spoke at a NAIOP breakfast Thursday discussed how New Mexico's multimillion-dollar industry could also expand and affect real estate.

In 2016, the top 25 medical marijuana companies generated over $46 million in gross receipts and paid over $12.3 million in compensation to their employees.

Ultra Health and PurLife are medical marijuana companies both based in New Mexico.

Darren White is on the board of directors at PurLife, No. 20 on Albuquerque Business First's Medical Marijuana Companies List. White said he knows the trouble of finding real estate for a cannabis company first hand. PurLife is opening a second location on Eubank and Montgomery this weekend but it took five months of negotiations with property owner Gene Hinkle to make it a reality. White is a former Bernalillo County Sheriff.

But White says times are starting to change and brokers are beginning to come to him and market properties toward his business. Duke Rodriguez, CEO and owner of Ultra Health is hoping even more change is on the horizon.

Rodriguez drew comparisons to Denver and illustrated New Mexico's potential to be a leader in the next wave of cannabis production if it were legalized for social use in the state.

New Mexico became the 12th state to allow medical cannabis, according to the Department of Health. And eight states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana, according to Business Insider.

Ultra Health – which is No. 1 on our Medical Marijuana Companies List – leases 15 properties and owns two Rodriguez said and he plans to neg 15 properties more within the year.

"We haven't had trouble finding locations," he said. "The only difficulty is getting the state to move along."

He said commercial cannabis cultivations occupied 4.2 million square feet of real estate in Denver after it was legalized. It was lawyers, bankers and real estate professionals that spearheaded the initiative for legalization, according to Rodriguez.

And he also noted the cannabis businesses were charged two to three times more per square foot than other businesses. Mother Earth Herbs Site Manager Derek Young previously told Albuquerque Business First dispensaries in Albuquerque are charged more per square footage than other renters because property owners know there's less availability for these companies. Las Cruces-based Mother Earth Herbs is ranked No. 19 on our Medical Marijuana Companies List.

Rodriguez said cannabis legalization in New Mexico would push the industry to surpass film, green chile and breweries, claiming it could become a $412.5 million market in its first year. He also said it could create 11,400 new jobs and cited a New Mexico Market Analysis by O'Donnell Economics and Strategy.

It's New Mexico's proximity to Texas that Rodriguez sees is the ticket to a booming industry. He says cannabis users in Texas are a large potential customer base.


The Israeli company Panaxia already launched a production facility in Bernalillo, now it will offer smokeless proprietary cannabinoids in New Mexico.

By Sharon Udasin / The Jerusalem Post
Published on July 18, 2017

An Israeli company responsible for the first-ever pharmaceutical cannabis production lab in the United States has now begun selling its smokeless, precisely dosed products in New Mexico.

Together with the Albuquerque- based distributor Ultra Health, the Lod-based Panaxia Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. first launched its production facility in Bernalillo, New Mexico, in March. At the lab, Panaxia has been providing the smokeless proprietary cannabinoid dosage and treatment protocols, which are not readily available in the US, in order to produce a variety of medications for different illnesses.

“We are excited to be the bearers of good news and to offer medical cannabis- based drugs to patients in the state of New Mexico,” said Panaxia CEO Dadi Segal. “In a state inhabited by only 2 million people, about 60,000 of them – about twice as many as in Israel – have a license from the Department of Health to use medical cannabis. We are planning to open more factories in the US, and we are currently in advanced negotiations on the matter.”

Because the US government includes cannabis in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, federal law prohibits producing pharmaceuticals out of the plant on a nationwide scale, Segal told The Jerusalem Post in a March interview. To overcome this hurdle, Panaxia is aiming to establish small production facilities on a state-by-state basis, he explained.

Among the products offered by the partners are sublingual (under the tongue) and oral tablets, rectal and vaginal suppositories, cannabis oil, pastilles, transdermal (through the skin) pain relief patches and topical creams. The medicines are intended for patients with conditions such as PTSD, chronic pain, cancer, neuropathy, epilepsy, anorexia and HIV/AIDS, according to the companies.

The products, Segal explained, are manufactured according to strict pharmacological and therapeutic protocols, and contain a known amount of active ingredients from cannabis extract.

