City won’t let pot grower advertise on buses

By Olivier Uyttebrouck / The Albuquerque Journal
Published on September 28, 2017
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A New Mexico medical cannabis grower who wants to advertise on Albuquerque buses was turned down by city officials, who say the ads would violate federal laws and put the city at risk of losing transit funding.

Duke Rodriguez, owner of Ultra Health LLC, had planned to buy an ad on the outside of ABQ Ride buses advertising the firm’s three Albuquerque dispensaries. Ultra Health had planned to spend up to $25,000 a year on the ads, he said.

Bruce Rizzieri, director of the city’s transit department, cited federal drug laws in a Sept. 13 letter to Rodriguez rejecting Ultra Health’s request.

Rizzieri said that “even if the medical cannabis program is allowed under state law, advertising of Schedule 1 substances is still prohibited by federal law.”

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration lists marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.

Albuquerque and other agencies that receive Federal Transit Administration grants are prohibited from advertising a substance that remains illegal under federal law, Rizzieri wrote.

Rizzieri said Ultra Health’s proposed ad would violate the city’s policy, which prohibits advertising that “relates to an illegal or unlawful activity.”

City officials confirmed Rizzieri wrote the letter but did not offer additional comment Wednesday.

Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis sent a letter this week to the Federal Transit Administration expressing support for Ultra Health’s request and asking federal officials to approve the ads.

“I believe that distributing medical cannabis pursuant to a state law does not constitute illegally distributing a controlled substance,” Davis wrote in a letter dated Tuesday.

Rodriguez said he doubts the federal agency will approve his request to advertise on city buses, in which case Ultra Health would consider filing a federal lawsuit alleging the city violated the firm’s constitutional rights.

“If the answer remains unclear, then we have to go into the realm of whether this is a freedom of speech issue that needs to be adjudicated by the court,” Rodriguez said.

Citing concerns about federal law, Albuquerque rejects medical marijuana bus ads

By Steve Terrell / The Santa Fe New Mexican
Published on September 27, 2017

Ultra Health, a medical marijuana provider licensed by the state of New Mexico, wanted to advertise on the outside of city buses in Albuquerque. The proposed wraparound ads featured large color photos of people of various ethnic groups and ages and a slogan, “Your Health. Our Commitment.”

But even though the sale and use of marijuana for medical purposes has been legal under state law for a decade, and the city of Albuquerque’s bus advertising policy does not specifically prohibit medical cannabis ads, the city’s Transit Department rejected the ads, citing concerns about federal law and restrictions on federal grant funding.

“The City Legal department has concluded that any advertisement displayed by the Transit Department for any sale or distribution related to medical cannabis, including THC or CDB, is prohibited by federal law, despite the state of New Mexico’s medical cannabis laws and regulations which provide limited license for distribution and patient use,” said Bruce Rizzieri, director of Albuquerque’s Transit Division, in a Sept. 13 letter to Ultra Health’s president and CEO Duke Rodriguez, who was state Human Services Department secretary under Gov. Gary Johnson.

Rizzieri added that recipients of federal transportation grants are prohibited from advertising marijuana.

The issue highlights the conflict between federal law and less restrictive state statutes and policies concerning the production and sale of cannabis, which a growing number of states have legalized even for recreational use.

A spokeswoman for Ultra Health said the design of the bus ads purposely avoided advertising the company’s products as recreational drugs.

“It’s a health care-centric design,” said Marissa Novel in an interview Wednesday. “If we took off our logo and used the name of another health care provider, like Lovelace, I’m sure the city wouldn’t have rejected it.”

Rizzieri said the city would be willing to write to the Federal Transit Administration requesting its position on medical marijuana advertising. One Albuquerque city councilor who disagrees with the city’s rejection of the ad proposal took it upon himself to do just that.

Councilor Pat Davis — who is seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for a congressional seat — sent a letter this week to the agency’s chief counsel, Dana Nifosi, as well as to Acting U.S. Attorney James Tierney asking for guidance. “I do not see that advertising medical cannabis (that is offered for sale pursuant to a state law) is prohibited,” Davis wrote.

Albuquerque’s bus advertising policy prohibits ads related to “an illegal or unlawful activity” or alcohol or tobacco products. But none of the policy’s restrictions deal with medical cannabis.

