Pubdate: Fri, 04 Sep 2015
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Copyright: 2015 Albuquerque Journal
Author: Colleen Heild


Nonprofit Has Applied for License From State

State Department of Public Safety chief. Two-term Bernalillo County 
sheriff. City of Albuquerque public safety director. And now, 
aspiring medical marijuana producer?

The professional evolution of Darren White has taken a new turn. 
White, through his private investigations and security company, is 
affiliated with a firm that is one of 17 applicants seeking state 
Department of Health approval to become a licensed medical marijuana producer.

State corporation records list White as one of the directors of 
Purlife, a nonprofit whose listed purpose is "conducting medical 
marijuana sales in New Mexico."

Back in 1999, White stepped down from a top state post because he 
disagreed with then-Gov. Gary Johnson's stand on legalizing drugs, 
including marijuana.

He says his new venture isn't such a departure from his law enforcement days.

"Like several other former and retired law enforcement officers, I 
was asked by a company to develop and implement a risk assessment and 
security plan for their application," White told the Journal on Thursday.

As for his departure from DPS, White said, "It was 16 years ago. It 
wasn't even, as my resignation letter said, it wasn't about 
marijuana. The day I resigned, Gary (Johnson) publicly stated that 
all drugs - marijuana, cocaine, heroin ... should be legalized." 
Johnson at the time called the nation's war on drugs "a miserable failure."

Back then, in November 1999, White said he was resigning in protest 
of Johnson's stance. He told the Journal on Thursday that he hasn't 
spoken to Johnson in 15 years.

Johnson, a two-term Republican New Mexico governor who served from 
1995 to 2003, is currently president and CEO of a company called 
Cannabis Sativa Inc., which brands, licenses, develops and markets 
legal cannabis products for medical and recreational marijuana users.

White declined to give specifics about Purlife's proposal. A Health 
Department spokesman said pending applications for licensed nonprofit 
producers are confidential by department rule.

White, who started Darren White Investigations and Protection Group 
in June 2014, had eight years' experience in the Houston and 
Albuquerque police departments before being appointed by Johnson to 
the DPS post in 1995.

 From 2002 to 2009, he served as sheriff of Bernalillo County. More 
recently, Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry appointed White as 
Albuquerque's Public Safety Director in December 2009. He oversaw 
police and fire departments, the Emergency Management Office and the 
Safe City Strike Force, but resigned in 2011 amid controversy over 
his involvement after his wife had an accident that was investigated 
by APD. He was later cleared of any wrongdoing by a city independent 
review officer.

White, 52, ran for the 1st Congressional District in 2008. He won the 
Republican nomination for the House seat but lost in the general 
election to Martin Heinrich, a Democrat.

White is listed as one of eight directors of Purlife, formed in May 
2014, according to secretary of state records.

Directors also include Albuquerque lawyer Jason Bowles, who is listed 
as the agent for the company. Bowles is a former federal prosecutor 
and high-profile criminal defense attorney.

"We're (he and White) both military veterans," Bowles told the 
Journal on Thursday. "We were both in the Army. We both got into this 
and we picked a location close to the VA (Veterans Affairs Medical 
Center) to help veterans. A lot are coming back with PTSD. It's an 
admirable thing to have this ability to help them."

He added, "I know we're going to make money, but we want to help the 
veterans. That's who is closest to my heart. We aren't doing enough 
as a society to help these people."

A former colleague of White's, David Linthicum is listed in state 
records as a director for another medical marijuana nonprofit seeking 
a state license, Albuquerque Bernalillo County Organics Inc.

Linthicum told the Journal on Thursday that he is also a security 
contractor for the company.

"We want to do it the right way, according to the law," said 
Linthicum, a 30-year sheriff's deputy and former chief deputy who 
retired from the agency in 2011.

Another former law enforcement official who ran for Bernalillo County 
sheriff last November and narrowly lost is also associated with a 
company applying for a producer's license. James "Scott" Baird, who 
retired as chief deputy of the Sheriff's Office in August 2013, is 
listed as the president of The Pharmacy NM Corp.

The company is listed as a "medical cannabis" nonprofit incorporated 
in April. Baird didn't return a Journal phone call for comment.

The Department of Health announced this week that a four-member 
review committee had narrowed the pool of applicants for producers 
licenses from 86 to 17. Secretary of Health Retta Ward is expected to 
review and determine the number of producers that will receive 
licenses. She is expected to render a decision by Oct. 1.

The department currently has 23 licensed medical marijuana producers 
but hasn't licensed any new producers for three years. The program 
was approved in 2007.

A Health Department study commissioned in 2013 showed that average 
patient use was exceeding available supply. As of February 2015, 
12,940 active patients were in the program. That number has increased 
to about 16,700 patients now, DOH spokesman Kenny Vigil said.

The state has approved medical marijuana use for 21 medical 
conditions, including posttraumatic stress disorder.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom