Creating Art in a Dispensary Makes New Mexico’s Medical Marijuana Regulators Nervous
See the video that's got officials up in arms.
Published on September 12, 2016

New Mexico's medical marijuana regulators frown upon self expression in dispensaries, especially when it manifests itself in the form of a rap video.

Last week, New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program sent a letter to a New Mexico Top Organics - Ultra Health asking how Albuquerque hip hop artist Versatile Verse filmed a music video inside their medical cannabis dispensary and why.

"What is the intended purpose of the video?" Ken Groggel, New Mexico state Medical Cannabis Program manager, inquired. "Who is the intended audience?" The state seems concerned the video might promote cannabis to the under-18 crowd.

Ultra Health, one of the state’s 35 licensed cannabis dispensaries, posted the letter on their Instagram.


What ever happened to freedom of speech & artistic expression...? #UltraHealth #NewMexico @versatileverse

A photo posted by Ultra Health (@ultra_health) on

According to Ultra Health LLC President and CEO Duke Rodriguez, this is the first time the Department of Health has sent such a letter, despite the dispensary serving as the setting to previous videos.

"It's kind of funny," he said. "It's kind of like the Department of Health is expressing a dislike for music, or maybe that type of music."

Watch the video, filmed for Versatile Verse’s “New Mexico.” 

Ultra Health employees supervised the filming, according to Rodriguez. "There was never any risk to the plant or to the (medical cannabis) patient," he said. The song doesn’t cover the topic of marijuana, featuring rap lyrics promoting the state, such as “the chile is green, and the city is cold.”

The rapper adds in the song: I’m from New Mexico where the chile is green, and the city is cold. I don’t ever want to let it go. It’s in my soul.” The musician also warns to “keep an eye out for the cops.”

"They weren't advocating the illegal use of cannabis, or trying to get young people to try it,” Rodriguez said of the video which features the musicians, who wear blue plastic gloves in the video, among plants taller than they.

Rodriguez says the video is “an artistic expression by young people who were managed and supervised (by licensed Ultra Health employees). Nothing in fact happened bad. None of them touched the medicine.” Rodriguez told the Albuquerque Journal.

Ultra Health has until September 16 to respond to questions. “We are awaiting their response before determining the next steps, said David Morgan, DOH spokesman. Ultra Health sued DOH in August challenging the 450 marijuana plant limit per producer.

“I think the state DOH is looking for a reason, in light of our lawsuit, to find fault in what we’re doing at Ultra Health,” said Rodriguez, who himself led the New Mexico Human Services Department 20 years ago.

The New Mexico medical cannabis program has grown since its creation in 2007. In the past year, the number of patients nearly doubled from 14,000 to 26,568 through June.

Justin O'Connell
Justin is a California-based writer who covers music, cannabis, craft beer, Baja California, science and technology. His writing has appeared in VICE and the San Diego Reader.
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