The Albuquerque-Santa Fe-Rio Rancho triangle could become home to four medical marijuana growhouses, according to documents filed with the New Mexico Department of Health and the Public Regulation Commission.

In July 2007, the Department of Health began development of New Mexico's Medical Marijuana Program as mandated by the Legislature. Two years later, several hundred patients have enrolled in the program, but questions remain as to when the program will produce enough cannabis to meet demand.

To date, the Department of Health has received 10 applications from nonprofit organizations for licenses to grow pot. Though DOH has attempted to keep the names of the organizations confidential, SFR was able to determine most of their names (see Producers), including the only one DOH has approved so far—Santa Fe Institute of Natural Medicine Inc.

Santa Fe lawyer Margaret Schulze, who serves as the organization's media contact and as a board member, says she was approached by a California group engaged in that state's medical marijuana program and helped it craft its application. SFINM will have its administrative offices in Santa Fe, but grow its marijuana at a facility in Sandoval County. It plans to distribute the drug strictly through a delivery service.

In an interview with SFR, Schulze asserted the nonprofit would likely "pull up stakes" if SFR published its name in this story, arguing that to do so would attract the attention of the US Drug Enforcement Agency as well as criminal elements.

Not all medical marijuana producers are as skittish. If approved, another nonprofit, Organtica, based in Los Cerrillos, will be the pot farm closest to Santa Fe.

"The reason that I'm in Cerrillos is it just happens to be where I had some land that I'm willing to gamble if the feds come in," Organtica founder David C Romero White, a graphic designer who grew up in a homeopathic Christian Science family, tells SFR. "I'll gladly surrender my land and do whatever time I need to…We don't want weirdos and bad elements showing up at our place, but other than that, I have nothing to hide."

Organtica would serve the Albuquerque and Santa Fe corridor through a delivery service, according to the application filed with DOH. Eventually, White would like to move production to an industrial park in Albuquerque but, in the meantime, he says, the staff will stay small, with two full-time growers, a few part-time trimming and packaging workers and two full-time deliverers.

"It really depends on the number of clients and what size the demand is going to be like," White says. "That part I can't predict."

Only 361 patients are currently registered with the program, although estimates of eligible patients in New Mexico range from a few thousand to 46,000. This number grows as the DOH approves more conditions; currently 14 conditions qualify, with "severe chronic pain" the most recent addition. Hospice patients also are eligible.

"There will never be enough supply to take care of the demand," White says.

Not only is the demand unmeasured, but so is a facility's potential capacity. Producers are limited to 95 plants at any given time. According to cannabis program officials, a facility should be able to handle about 40 patients, though SFINM claims it can serve approximately 85 patients.

"Frankly that's one thing that just pisses me off about people saying 'oh yeah, we can serve 88' or the state saying 'you should be able to serve 44,'" White says. "They have no idea."

White is working closely with Thomas Murray, a retired Army major who says he coordinated an anti-drug program for the military. Murray also has filed an application for his nonprofit Southwest Organic Producers, which would grow cannabis in Corrales and serve patients in Belen, Albuquerque and Rio Rancho.

Murray says he's looking to medical marijuana growers in Mendocino County, Calif. for guidance. Based on their experiences, Murray estimates New Mexico growhouses will max out at 96 patients, based on the assumption that six to eight plants will produce one pound of marijuana every two months, with maximized indoor lighting rotations.

Although two other nonprofits have applied to sell marijuana on-site, Murray and White agree delivery-only service is the best option.

"[Regarding dispensaries] I don't think the state wants to go there yet," Murray says. "But if I was going to do that, I'd have a cannabis buyers' club."

One nonprofit proposing a dispensary says it's abandoned its application.

"We've already been declined and it's not going anywhere," NMMC Co. incorporator Carlos Armijo tells SFR. "It's like a moot point, at this point, and we've given up. The process is a little more difficult [than we thought]."

DOH Public Information Officer Deborah Busemeyer denies the department rejected NMMC's application. Medical Cannabis Program Coordinator Melissa Milam could not be reached because she's on maternity leave.

That's another problem, Murray says: The program has all but come to a standstill in Milam's absence. Milam and DOH Infectious Disease Bureau Medical Director Dr. Steve Jenison are the only two staffers overseeing the program.

"The state, not by design, but through the way they've formed [the program], they have not added enough people to fully staff that section the way it should be," Murray says. "I could turn on in about 15 minutes upon approval."

Visit to read the applications (including three new ones) as well as an interview with former New Mexico health official and medical marijuana activist Bernie Ellis, who was sentenced to probation for growing pot on his farm in Tennessee.

In order to protect Medical Cannabis Program participants from criminal investigation and robbery, the New Mexico Department of Health enacted a rule not to divulge the names and locations of nonprofit marijuana producers. Nevertheless, SFR was able to identify eight of the 10 nonprofit applicants by cross-referencing documents filed with the Public Regulation Commission and through redaction errors on producer applications obtained under the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act. All applications are still pending approval, with the exception of Santa Fe Institute of Natural Medicine, which has been approved.

1. Cannacare of New Mexico Inc.
Location: Registered in Silver City
Dispensing: Unavailable

2. Grassroots RX
Location: Registered in Roswell
Dispensing: Delivery

3. Medzen Services Inc.
Location: Cibola County
Dispensing: Delivery

4. NMMC Co. (New Mexico Medical Cannabis LLC)
Location: Chaves County
Dispensing: On-site, delivery for severe cases

5. Organtica
Location: Los Cerrillos/Santa Fe
Dispensing: Delivery only

6. Santa Fe Institute of Natural Medicine Inc.
Location: Santa Fe County
(administration), Sandoval County (growhouse)
Dispensing: Delivery only

7. Southwest Organic Producers
Location: Corrales/Sandoval County
Dispensing: Delivery only

8. Unknown
Location: Albuquerque/Bernalillo County
Dispensing: On-site

9. Unknown
Location: Unavailable (serves entire state)
Dispensing: Delivery only

10. Veggies Inc.
Location: Eddy County
Dispensing: Delivery only