As Panaxia continues to grow in the US, Segal also expressed optimism that the Lod-based company would also soon be able to begin to market products at home.

“We hope that as a result of the completion of the Health Ministry’s regulatory process, we will also be able to sell smokeless, medical cannabis-based products in Israel,” he said.

Navajo Committee Passes Pot Proposal

By John Christian Hopkins / Lake Powell Life
Published on July 2, 2017

Navajo Nation Council Delegate Lee Jack, Sr. has sponsored legislation aimed at making medical marijuana legal on the reservation.

There is a humanitarian need for it, according to one backer of the bill.

Former Vice Presidential candidate Dineh Benally told the council’s Health, Education and Human Services Committee how medical marijuana could have eased his mother’s final months.

Benally said his mom, who had pancreatic cancer, really suffered over the final four months of her life.

“She didn’t have the medication to have a better part of life,” Benally said.

That’s why he has been pushing to legal medical marijuana, he told the committee.

Jack’s legislation would allow businesses to cultivate or produce cannabis – or hemp – for economic, industrial or scientific purposes.

But, to make marijuana legal the tribe would have to amend Title 17, section 391, of the Navajo Nation Code.

Currently the tribe has a “zero tolerance” policy toward marijuana and anyone caught in possession could face up to one year in jail or a $5,000 fine.

Jack said his bill could spur economic development on the reservation.

Benally is hoping the tribe will enter into business with Ultra Health, a New Mexico company that projects having 60,000 patients by the end of the year.

Ultra Health already boasts nearly 43,000 patients, many suffering from chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, cancer, epilepsy, neuropathy, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other disorders.

“What we are doing is educating people that this is not just a joint you can smoke, it’s real medicine,” Ultra Health Vice President Leonard Salgado said.

Navajo Legislative Counsel Rhonda Tuni noted that even if the council approved the measure, it would still take some time before a business could offer medical marijuana.

There would still need to be regulations in place, she said.

Jack’s bill passed the Health, Education and Human Services Committee by a 3-2 margin. It will move on to the Resource and Development Committee.

Cool Canna-Tech From Tel Aviv: Pharma Inhalers & Vibrating Vapes

By Jole Dolce / Leafly
Published on June 14, 2017

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL — This city is a nutty place, full of contradictions, a liberal bubble inside a conservative country. It has a thriving LGBT population, most restaurants offer a vegan menu, and there are more cannabis clouds on its clogged streets than in San Francisco or Denver.
Although Israel has no legal recreational market – it’s still against the law to sell bongs or vaporizers – many Tel Avivians are smoking spliffs in the bars, in the streets, on the beach, and outside the CannaTech conference I attended earlier this year. Mind you, in Israel the only people legally allowed to use cannabis are the 28,000 patients enrolled in the state medical cannabis program. The laws here, like most places in the world, haven’t yet caught up with reality.

The CannaTech gathering focused on the intersection of technology, pharma, and cannabis—and offered a peek at the future of cannabis delivery systems.
Here are a few tech innovations that I saw at the conference (and outside of it as well) that could be appearing in North American dispensaries in the not-so-distant future.

Yes, a Vibrating Vaporizer

Disposable oil-cartridge vape pens may be discreet and easy to use, but they break and clog too frequently. The oils, which are typically thinned with propylene glycol, scratch the throat, and the Chinese-made metal coils that heat them can break down at high temperatures.

The Kanabo VapePod offers an alternative for patients who want a metered, temperature-controlled dose. Kanabo has replaced the metal coil with a ceramic oven inside a cartridge. Especially useful to inexperienced patients is the way the device vibrates when you’re pulling and stops once you’ve reached the correct dose. You can also set the exact temperature through an app on your phone, which allows you to target specific cannabinoids, each of which has a different burning point.

Kanabo CEO and founder Avihu Tamir says he got the idea when he was prescribed cannabis for migraines but found the notion of smoking medicine “ridiculous.” A lot of smoke-averse patients would agree. Because the VapePod is initially aimed at the medical market, Tamir designed the product to be well-functioning and intentionally unsexy–although the product’s latest incarnation, pictured up top, has obviously undergone a design upgrade. I can see this translating to the recreational market fairly easily. Put a titanium finish on that vape, and you’ve got a potential winner in the expanding rec markets.

Is This The Future of the Dab?

