Medical pot being sold in Los Lunas

Medical marijuana is now available in Los Lunas. A medical cannabis dispensary store, Natural Rx, opened late in February at 3414 N.M. 47 and another, Minerva Canna Group, is slated to open June 1 at 336 Main St. Two other dispensaries are interested in village locations, but they are still in the state licensing process, according to Adolph Lopez, the village’s code enforcement supervisor.

Lopez said they have to have a permit from the state and follow state medical cannabis regulations, such as having a security system and not setting up shop within 300 feet of a school, day care or church…

When did dispensaries start having to be a certain distance away from a church? In New Mexico, there’s like a church on every corner.  Do stores that sell alcohol and cigarettes have to be 300 feet from a school, day care or church?  Pharmacies?

“I think the village needs to be very aggressive in making sure that these facilities meet the letter of the law,” Griego said. “I understand that some people have medical needs for the use of marijuana. I understand that, however, I think we have to be very careful that we don’t create a negative situation with these facilities.” Law enforcement work to ensure the safety of the community, local businesses, their employees and patrons, said Los Lunas Police Chief Naithan Gurule…

Has there been a “negative situation” with alcohol and cigarettes being sold on every street corner, along with religion?  And we mustn’t forget prescription medications, also sold on every street corner CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and grocery store. How about tanning salons? Should they also be 300 feet from schools, day cares and churches?  Stores that sell Coke, Dr. Pepper and energy drinks?

The negative situation is the drug war, creating discrimination of a plant and those who choose this treatment.

The reason the dispensaries have come to Los Lunas is because the state now allows individual producers to open more than one dispensary. The New Mexico Department of Health public information officer Ken Vigil wrote in an email that the new rules went into effect on Feb. 27. The state also opened up the license application process for up to 12 more licensed nonprofit producers.

“The state allowed multiple dispensing locations and we felt that Valencia County was undeserved, so we opened down there,” said Natural Rx manager Trevor Reed, in an interview at his Albuquerque location. Natural Rx is owned by the Natural Rx Foundation and governed by a board. It owns an Albuquerque store, three dispensaries in Oregon and the new Los Lunas location…

My review for Natural Rx:

Briones, who has a degree in horticulture, also has plans to open an additional dispensary in a different city, but wouldn’t disclose the location…

“We’re vertically integrated, meaning we have to grow and sell our own product,” he said. “There is a little glitch — we can buy from other producers, but unlike most states, we can’t buy from people (individuals).” …

I understand that California and Colorado dispensaries are able to buy from individual growers and caretakers, which is probably one of the reasons the price is more affordable for patients in those states.  And why there’s a better and more varied selection of strains to choose from.

“How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?”

This song (Dear Mr. President by Pink) is dedicated to the members of the New Mexico Medical Cannabis program — patients, patient associations, producers and dispensaries, doctors, and the Department of Health.  And to the New Mexico State Medical Board and every politician in this state.

While all of you enjoy your holiday weekend, take a moment to think about those who can’t afford this program and have to suffer, and suffer, and suffer, without any pain relief.

“How do you walk with your head held high?  Can you even look me in the eye?”

Do NM Cannabis Producers Support Mandatory Testing for Medical Cannabis?

Wow, to get actual responses from producers… that’s amazing.  I wonder who I have to sleep with to deserve the same kind of treatment?

Under comments:

March 18, 2015

I think it is wrong to assume that because we did not respond to your generic solicitation that we are against testing. Many producers understand the importance of testing and look to our state regulators to create an environment where testing will be available, affordable and mandatory. That environment does not exist now and we have been advised by the DOH and MCP not to test our products with unapproved laboratories. Perhaps a better use of your time may be to put political pressure on the DOH and MCP to test through the state labs. We, as producers, could subsidize the cost and patients would reap the benefits. I founded your organization – the NM Medical Cannabis Patients Alliance and funded it’s inception in order to create a political arm for the patients to express their wants and needs to the government – not so that you could waste your time polling the producers as to how we feel – how we feel is unimportant – how we are regulated is what matters.

