News & Blog

Smokeless Medical Cannabis Products Released in New Mexico

The state’s largest medical cannabis company releases first-ever pharmaceutical grade products

(Albuquerque) - Ultra Health, New Mexico’s #1 medical cannabis company with a nationwide presence, has released the first pharmaceutical grade, accurately dosed medical cannabis products to the New Mexico market. The products provide reliable and easy-to-administer dosages of medical cannabis, which has been effective in treating a variety of ailments ranging from PTSD to cancer to chronic pain to epilepsy to Parkinson’s disease, among others.

Continue reading "Smokeless Medical Cannabis Products Released in New Mexico"

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.

Medical cannabis producer files suit, says Expo NM violated their rights

Andy Lyman / The NM Political Report

Published on June 1, 2017

A prominent medical cannabis producer in New Mexico filed a federal lawsuit against officials with the state agency that oversees the New Mexico State Fair and owns the fairgrounds.

In the complaint filed Wednesday, New Mexico Top Organics-Ultra Health accused top staffers with Expo New Mexico along with the chair of the state fair board of violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution for barring the medical cannabis company from bringing cannabis-related materials to an educational booth later this year. Chairman of the New Mexico State Fair Commission Larry Kennedy, Expo New Mexico General Manager Dan Mourning and Concessions Department Director Raina Bingham are named as defendants in the case. The state fair officials, according to the lawsuit, “implicitly chilled” Ultra Health’s “clearly established rights to freedom of speech and expression.”

New Mexico Expo officials, though, said they have the authority to implement their own rules and regulations.

The lawsuit is just the latest in a series of events that stem from last year’s state fair when Top Organics-Ultra Health put a cannabis plant on display as part of its educational booth. Within hours, fair officials told the cannabis company to remove the plant and later asked the company to leave the fairgrounds. Soon after the incident, New Mexico’s Department of Health, which oversees the state Medical Cannabis Program, sanctioned Ultra Health. A district court judge eventually suspended the sanction against the company, which would have forced Top Organics-Ultra Health to shut down for three days.

Still, Ultra Health President and CEO Duke Rodriguez told NM Political Report that Expo New Mexico invited his company to again rent a booth during the upcoming state fair later this fall.

“We received a written invitation,” Rodriguez said.

But this came with a heavily worded condition.

Bingham reportedly told Ultra Health that at the next state fair, they can “not bring any type of drug paraphernalia that could be used to plant, propagate, cultivate, grow, harvest, manufacture, compound, convert, produce, process, prepare, test, analyze, pack, repack, store, contain, conceal, inject, ingest, inhale or otherwise introduce into the human body any type of cannabis or other controlled substance.”

Ultra Health is asking the court to overturn these restrictions on the basis that the state is violating the company’s right to free speech. The company also cites a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment based on its guarantee of First Amendment rights on the state level.

The lawsuit adds that the specific restrictions imposed by Expo New Mexico go far beyond cannabis and would exclude everyday items.

“By the plain language of Ms. Bingham’s statement, Ultra Health would be precluded from bringing a shovel to its informational booth, and would also be precluded from bringing a picture of a shovel, since a shovel may be used to ‘cultivate’ or ‘plant’ a cannabis plant,” the complaint reads.

Ultra Health is represented by Egolf, Ferlic and Harwood, one of the partners of which is New Mexico’s Speaker of the House Brian Egolf.

Spokeswoman for Expo New Mexico Erin Thompson confirmed to NM Political Report that Bingham sent an invitation to Top Organics-Ultra Health and later issued the long list of prohibited materials.

“Once they received clarification, Ultra Health declined to re-apply to be a vendor at this year’s fair,” Thompson said in an email.

Thompson also cited a state law that allows Expo New Mexico to adopt and enforce their own rules and said the rules are enforced uniformly and consistently.

“We continuously monitor vendors throughout the event to ensure they are in compliance with these restrictions, and if a vendor is in violation, they are required to remove the prohibited item or they are not allowed to continue as an exhibitor at the New Mexico State Fair,” Thompson wrote.

Ultra Health Files Freedom of Speech Lawsuit

Federal suit filed against EXPO New Mexico officials under First and Fourteenth Amendments

 

(Albuquerque) - New Mexico Top Organics-Ultra Health filed a complaint against three EXPO New Mexico officials for unconstitutional attempts to limit the company’s rights to display a cannabis educational and informative booth at the New Mexico State Fair in 2017.

 

Because EXPO New Mexico is a government entity and the New Mexico State Fair a public forum, restricting Ultra Health’s ability to educate the public and advocate on behalf of medical cannabis violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the lawsuit contends.

