The state’s largest cannabis producer is going to get larger.

Ultra Health, New Mexico’s biggest medical cannabis producer, plans to open 20 new dispensaries around the state in the next 12 months.

The company, founded in 2013, plans to have 50 dispensaries up and running by the end of next year to meet the expected demand once the state begins allowing residents to purchase and posses recreational marijuana on June 29.

“These are the kind of commitments not only Ultra Health will have to make, but other players in the industry both big and small,” said Duke Rodriguez, president and CEO of Ultra Health.

The company, which employs about 300 people statewide, will be hiring several hundred more as it expands. Over time, Rodriguez said, his company likely will employ up to 3,000 people as it expands operations into 28 of the state’s 33 counties.

Among other plans, Ultra Health will convert an abandoned Smith’s grocery store in Socorro to a 50,000-square-foot distribution facility. The company will also open a new 28-acre facility in Alamogordo.

Rodriguez said his company invested $12 million into cannabis production in 2020 and a total of $30 million in anticipation of the legalization of recreational cannabis.

The state plans to issue licenses for cannabis retailers no later than April 1, 2022, but Rodriguez said he hopes that initiative can happen sooner — no later than the start of next year.

While some legislative studies on the economic impact of legalizing recreational marijuana predict modest financial gain in the short run, Rodriguez thinks the industry will eventually “challenge the magnitude and scope of the film industry,” second only to oil and gas production.

In May, state officials released the first round of draft rules for cannabis producers, covering such provisions as security, transportation, water rights and facilities.

More proposed rules for the testing, sale and transportation of recreational cannabis are expected to be rolled out soon.

General Assignment Reporter

Robert Nott has covered education and youth issues for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He is assigned to The New Mexican's city desk where he covers a general assignment beat.

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