William Ford, Executive Director
R. Greenleaf Organics, Inc
Medzen Services, Inc.
Healthy Education Society

Since SWOP mentioned in their response that they use the state lab at NMSU, I don’t understand why the Department of Health has to mandate this option for R. Greenleaf to take advantage of it.  Mr. Ford, are you trying to distract us from the issue at hand?

On the other hand, there’s the NMMCPA — a so-called patient’s alliance — that is pushing for testing, which will undoubtedly raise the price of the medicine, especially with the smaller producers.  You see, the members of SWOP, a small producer, are part of the NMMCPA…

And SWOP believes in 100% testing — whatever that means — and their prices reflect that extra expense.  SWOP has some of the highest prices in the state, if not the highest.  And if you’re a patient who can afford to pay those prices, I guess that’s great.

As for the tone of Mr. Ford’s response, well, perhaps he’s having a bad day.  Any producer who believes that exercises like this are a waste of time must have something to hide.  (Hence, the distraction.)  Aren’t the concerns and questions of patients important, Mr. Ford?  (Don’t worry, I don’t expect a response.)

I guess transparency isn’t important to the big players in this state’s medical cannabis industry — that’s why there’s no push to publish producer’s accounting records.  I mean, wouldn’t you like to know why your medicine costs so much?

The little information provided by the DOH every quarter doesn’t tell patients much, so perhaps it’s time for the NMMCPA to push for publicizing the accounting records from dispensaries.  Let patients really see what’s going on.  Maybe secrecy was important when this program started, but really, what’s the point of it now?

And for a patient’s organization, the NMMCPA certainly has made a mess of things.  Their members are in the middle of this new lawsuit against the DOH, by 19 of the 23 producers.  It will be interesting to see which producers didn’t join in the lawsuit and their reasons for not doing so. Unfortunately, the media coverage for this state’s program is almost nonexistent.  Which is why patients have to do so much research and make extreme efforts to navigate this expensive, exclusive, and secretive program.

It’s been almost a year since I was unable to renew because of the expense (and stress), and it’s taken all that time for the DOH to finalize the new regulations.  Now comes this lawsuit… just one of many that have been filed against the DOH regarding the Medical Cannabis Program.

I’m not sure how a lawsuit will change the fact that Retta Ward from the DOH gets the final say on everything to do with this program. The work that the Medical Board performs for the program doesn’t appear to affect the decisions Ms. Ward has made, and neither does all the negative responses from patients to the rule changes.

The whole business, the public hearings and comments, the set-up and procedures, the secrecy and lack of transparency, the cost — it all adds up to a program that doesn’t work for a lot of really sick people.  How many patients have died waiting for the ability to join the Medical Cannabis Program?  Do you know how expensive it is to obtain the records needed to qualify under “severe chronic pain”?  Do you know how many patients don’t qualify because they suffer from a mental disability?

The answer is to stop fighting over this program — the answer is to legalize.  Or alternatively, keep calm and move to Colorado.

Voices of MMJ patients in New Mexico

Unfortunately, the patient doesn’t say where she bought the crumbly product, but if I had to guess, it would be GrassRoots RX.  (Or maybe Minerva.)

No patient is happy with bad bud, and I am no exception. But even further than that, I am embarrassed that I made such a poor choice, even after being in the program for a year. (And if I were that producer, I would be embarrassed to call that marijuana OR medicine.)

The Blue Dream Smells like diesel to me, with hardly any resin (if at all), no seeds and a few sticks. I didn’t need scissors to clean up the bud — it crumbled easily within my hands. It resembles more of a powdery form than I am used to, and it didn’t appear very fresh to me…

New Medical Marijuana Rules Adopted

The average price for a gram of pot is $10…

Liar, liar, pants on fire…  That’s not the average price here in New Mexico — but sure, if you wanna dream, I can’t stop you.