Continue reading "Ultra Health Files Freedom of Speech Lawsuit"

Dispensary Land

Santa Fe’s five cannabis dispensaries serve a growing patient base

Aaron Cantu / Santa Fe Reporter

Published on May 24, 2017

New Mexico’s medical cannabis program is an ongoing experiment. Long-standing federal limits on research into the plant’s medical uses have forced patients, doctors and dispensary owners to improvise their ways to wellness; meanwhile state regulations keep a lid on unbounded growth the industry might otherwise see.

Number of medical cannabis card holders in Santa Fe County in 2015: 1,934
2016: 3,151

Combined First quarter income for NM Dispensaries, 2017:
$19 Million

There’s virtually no limit to the ways cannabis can be harvested, cultivated, extracted, distilled and consumed, and each body reacts differently to the plant. A joint rolled with a sticky sativa strain might ease your stomach cramps, but cause your friend anxiety; perhaps your brother enjoys slathering a cannabidiol-rich salve on his neck to ease chronic pain, but your grandmother prefers leaning back on the couch and resting her eyes after wolfing down a handful of indica-packed gummy bears.

The state Department of Health reports 4,280 people were medical cannabis card holders in Santa Fe County at the end of April, about a 36 percent increase from one year ago and a 121 percent boost from 2015. Patients in Santa Fe who don’t want to travel far can peruse five local dispensaries, each of which reflects a distinct style. While their locations were once considered protected information and only patients can shop inside, the storefronts hold their own as a new retail sector in the city. And with the number of cardholders in the state climbing past 40,000 and predicted to grow at a rapid pace, dispensaries in Santa Fe and beyond hope to expand their patient base.

There are caps on how many plants each dispensary can grow, however, and some say that regulation, as well as a requirement that they run as nonprofit enterprises, hinder efficiency and keep the supply artificially low. Yet statewide, the industry’s intake is also growing at a brisk pace. First-quarter sales in 2017 were $19 million, a 91 percent rise over the same period in 2016, according to new data from the department.

The dispensaries that SFR visited have patients that include teachers, doctors, veterans and trauma victims who’ve used cannabis to wean themselves off cocktails of pharmaceutical drugs, and even former DEA agents who keep their personal medical histories closer to their chests. Some dispensary proprietors swear by their own intuitive abilities to heal the sick and comfort the weary, while others pride themselves on more meticulous record-keeping to figure out what works for their patients.
Nearly all offer today’s standard menu of medicine and vessels: edibles like chocolate bars, fruity hard candies and lollipops; glass pipes to smoke the bud; vaporizers for the delicate-lunged; tinctures to drop under your tongue. Because of the state’s plant limit, however, most couldn’t supply the kind of highly-concentrated oils and other specialty products regularly on offer in other states that require a higher plant count to manufacture.

Since SFR’s not a card-carrying patient, we could not sample the offerings. But we did visit all the licensed dispensaries.

SLOW PACE
The lobby of Sacred Garden feels like a social club. On the day of our appointment at the store near Salvador Perez Park, we arrive just in time to see co-owner Zeke Shortes walk in and embrace a boisterous older woman in turquoise, who complained to him of possible tongue cancer as she held his hands; either she was a paid actress or Shortes clearly has a relationship with his patients.

Shortes then started a tour through the facility’s kitchen, where we met his lead chef, Mary, who was mixing a bowl of chocolate but was most proud of the gummy worms she’d just cooked up, each packed with about half a joint’s worth of cannabis. Between the lobby and kitchen was the green-tinged selling room, where patients consulted with three young budtenders. Jars of hard candy sat on the glass counters: red strawana mango sativa, indica jalapeno-watermelon squares.

Shortes knew little about cannabis before jumping into the business in 2009, having used it only occasionally before then. He migrated to Santa Fe that year from Austin, where he had worked for a decade at the company Applied Materials, “making systems that make semiconductor chips that make the world go ’round,”—a critical role within the architecture of global capitalism, maybe, but one that left Shortes feeling empty. He also had experience as a food broker at Whole Foods, for which he visited dozens of food manufacturing facilities around the world to convince them to sell food products under the store brand. He also did category analysis for the company, boosting its bottom line by figuring out which products weren’t selling and acting accordingly.

It’s a corporate-heavy background for somebody who now manages a nonprofit health organization, though Shortes has gone on record voicing his displeasure with the health department’s nonprofit requirement. But he has an affinity with his patients, 40 percent of whom he estimates suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (this tracks almost perfectly with the 42 percent of patients statewide who obtained a card for PTSD as of April). Shortes himself had a traumatic experience for which he says he medicates: While visiting family in Austin in 2013, an 18-wheeler slammed into his side of the Toyota Corolla, injuring him and his wife. It was more incentive to stay away from big-city life. He prefers the pace of Santa Fe.

