Pubdate: Fri, 02 Sep 2016
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Copyright: 2016 Albuquerque Journal
Author: Olivier Uyttebrouck


Partners in Planned Medical Cannabis Chain Blame State Obstruction

Duke Rodriguez's plan to build a statewide chain of cannabis retail 
stores has hit a snag. Rodriguez, owner of Ultra Health LLC, contends 
that state regulators have slow-tracked his request to open at least 
14 new stores, most in communities that now lack dispensaries.

"We're just caught in this limbo with no formal response," Rodriguez 
said this week. "We have met every single request that they have 
presented, including evidence that we were able to secure product."

Ultra Health, which operates a medical cannabis growing site in 
Bernalillo, has purchased cannabis from two other producers and has 
agreements to buy from four others, he said.

Ultra Health, which now operates six dispensaries in four cities, 
submitted requests in May, June and July for additional dispensaries 
in 13 cities.

Most are communities with no existing cannabis retailers, including 
Silver City, Deming, Carlsbad, Socorro, Truth or Consequences and 
Bernalillo County's South Valley.

The New Mexico Department of Health this week denied that it has 
delayed Ultra Health's requests, saying the agency "carefully reviews 
and evaluates" applications for new medical marijuana dispensaries.

Ultra Health's applications are among 18 requests for new dispensary 
locations now under review, DOH spokesman David Morgan said in a 
written statement.

The agency's concerns about Ultra Health's expansion center on the 
issue of adequate supply, according to an email sent by the DOH to 
Ultra Health officials.

"Your amendments for additional dispensaries center on one issue, 
adequate supply," according to the July 22 email, which Rodriguez 
provided to the Journal.

DOH last year increased the number of cannabis plants producers can 
grow to a maximum 450, up from 150.

Because of the 450-plant maximum, "it would be extremely difficult, 
even under optimal conditions and an ideal production cycle, to 
adequately serve the needs of even six dispensaries with that plant 
count," the email said.

Rodriguez said he subsequently provided DOH with agreement letters 
with six other cannabis producers that he said show Ultra Health 
could obtain adequate supplies.

To date, Ultra Health has purchased a total of 22 pounds of cannabis 
from two other New Mexico producers, he said. Rodreguez declined to 
identify his suppliers.

Ultra Health and a cannabis patient filed a lawsuit against DOH last 
month alleging the 450-plant maximum has created "a dire situation" 
for medically fragile patients who can't find the products they need.

State records show that since June 2012, plant production has 
increased 174 percent through June 30, but the number of people who 
hold medical marijuana cards increased 280 percent to 26,568 in the 
same four-year period.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom