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Medical Cannabis Program Continues Growth in Third Quarter

Supply remains in jeopardy as patient enrollment increases at double the rate of industry sales

(Albuquerque) - The 35 licensed commercial producers in New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program brought in a record $22.1 million for the third quarter of 2017, an increase of 4 percent from the second quarter.

Patient enrollment increased by over 10 percent, from 44,403 to 48,861, during the same quarterly period.

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Medical Cannabis Provider Sets New Single Month Record

New Mexico industry leader reaches over one million dollar sales in single month

(Albuquerque) - Ultra Health, New Mexico’s #1 Cannabis Company, achieved $1.1 million in sales for the month of September 2017, the highest single month revenue ever recorded by a New Mexico cannabis provider. It is the first time a licensed New Mexico producer has achieved greater than $1 million for a single month. There are currently 35 licensed commercial medical cannabis producers in New Mexico serving nearly 50,000 patients.

Ultra Health recently opened its eighth location serving six New Mexico counties and became the nation’s largest vertically integrated solely medical cannabis provider.

“The milestone achieved is a direct reflection of how the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program is sustaining its upward momentum,” said Duke Rodriguez, CEO and President of Ultra Health®. “We remain committed to providing every patient in every county equal access to safe, affordable and convenient medicine. The continued growth of the industry is fully dependent on new products, patients and locations being successfully integrated.”

Patients have responded favorably to Ultra Health’s new pharmaceutical-grade, smokeless medicinal products which include sublingual and oral tablets, vaginal and rectal suppositories, oils, topicals, pastilles and patches.

“We are dedicated to enhancing patient choice, which means giving all patients the healthy advantages of purchasing accurately dosed medications with varied delivery methods, much like you would purchase from your neighborhood pharmacy,” Rodriguez said.

As of September 30, 2017 the New Mexico Department of Health reported 48,861 medical cannabis patients enrolled in the program. Currently, thousands of patients still reside in 14 counties without a full time dispensary. New Mexico is the 5th largest state by area which makes rural access challenging but essential for improved health.  

New Mexico’s medical cannabis industry is expected to reach $90 million in revenue by the end of the current year and hit $205 million by 2020.

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.

Medical Cannabis Provider Denied Advertising on City Transit

City of Albuquerque cites funding concerns for denying advertising to state-licensed business

(Albuquerque) - Ultra Health, New Mexico’s #1 Cannabis Company, has been denied the opportunity to advertise on the ABQ Ride Buses due to concerns about losing federal funding.

Ultra Health is one of the 35 medical cannabis providers licensed by the New Mexico Department of Health, and its operations are completely legal under the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act.

In a letter sent September 13, the city’s legal counsel believed it would lose federal grants which are used to fund ABQ Ride Buses because it is illegal on the federal level to advertise a Schedule I substance.

In response to the city’s letter, City Councilman Pat Davis sent the Federal Transit Administration a letter asking for clarification on the legality of advertising medical cannabis in New Mexico as it is legal pursuant to state law.

“I believe that the patients who rely on medical cannabis to treat their debilitating medical conditions will benefit from the goods and services of licensed producers being advertised,” Councilman Davis states in the letter. “Competition in the marketplace is to be encouraged, and advertising is part of encouraging a thriving market will emerge in New Mexico.”

Ultra Health submitted bus design

The provider’s submitted advertising design does not violate any of the transit agency’s policies or contain any cannabis imagery.

Currently, the ABQ Ride Bus Advertising policy states advertising content will not be displayed that:

  • Is false, misleading, or deceptive,
  • Relates to an illegal or unlawful activity,
  • Advertises alcohol or tobacco products,
  • Depicts violence and/or anti-social behavior, or
  • Includes language, which is obscene, vulgar, profane and scatological.

Ultra Health submitted bus design

In 2016, The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency allowed a cannabis campaign to advertise on its buses. The agency is federally funded and did not report losing grants due to the campaign.

It is unknown whether any other transit agency or organization has lost federal funding by allowing state-licensed and legally operating cannabis business to advertise their service or products.

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.

Ultra Health Opens Eighth Location, Now in Six N.M. Counties

New Mexico provider becomes nation’s largest vertically integrated medical cannabis network

(Alamogordo) - Ultra Health, New Mexico’s #1 medical cannabis company, will officially open its eighth location in Alamogordo, N.M., on Tuesday, August 29. The eighth location will also make Ultra Health the nation’s largest vertically integrated, seed-to-sale medical cannabis network in the country.

 

The opening comes after a long-awaited inspection from the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH). Ultra Health initially submitted its amendment to open a dispensary in Alamogordo in May of 2016. There are currently more than 45,000 enrollees in the state’s medical cannabis program.

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