“People move slower, and there’s more camaraderie,” he tells SFR. He smiles when he thinks of the early days in 2009. “At first, we didn’t even have a retail shop, and I was doing deliveries,” he says. “I was probably only growing three genetics at the beginning, and poorly, compared to what we do now.”

Shortes estimates that with his 7,500 patient count, he would be growing thousands more plants were it not for the Department of Health’s limit of 450 plants it imposes on producers. In the ideal world he envisions, Sacred Garden could function more like a regular business, taking funding from FDIC-insured banks and specializing in a particular area of the cannabis process, rather than doing everything—growing, cultivating, extracting and retailing—like it is now.

Sacred Garden
1300 Luisa St., 216-9686
sacredgardennm.com

THE SHINY NEW TOY
Shift New Mexico is the county’s newest dispensary, located south of the city limits, far away from the competition. The business structure of Shift is complicated, but it’s important for understanding what the dispensary claims to be its greatest strength: the quality of its bud flowers.

“Shift New Mexico” is the business name for a nonprofit called Keyway, which holds the license to operate the cannabis dispensary, but the actual operator of the license—the entity that does all the cultivation, trimming and retail sales—is a management company called SNM. That company, in turn, is 33 percent owned by Colorado-based Shift Cannabis Company, which “provides oversight to [Shift New Mexico] to make sure they can produce the most cannabis they can with the highest quality, using what we’ve learned from operating in Colorado and other states,” says Reed Porter, co-founder and COO of Shift Cannabis Company.
The perceived stigma of out-of-state ownership, coupled with SFR’s previous report that two former employees of the Department of Health had invested in the company before it was awarded a license in a competitive process by the very same department, might explain the initial stiffness of our meeting. Shift Cannabis CEO Travis Howard, also a co-founder, is quick to point out that all of Shift New Mexico’s board of directors are state residents, but also leans on the dispensaries’ experience “consulting and working with people that are either cultivating, extracting, or selling cannabis” in Colorado and 13 other states as a reason Shift New Mexico has an edge over its competitors.

The dispensary opened March 1 and recently hired a full-time operations manager, Lyric Kali, a 10-year resident of Santa Fe who says the business will employ about 12 people and intends to contract with locals for Shift’s other needs. With plans to spend “a couple million” to open up greenhouses and extraction facilities in the future, the dispensary also hopes to to use its relatively deep pockets to build loyalty in Santa Fe’s business community.

The dispensary’s philosophy “errs on the side of allowing patients to keep their privacy,” Howard says, but notes the dispensaries’ budtenders are ready to work with patients to uncover their ideal cannabinoid and terpene ratios. He speaks with the kind of polished ease that would resonate in a courtroom. Shift sells cannabis wholesale to other producers, including New Mexicann, which also operates a dispensary in Santa Fe.

Behind the Bisbee Court dispensary are the grow and cultivation rooms, where Shift produces some of the bud it sells in the front. In a grow room where some plants are already several feet in height, high-pressure sodium double-ended lights beam down onto different strains of sativa (long and thin leaves), indica (wide) and hybrids. Howard explains that the operation uses sodium lights rather than more environmentally-friendly LEDs because the latter can’t heat the plants enough to expel their nitrogen. If you’ve ever tried lighting a bowl and watched the bud literally spark when touched by a flame, you’ve smoked nitrogen-heavy weed—and probably burned your throat in the process.

“Instead of coming down here and saying, ‘Hey Santa Fe, we’re going to do this awesome thing and take care of your electricity,’” Howard offers, “we said, ‘We will get there, and our test facilities in other states will bring the LEDs when we figure out how to solve this problem.’” He says it’s another example of how Shift is using its out-of-state experience to build its operations in New Mexico.

Shift New Mexico
24 Bisbee Court, 438-1090
shiftnewmexico.com

THE MOTHER STORE
Ultra Health’s Santa Fe dispensary feels more like a doctor’s office than do the other cannabis storefronts in the city, only it sports framed pictures of purple-tinged cannabis in the lobby instead of stock photos of soothing landscapes. We even waited a relatively long time in the fluorescent-lit lobby for the dispensary’s young manager John Gurule to call us in, just like at the doctor. Out of the seven Ultra dispensaries scattered across New Mexico, this one is the “mother store,” Gurule says later. The company also hopes to soon open locations in Silver City, Alamogordo and Deming.

