Cannabis industry campaign contributions grow

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The nascent cannabis industry donated more than $52,000 to New Mexico candidates and political action committees in 2015 and 2016.

The largest donor, Ultra Health, hopes to see lawmakers increase plant limits for medical marijuana providers this session.

The Legislature is also considering bills that seek to legalize marijuana. The first, House Bill 89, is scheduled for a committee hearing Saturday.

Eight states and the District of Columbia allow adult use of cannabis, while 25 allow medical use of the drug, which is still illegal under federal law.

The marijuana industry has donated to candidates at the federal level as it looks to change laws there.

Still, in New Mexico, the industry’s campaign cash is a relatively small portion of the $10 million spent by legislative candidates and the nearly $16 million spent by PACs for the 2016 elections.

But it’s considerably more than the $14,300 donated by the industry in 2014 and $2,000 in 2012.

“I think that people are beginning to see increased activism by the industry, but that simply reflects the industry’s maturation,” said Duke Rodriguez, CEO and president of Ultra Health, which operates seven medical cannabis facilities in New Mexico.

Ultra Health was the top donor, giving $20,000, while Rodriguez came in second with $6,750. Another Ultra Health executive, Trevor Reed, donated $1,500.

The medical cannabis industry had more than $50 million in sales in New Mexico in 2016.

“If you look at the amount spent on political activities, it’s relatively insignificant,” Rodriguez said. “You’re just seeing the emergence of a new industry.”

Here’s a look at the cannabis contributions by donor:

The biggest beneficiary was House Minority Leader Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, who received $13,000.

But the bulk of the money went to Democrats and their PACs. Democrats now control both the House and the Senate.

The New Mexico Defense Fund, a PAC operated by House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, received $11,000 from businesses and individuals in the cannabis industry, while the Senate Majority Leadership Fund received $10,000.

Rodriguez said his company’s top legislative priority is increasing the number of plants medical providers are allowed to grow.

“Our No. 1 priority is to serve patients, and the things we serve them most with is plant count,” Rodriguez said. “Plant count is the center to all our activities. If you don’t have plant count, you don’t have product.”

Here’s a look at the recipients:

And here’s a detailed chart of the 2015-2016 cannabis-related contributions:


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