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WIRE: New Mexico judge orders stay on Ultra Health sanctions

SANTA FE, N.M. — Santa Fe District Judge David K. Thomson granted Ultra Health a stay Monday from the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) proposed sanction for bringing Dorothy, a 3-week-old cannabis seedling, to the New Mexico State Fair on September 8, 2016.

“[The] Court finds that the Petitioner [Ultra Health] will likely prevail on the merits of their arguments that the sanction imposed is excessive and without much support in law or regulation,” Judge Thomson said in his order.

The judge ordered a motion to stay the sanction of ceasing Ultra Health’s operations for five consecutive days and that Ultra Health must still pay the proposed $100 fine.

In recognition of the judge’s decision, Ultra Health will be giving away 420 specially designed commemorative t-shirts on April 20. Internationally, April 20, or 420, has become recognized as a holiday for cannabis advocacy and celebration.

According to NMDOH reports there are 34,909 cardholders as of March 31, 2017, an increase of 59 percent since the previous year.

On October 12, 2016, Ultra Health appealed the original sanction, which would amount to a monetary loss of nearly $200,000, through NMDOH’s internal appeal process. The final sanction was signed by Secretary Lynn Gallagher on March 12, 2017, where Secretary Gallagher then ordered Ultra Health to cease its operations in five counties from April 17 to April 21, 2017, including the expected biggest cannabis purchasing day of the year.

Ultra Health filed a request to stay Secretary Gallagher’s order on March 23, on the basis the sanction would do irreversible harm and damage to not only Ultra Health, but also to the thousands of patients its locations serves every day. Ultra Health was the largest cannabis provider in New Mexico for 2016 and expects to continue its appeal of the sanction.

“We continue to advocate on behalf of the patients in the Medical Cannabis Program, thousands of which have made it clear Ultra Health is their preferred medical cannabis provider, even with the level of scrutiny and harassment we have experienced from NMDOH,” said Duke Rodriguez, CEO and President of Ultra Health.

Ultra Health originally obtained written approval from the New Mexico State Fair to display the single seedling at the 2016 event. New Mexico State Fair officials told Ultra Health to remove the plant at 3:30 p.m. on September 8, 2016, and Ultra Health fully cooperated and removed its booth and the seedling by 5:00 p.m.

Without further notice or communication with Ultra Health regarding the seedling at the state fair, Kenny Vigil, the NMDOH Medical Cannabis Program director, recommended the sanction on September 16, 2016 on the claim Ultra Health changed the location of its production facility and substantially changed its production plan by bringing the single 3-week-old, nonflowering medical cannabis plant to the fair for educational purposes.

“We are continuing our ongoing litigation to fight for an adequate supply of medicine, which we believe spurred this outrageous sanction in the first place,” Rodriguez commented.

Ultra Health believes the state fair sanction and ongoing delays in approval of new locations are retaliation for a lawsuit filed against the NMDOH in August 2016 regarding the plant count limitations and the need for adequate supply. A non-jury trial date for the lawsuit has been set for July 24, 2017 at 9:00 a.m. before Santa Fe District Judge David K. Thomson.

Ultra Health recently received a new invitation from the 2017 State Fair organizers regarding this year’s event. Click here for a full timeline of events regarding the plant and sanctions.


 Marissa Novel 480-404-6699

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