In 2014, Ultra Health, a for-profit company headquartered in Arizona, signed a 30-year management deal with dispensary Top Organics for access to the nonprofit’s license to staff, manage and operate dispensaries around New Mexico. Plants grow in Bernalillo for delivery all over the state.

Its owner and CEO is Duke Rodriguez, who served as former Gov. Gary Johnson’s Human Services Department secretary. He’s a fastidious market-watcher of the cannabis industry in New Mexico, and rolls his observations into press releases that the company blasts out every few weeks. The company reported $1.96 million in sales for the first quarter of 2017, making it the state’s top cannabis seller, and Rodriguez also says that Ultra Health is the top wholesaler of cannabis to other dispensaries in the state. He was not present on the day that SFR visited the company’s Santa Fe dispensary, and he said this was because Ultra Health does not put administrative staff at its New Mexico dispensaries. Rodriguez is also among chief proponents for the state to lift the plant cap for growers. Ultra Health is currently suing the department over what it calls an “arbitrary and capricious production limitation” on the number of cannabis plants that the state’s 35 licensed nonprofit producers can grow.

Although the company’s sprawling presence across the state and the sterile aesthetic of its Santa Fe dispensary may hint at an impersonal business approach, it was clear from our visit that there were regular patients at the dispensary who had relationships with the store’s budtenders. One slight woman who met the person at the reception desk with a hearty and familiar greeting was taken to the retail portion of the store, where another budtender began rolling her a joint with an indica strain she’d yet to try.

Gurule says that most of the dispensaries’ patients showed up after Ultra Health took over Top Organics, where he had been a patient. He eventually started working as a budtender after the two entities struck a deal, and worked his way up to be a manager. He’s most interested in talking about his dispensary’s relationship to its patients.

“We ask them how their day is, and then it just goes from there,” says Gurule, who says his own medication regimen helps him connect with patients. “I understand what they’re going through because I go through it too—maybe not the same scenario, but we’re pretty much on the same chapter.”

In a later phone call, Rodriguez told SFR that the company’s lawsuit against the health department over its plant cap will go to trial on July 24 if it is not resolved before then.

Ultra Health
1907 St. Michael’s Drive, 216-0898
ultrahealth.com/new-mexico-dispensaries

GOOD VIBRATIONS

Fruit of the Earth Organics is the most new-wave dispensary in Santa Fe, and seems tailored for the counterculture transplants who started arriving in the city in the ’60s. Patients can wait to see budtenders in a large tie dye-themed room with massive plush chairs and LED screens listing different strains on offer.

Owner Lyra Barren says she came to know the “shamanic” qualities of cannabis through her experience as a musician. Her dispensary is all about the art of the tincture: Barren claims to have a natural intuition for healing, and mixes all sorts of natural ingredients with variations of cannabis to cure a wide range of ailments, though she specializes in treating cancer symptoms. One of the most powerful effects of cannabis, she tells SFR, is its ability to enhance the healing properties when combined with other herbs. For that reason, Fruit of the Earth also manages a CBD (cannabidiol)-only room attached to the dispensary, where shoppers who don’t have a cannabis card can buy CBD-infused, non-psychoactive tinctures, desserts, juices and even caffeine drinks at an “elixir bar.” There’s also a jar asking for donations for the now-disbanded Standing Rock Sioux Tribe anti-pipeline encampment in North Dakota, hinting at the owner’s personal politics.
It can be easy to write off somebody claiming to have natural healing abilities, but Barren says many people swear by her CBD healing salve. Underneath colorful pieces of cloth shielding us from the harsh fluorescent light, she spoke more candidly about her personal relationship to cannabis than any other dispensary managers were willing to divulge. Fruit of the Earth is the only dispensary in town that gets all its cannabis from an outdoor grow, which is managed by Barren’s son, co-owner Jaum Barren. She considers indoor grows incompatible with plant’s spiritual needs.

“I believe there’s a spirit that goes into the plants,” she tells SFR. “When they’re growing out with the breezes and the birds, they’re more happy and ecstatic, and have a higher vibration. ... Everyone else does regular rotation out of warehouses, but we grow one big harvest, which allows us time to cure the medicine properly for six months.” She also says that Fruit of the Earth does not take money from big investors “who can influence what we do for profit,” and says she intends to keep it that way.

Fruit of the Earth Organics
901 Early St., 310-7917
fruitoftheearthorganics.com

CANN-DO

“We are definitely advocates for our patients,” New Mexicann Natural Medicine dispensary manager Josh Alderete tells SFR. “Cannabis is still considered a Schedule 1 drug [by the federal government], and we still come out here and get it done because we believe in what it does.”