It could be if medical cannabis gets restructured along a strict pharma model.

The developers at Panaxia have repackaged whole plant extracts into pills, inhalers, transdermal patches and yes, suppositories. Panaxia’s manufacturing facility is in New Mexico, but most of it R&D happens in Israel and is managed by scientists affiliated with the Weizmann Institute of Science, located south of Tel Aviv.

Companies like these are betting that seniors and other patients with severe illnesses won’t want to fiddle or futz with tinctures, oils or green capsules—and may fear a medicine that’s been criminalized for more than 80 years. I think companies like Panaxia stand a great chance of succeeding. After all, the pharma industrial complex has medicalized death, birth, and school. Why should cannabis be any different?
With its cutting-edge inhaler, Panaxia dresses up plant-derived THC and CBD in drab but familiar clothes. The inhaler has a 2.5 mg hit of THC, which Eran Goldberg, Panaxia’s CTO, claims hits as fast as a dab and offers immediate pain relief. In March, Panaxia announced that it had entered into a joint venture with Ultra Health, a New Mexico medical marijuana producer, to manufacture the inhalers, as well as tablets and suppositories, at a planned $1 million facility in Bernalillo, a few miles north of Albuquerque. The products may eventually be available in both New Mexico and in Nevada, as Ultra Health is working with the Paiute Tribe on their grow and retail facilities in that state.

Panaxia’s sublingual pastilles have a special heat-activated compound that helps cannabinoids absorb into the mouth tissues more quickly. The bitter taste of THC molecules in the lozenges are “wrapped” in a food grade polymer and camouflaged by menthol. Rectal suppositories are used for colitis or IBS; vaginal for menstrual cramps.

All of these developments are impressive, but there are two things missing: One are formulations with a ratio of THC to CBD. The mixing of these two compounds has been shown to yield better results than single-compound formulas. The second missing element: There no reports from patients who have used them yet, so we won’t know how effective they are for a while.

One thing is clear: the facility that produces these pills is one of the most secure pharma labs in the world. Did I say “facility?” Sorry, “fortress” is more accurate. The Israeli police insisted the company build a $1.5 million steel wall around its lab and then install a 24-hour armed guard to watch over the “raw product” stored within. No other lab—even those that produce opioids—is required to have this kind of security. Does it make sense? Of course not, but that’s the high cost of being a cannabis pioneer.

See the top-grossing medical marijuana companies in New Mexico (slideshow)

By Juliana Vandals / Albuquerque Business First
Published on July 7, 2017

The medical marijuana industry is getting pretty big in New Mexico. How big? In 2016, the top 25 medical marijuana companies made over $46 million in gross receipts and paid over $12.3 million in compensation to their employees.

One of the largest medical marijuana companies is R. Greenleaf Organics, which has 70 employees and nearly 10,000 patients who purchased in Q1 2017.

In total, 108,729 patients purchased from the top 25 medical marijuana companies on The List in Q1 2017. These companies have a total of 9,054 plants in production as of the same time period. The average price per gram among the top companies is $11.08, with the most expensive price per gram coming from Sacred Garden at nearly $30.

Marijuana has a history in the country of being a controversial substance. The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 imposed a tax on the sale of cannabis, hemp or marijuana.

In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act classified marijuana as a drug with “no accepted medical use.” In 1976, activist Robert Randall petitioned for his use of medical cannabis being a “medical necessity.”

California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. New Mexico became the 12th state to allow medical cannabis with the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act in 2007.

The Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act allows for the “beneficial use of medical cannabis in a regulated system for alleviating symptoms caused by debilitating medical conditions and their medical treatments.”

State Fair bars marijuana imagery at booth; producer files lawsuit

By Caleb James / KOB 4

Published on June 2, 2017

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- It's a sticky situation pitting cannabis against the Constitution. A metro medical marijuana producer wanted to bring cannabis cultivation equipment to 2017's New Mexico State Fair, but organizers told them they couldn't.

Ultra Health is a massive medical marijuana producer and provider. The company's vice president, Leonard Salgado, said purchasing booth space at Expo New Mexico in September would be pointless if they're not allowed to educate folks about medical marijuana production.

There's now a federal lawsuit. Ultra Health says restrictions on displaying equipment are illegal.

State Fair bars marijuana imagery at booth; producer files lawsuit
Salgado's Sandoval County grow operation is the largest in New Mexico's largest. Tens of thousands of square feet rustle with millions in medical grade marijuana. It's a calling for Salgado, who strongly believes in the plant's medicinal power.

"We feel we have an obligation we have a duty to educate the public about the medicinal benefits of the plant and the program -- the medical cannabis program," he said.

With the number of people who go to the State Fair, a booth there seems like a no-brainer. Thus, Ultra Health applied for a vendor's permit.

Expo administration was open to an Ultra Health booth, but with a tightly-packed list of restrictions. Salgado said they would be prohibited from displaying anything that could be used to "plant, propagate, cultivate, grow, harvest, manufacture, compound, convert" and about 14 more verbs related to marijuana.

"You could not even display an image, a photograph of a cannabis plant," Salgado said.

Expo New Mexico confirmed the same list of restrictions Salgado mentioned. Fair officials said Salgado did not attempt to negotiate or ask for a compromise before retracting his application for a booth.

Cannabis is cultivated and regulated in New Mexico, and it is legal in the state for medical use. Still, there is something slightly taboo and forbidden about marijuana, something uncomfortable about being in the presence of all this pot.

Salgado said it is flat-out unconstitutional to suppress marijuana imagery.

"We made the decision to file the federal complaint," he said.

Salgado passed on this year's fair. Now he's suing Expo New Mexico, claiming restrictions rolled into the rules violate the First and 14th Amendments.

"You could not even display an image, a photograph of a cannabis plant," he said.

There is no chance a fairgoer would get high off a picture, he said. Recreational use isn't even on the company's agenda. The only THC talk he'll have focuses on what's legal in New Mexico.

"We're asking the court to defend us, to defend our constitutional right," Salgado said.

Expo points to New Mexico law allowing for the State Fair commission to place restrictions on vendors.

Cannabis grower sues Expo New Mexico officials

By Olivier Uyttebrouck / Albuquerque Journal

Published on June 1, 2017

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A medical cannabis grower filed a federal lawsuit this week alleging that Expo New Mexico officials violated the firm’s free-speech rights by barring a wide variety of items from a booth at the 2017 New Mexico State Fair.
Ultra Health Inc., which owns a growing facility in Bernalillo, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court of New Mexico alleging that restrictions placed on the firm would prevent it from displaying photos or drawings of marijuana plants, or equipment used to cultivate or process the plants.

Ultra Health this year applied for an informational booth at the 2017 New Mexico State Fair that would include “education materials on the medicinal and economic benefits of cannabis,” the lawsuit said.

Expo New Mexico officials in May sent Ultra Health an email containing a list of prohibited items, including anything used to grow or manufacture cannabis, or images of plants, the lawsuit said.

“Ultra Health would be precluded from bringing a microscope, a test tube, a petri dish, or a mass spectrometer to its informational booth” or even a cardboard box, which could be used to store cannabis, the suit said.

The restrictions amount to a violation of free-speech protections guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the lawsuit alleges. It asked a judge to order a permanent injunction on the restrictions, and award an unspecified amount of money in damages.

The lawsuit identifies the defendants as Larry Kennedy, chairman of the New Mexico State Fair Commission; Dan Mourning, general manager of Expo New Mexico; and Raina Bingham, director of concessions for Expo New Mexico.

Expo New Mexico responded in a written statement Thursday that Ultra Health’s application included prohibited items, including a “cannabis clone.”

Expo officials asked Ultra Health to resubmit its application, removing prohibited items, including those “used to plant, propagate, cultivate, grow, harvest, manufacture or produce” cannabis, the statement said.

Ultra Health declined to reapply to be a vendor at the fair this year, the statement said.

Duke Rodriguez, owner of Ultra Health, said Thursday that the firm did not intend to bring a live plant to the 2017 fair. He denied that the firm sought permission in its application to bring a cannabis clone.

The conflict between Ultra Health and New Mexico Expo has a history.

Ultra Health last year displayed a cannabis plant named “Dorothy” at a booth the firm rented at the 2016 fair, but the plant was ejected on the first day, Sept. 8, 2016, after fair officials and New Mexico State Police were notified. No arrests were made.