Optimistic about his [David Romero White’s] chances to be licensed this time, he says, “This is definitely a huge step in the right direction. We all can now breathe a collective sigh of relief and move forward,” he says…

You breathe a sigh of relief Mr. White, while I sit here IN PAIN, unable to afford the renewal costs.

And if you rent your living space, you’ll need to get your landlord’s approval…

In most cases, that’s just not going to happen.  And I think the Department of Health knows that. This agency is working very hard to get smoking restricted in more places than it already is, including apartments.  And since most medical cannabis patients smoke their bud, the DOH is actually working against this program.

In conclusion, the new rules benefit producers, not patients.  But then, I’m not surprised.

Well, Mr. White (and his cohorts in the NMMCPA) must be pretty happy about this news.  Good for them.

4/24/2014, State should follow pot producers lead

Kudos to Erik Briones for going where New Mexico’s Department of Health still refuses to go. The medical marijuana producer recently opened the doors of his Los Ranchos business, Minerva Canna, to highlight a recent $60,000 expansion, designed to make things more convenient for his clients and more conducive to his bottom line.

If this doesn’t accurately reflect the commercial side of the marijuana industry, I don’t know what does. Designed to make things more convenient? More conducive to his bottom line? No mention of product quality and consistency? It’s only medicine, after all…

Sure, eat at McDonalds if you want — they’ve got a nice-looking restaurant, very convenient for customers, and obviously successful. Does it matter that the food they produce is junk and will make you fat? Or that the chicken in their McNuggets is from China?

Of course, what can you expect from “reporting” at the Albuquerque Journal? Still, it’s interesting to see the connections between Minerva and the Journal.

My review of Minerva (1/12/2014)

(As posted on nmcannabisreview.)

Minerva Canna Group has a nice set-up in an older part of town, and it appears they are expanding their space within the same office park. The bud smell welcomes you when you enter, as do all the nice people who work there. There is a large chalkboard with a menu of available strains, which I reviewed after I registered, awaiting my name to be called.

Minerva’s website indicates that it grows “100% organic weed, indoors under ideal conditions.” I have heard other patients mention Minerva, and one of the frequent comments was that this dispensary always has a wide variety of bud, with lots of different strains, and this seems to be the case. I was interested in the two strains with the highest THC content:

1. Blue Dream, Sativa dominant, THC 20.6% ($14/gr); and

2. Blue Widow, 80% Sativa/40% Indica, THC 18.95% and CBD 0.81% ($14/gr) (Label indicates produced by Red Barn Growers.)

Trish took me into the back room, where you can see and smell the individual strains. The bud comes prepackaged in vacuum-sealed heavy plastic bags with Minerva’s logo, in quantities of 3.5 and 7 grams. We discussed edibles and I mentioned my problem with the cannabis taste, and she showed me a milk chocolate/peppermint bar and a dark chocolate bar, both with labeling that included milligram dosage. Trish also mentioned the Patient Frequency Program (a free joint after three visits) and gave me a free grinder (my first!) and a Patient Strain Handbook.

The Blue Dream Smells like diesel to me, with hardly any resin (if at all), no seeds and a few sticks. I didn’t need scissors to clean up the bud — it crumbled easily within my hands. It resembles more of a powdery form than I am used to, and it didn’t appear very fresh to me. This strain is nothing special, and I give it a strength rating of 3.

The Blue Widow was pretty much the same as the Blue Dream, perhaps with a hint of citrus in the smell. This bud seemed a little fresher than the Blue Dream and not quite as powdery. I rate it a 2 for strength.

I can understand why patients like this dispensary, but according to other online reviews, I am not the only one who thinks this medicine is below average in strength. Considering the $14/gram cost, my opinion is that this medicine is overpriced, even for this market. Since all other strains are listed as lower in THC than the two I tried, I don’t see any reason to return to this dispensary.