Alderete has just taken a pause from consulting with a patient at the New Mexicann dispensary in Santa Fe, which looks like a cross between an Americana beer hall and a doctor’s office. Behind the front counter is a large sign that says “We Only Serve New Mexico Grown,” and paintings from local artists adorn the walls in the waiting area. Cannabis-themed issues of Sunset Magazine and the New Yorker lay on a coffee table, and a t-shirt from the Drug Policy Alliance that demands “NO MORE DRUG WAR” hangs on a window.

Alderete says New Mexicann is moving forward after the July 2015 accident in which two of its workers, Mark Aaron Smith and Nicholas Montoya, were severely burned while using butane to extract THC from cannabis. Both men have open lawsuits against New Mexicann, but Smith is also suing Montoya, who Smith alleged in a suit asked him to assist in the extraction process despite a lack of experience.
The accident happened at a time when New Mexicann was growing quickly, having added a greenhouse and a hoop house to increase plant production for new dispensaries in Española, Taos and Las Vegas. The dispensary was forced to pay $13,500 in fines for labor violations to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and its board of directors removed its former executive director, Len Goodman.

It’s a lot of drama for a place that genuinely appears to work with people throughout the inpatient process and likes to boost other local businesses in Santa Fe. A table in the lobby offers businesss cards from services such as a hair salon, architect and natural phsyician.

Alderete says the dispensary has doctors and pain specialists that frequent the facility to help people obtain cards and consult with the budtenders. If you don’t have a card but want to know how you can get one—assuming you have one of the 21 qualifying conditions—you can pop into the dispensary and ask New Mexicann staff. You can also get a member discount if you submit a W2 and make below a certain income threshold.

Peering into the future, Alderete says he’d like for the health department to remove the 450 cap on plants so the dispensary can produce a wider variety of products. He says there is “definitely” a shortage of cannabis in the program.

“Once we have a strain, we only have it for about a week and then it’s sold out,” he tells SFR. “It’d be nice to have more supply so people can have the most consistent medicine that works for them.”

New Mexicann Natural Medicine
1592 San Mateo Lane, 982-2621,
newmexicann.org

Ultra Health to open medical cannabis dispensary

Tara Melton / Alamogordo Daily News

Published on May 23, 2017

ALAMOGORDO — Ultra Health, a medical cannabis dispensary, is planning to open shop at 601 N. White Sands Blvd. in the near future.

"We actually signed the lease to that facility almost a year ago," said Leonard Salgado, Vice President of Ultra Health. "It's taken that long to really move through the process with the Department of Health, or more specifically through the Medical Cannabis Program, to get that facility ready for inspection."

Salgado said the facility is ready for the New Mexico Department of Health's final inspection and is on hold to open its doors until an inspector is sent down.

Once open, Ultra Health will have multiple cannabis products available to qualifying patients.

"The products that will be available to qualifying patients in Otero County are going to be smokable products," Salgado said. "We will have approximately 25 to 30 different cannabis strains that will be either sativa or indica dominant. There will also be some high CBD (Cannabidiol) strains of flower that will also be available. Patients will also be able to purchase edible products, such as chocolates and different varieties of candy. Topical products will also be available, these are products like lotion that can be applied directly to the skin."

Salgado said Ultra Health will also bring new products such as oral drops, transdermal patches and concentrate wax to the Alamogordo facility.

In order to purchase any of the products in the dispensary, a medical cannabis card must be obtained through the New Mexico Department of Health's medical cannabis program. To qualify for a medical cannabis card, a patient must have at least one of the 21 medical qualifying conditions which include cancer, PTSD, severe chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and glaucoma.

According to the New Mexico Department of Health, about 834 Otero County residents are already medical cannabis patients.

Previously to Ultra Health coming in, Salgado said Otero County medical cannabis patients were travelling to Las Cruces dispensaries but had a difficult time making it back through the U.S. Border Patrol Checkpoint.

"I will tell you that unfortunately, a little less than three weeks ago, upon attempting to make a delivery to patients in Otero County our personnel were stopped at the Border Checkpoint," Salgado said. "The medication that was designated for 12 patients in Alamogordo was confiscated. Patients attempting to go in that direction and come back into town are subject to that same checkpoint. If folks don't go in that direction, they've got to go to Roswell or Ruidoso. These are patients with debilitating medical conditions and that trip is difficult for many of them."

Ultra Health will be hosting an open house of their facility from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, May 25. Community members are welcome to stop by and learn more about medical cannabis. 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.

Salgado also encourages interested parties to contact NMDOH Medical Cannabis Program Director Kenny Vigil at 505-827-2321 to move forward with Ultra Health's final inspection.

For more information, visit their website at www.ultrahealth.com.