Judge: NM State Fair infringed on medical cannabis firm’s free-speech rights

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New Mexico medical cannabis, Judge: NM State Fair infringed on medical cannabis firm’s free-speech rights

A federal judge ruled that the New Mexico State Fair violated the First Amendment rights of medical marijuana company Ultra Health in restricting its proposed educational booth for the 2017 event.

Marissa Novel, Ultra Health’s communications manager, said the company was “elated” with the decision and has found that educating the public about medical marijuana is critical to ultimately “expand(ing) our customer base.”

The vertically integrated Ultra Health touts itself as the largest MMJ operator in New Mexico with 22 dispensaries.

In a Jan. 16 ruling, U.S. District Judge James Parker ordered State Fair officials to allow Ultra Health to display the following at future events:

  • Implements used to grow and process medical cannabis, including a rosin press.
  • Images of cannabis plants and implements.

He also ordered the State Fair to pay Ultra Health’s attorney fees and other lawsuit costs.

Here are the basics surrounding the case:

  • The state and Ultra Health had a run-in in 2016 when the company displayed a cannabis plant at the State Fair. State police told Ultra Health to exit the premises, according to court documents, and the state later ordered the company to close for five days. Ultra Health claimed the suspension was arbitrary and would cost the company $150,000. The suspension was later reduced to two days; Ultra Health closed for two days last summer.
  • Ultra Health applied to exhibit at the State Fair in 2017, intending to use lavender to demonstrate how it squeezes rosin from cannabis, according to court documents. In a May 2017 email, a State Fair official told Ultra Health it couldn’t bring paraphernalia such as the rosin press or images of its growing and processing facilities.
  • Judge Parker said in his ruling that the State Fair has the right to exercise discretion in determining which vendors comply with the event’s family-friendly purpose. But he ruled the State Fair inconsistently applied its own policies and was unreasonable in its treatment of Ultra Health. For example, he noted, State Fair officials allowed Lemon Aid Organics to sell organic hemp oil at the fair in 2017.