And another one bites the dust…

Edible Marijuana: A New Frontier in the Culinary World (Minerva)

Edible Marijuana: A New Frontier in the Culinary World
(By) Ariella Wolkowicz
Johnson & Wales University-Providence*
Dr. Scott Smith, Dr. Cheryl Almeida
Fall 2012
(pdf file)

The Minerva Canna Group, also located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, grows all of their own
cannabis indoors, using the most up to date technology and techniques to regulate their
procedures. They grow their product 100% organic, with absolutely no pesticides or growth
hormones (Minerva Canna Group). The Minerva Canna Group uses Page Analytics to evaluate
and test their medical marijuana products (Briones).

The Minerva Canna Group was founded by Erik M. Briones in 2010. A degreed
horticulturalist and owner of Purple Sage Garden Center, who closed his business and retired
after the economic crisis in 2008, Briones decided he was perfectly situated to enter the medical
marijuana business after New Mexico began their medical marijuana program. As an authorized
patient, his education and expertise with botanicals coupled with his business savvy, gave him
unique credentials for entering this industry. He is the only producer of medical marijuana in
New Mexico with a degree in horticulture.

Meeting patients who preferred, or could not smoke marijuana, Briones recognized the
need to create edible products. His dispensary grows marijuana for medical purposes indoors,
organically, in soil as opposed to hydroponically. He grows plants of various strains to incorporate into his edible products so patients can experience the medical benefits provided by each strain. The cannabinoids are extracted through infusion processes into butters, oils,
tinctures, and vegetable glycerines. These compounds are used to produce a wide range of medical edible products (Appendix B). Briones prefers to mask the flavor of the cannabis plant
in the development of his edible products. Although laboratory testing is not yet required by the
state, all of Minerva Canna Group’s products are tested by Page Analytics in Albuquerque for
concentrations of THC. Doses are determined based on the Donald Abrams standards (Appendix C; Briones).

In New Mexico, patients are required to obtain their medical edible products from
licensed dispensaries. Due to this requirement, and other enforced New Mexico medical
marijuana laws, there is little to no competition in the medical edible market, contrary to the
experience in Colorado and California. Since opening its doors two years ago, Minerva Canna
Group has seen exponential growth. They started their business with no patients and now serve a patient population of 1,600. In one year alone, Minerva has experienced over 200% growth. The highly regulated market draws patients who have been diagnosed with one of the fifteen state approved uses for medical marijuana. The patient base tends to be well-educated, spanning across socio-economic boundaries, and an average age of 55. For brand recognition, they have developed their own logo which is incorporated into all of their product packaging, including the ingredients used and the dose of THC in milligrams for each product. No specific packaging or labeling guidelines have been established for New Mexico dispensaries so Minerva uses a variety of see-through plastic or foil-sealed bags, and bottles for their products. Over the past two years, their signature edible products have become popular amongst their patient population. Canna Colas, Lemon Bars, Cappuccino Crisps and gummy candies are patient favorites. For patient convenience, orders may be called in or ordered on line and a convenient pick-up location has been established in a more central location in Albuquerque. Patients cannot consume any product on-site (Briones).

Minerva Canna finds it is hard to keep up with patient demand due to the limitations the
state has put on the medical marijuana producers, which only allow for up to 150 plants per
dispensary regardless of the number of patients each dispensary serves. It is difficult to establish a bank account due to the current federal restrictions on the sale of medical marijuana. Despite these challenges and risks, Erik Briones is committed to this venture. He sees a real need and a real benefit for the medical edible marijuana business in New Mexico, and by extension, in the United States. His intent is to work within the guidelines established by his state to continue to meet the needs of this new and growing market.

*”Johnson & Wales University is well known for its Culinary Arts program but was first founded as Business and Hospitality programs. The university is the largest food service educator in the world. JWU is one of the top three Hospitality Colleges, according to the 2010 rankings released by the American Universities Admissions Program, which ranks of American universities according to their international reputation.” Wikipedia