Referring to a federal law that Rizzieri had cited, Davis wrote, “Please note that this section of law prohibits advertising that seeks to illegally distribute a controlled substance. I believe that distributing medical cannabis pursuant to a state law does not constitute illegally distributing a controlled substance.”

Davis also argued that an amendment added by Congress to the federal government’s appropriations bills specifically forbids the U.S. Justice Department from taking actions against people and companies participating in medical cannabis programs licensed by the states. However, that protection is set to expire in December.

Ultra Health has eight dispensaries in New Mexico, including one in Santa Fe. Novel said the company has not tried to advertise with Santa Fe’s bus system but might consider it in the future.

It’s not clear what would happen if they did try it.

Don Templeton, president of Templeton Marketing Services in Albuquerque, which handles advertising on Santa Fe Trails buses, said Wednesday the city of Santa Fe does not have a specific policy related to medical marijuana advertising. “I’ve never been asked by any [dispensary],” he said. “If I did, I’d want to bounce it off the city first. Anything that might be controversial I’d always ask the city.”

Ads for marijuana have appeared on buses in California — where both medical and recreational marijuana are legal — without any federal repercussions.

But even though medical marijuana is legal in more than half of the states, other cities have been reluctant to allow advertising for it on their buses. The Boston Globe in March reported that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority “has an explicit policy prohibiting ads that promote ‘the sale, use, or cultivation of marijuana or marijuana-related products.’ ”

Medical pot producer claims it was barred from advertising on buses

KRQE News 13
Published on September 27, 2017

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The city has barred a medical marijuana company from advertising on buses.

Ultra Health says its proposed bus wraps do not violate any laws and do not show any images of cannabis, but the company says ABQ Ride wouldn’t go for it and expressed concerns about losing federal funding since pot is still illegal on the federal level.

Ultra Health is of 35 medical cannabis providers in New Mexico.

Earlier this year, Ultra Health filed a lawsuit against Expo New Mexico, for refusing to allow a pot plant to be displayed at the State Fair.

NM cannabis firm teams with Israeli pharmaceutical manufacturer

By Olivier Uyttebrouck / Albuquerque Journal
Published on September 26, 2017

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — For those seeking a cannabis suppository for sale at a local dispensary, your wait is over.
Tablets, patches, oils, topical creams, and lozenge-like “pastilles,” all containing measured doses of THC or CBD, also are on the market now. The suppositories are available in both rectal and vaginal varieties.

Ultra Health, a Bernalillo medical cannabis grower, is ramping up production now under a joint venture with Panaxia Pharmaceutical Industries, an Israeli pharmaceutical manufacturer.

Dadi Segal, CEO of Panaxia, and three employees were in New Mexico recently setting up a 3,600-square-foot production facility at Ultra Health’s property in Bernalillo. They also will oversee training of a local workforce at the plant.

Segal said he started Panaxia in 2010 to apply good manufacturing practices in the pharmaceutical industry to cannabis, which he says will make products more useful to patients and doctors.

“Our idea is to offer products to those patients who will not try the benefits of cannabis because they can’t use it like any other medication,” Segal said.

Panaxia and its parent firm manufacture a variety of prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals in Israel, he said.

Ultra Health plans to manufacture 28 Panaxia products in all, each containing specific doses of THC or CBD, the active components of cannabis. The measured dosages in Panaxia products have made it possibly to begin clinical trials that are now underway in Israel, Segal said. The findings from those trials will help U.S. physicians use cannabis more effectively as a medicine, he said.

“You can’t do clinical trials unless you have measurable dosages,” he said. Marijuana “can never be a medication if you have to smoke it.”

Leonard Salgado, Ultra Health’s director of New Mexico operations, said the new manufacturing facility is a $1.7 million investment for Ultra Health. It will employ at least 12 people when production ramps up, he said.

The joint venture between Panaxia and Ultra Health emerged from three years of discussions between the firms, Salgado said. Panaxia products now are on sale at Ultra Health’s eight dispensaries statewide, he said. Costs range from $20 to $70 per product, with most falling in the $25 to $30 range.

“I think what the medical community is looking for is a product that is consistent, that has a measured dose, and that actually has the look and feel of a pharmaceutical product,” Salgado said.

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

Address:

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.

BREAKING BUD: ISRAELI CANNABIS COMPANY BRINGS SMOKELESS MEDS TO NEW MEXICO

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.