ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Former two-term Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White isn’t just the CEO and security director of one of the state’s new medical marijuana producers.
He’s a medical cannabis patient as well.
The former Albuquerque public safety director said he became a convert to medical cannabis about two years ago to treat worsening chronic pain from decadesold knee and back injuries.
“A steady diet of consuming painkillers is not quality of life,” White said in an interview Friday. “The narcotic painkillers, they knock you out.”
White is one of four investors in PurLife – one of 12 nonprofits licensed last year by the state Department of Health to legally grow and sell medical pot to licensed patients. The action increased the number of licensed nonprofit producers to 35.
PurLife is renovating leased retail space at 3821 Menaul NE, where it plans to open its first dispensary by June, White said. The nonprofit began growing cannabis within the past two months at a 16,000-square-foot production facility in Albuquerque.
White is one of four investors who are chipping in just over $1 million to get PurLife into operation. The others include White’s son, Darren White II, Albuquerque attorney Jason Bowles and Jason File, CEO of Les File Drywall Inc.
In 1999, White stepped down as secretary of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, because he disagreed with then-Gov. Gary Johnson’s stand on legalizing drugs, including marijuana.
Around the same time, White began treatment for chronic pain from a back injury he received as an Albuquerque police officer and a knee injury from his service in the U.S. Army.
“When you suffer from chronic pain, there’s nothing you can do about it,” he said. “Mine over the years had gotten progressively worse.”
Medical treatment led him down a path of using ever stronger pain medications, including narcotic painkillers, White said. He turned to medical pot as “a very effective alternative,” he said.
White acknowledged that he once opposed medical cannabis, “but I think, like a lot of things, I was wrong about it.”
PurLife was one of 82 nonprofits that applied last year to the state Department of Health for a license to grow and sell medical pot.
The agency this month released those applications to the Journal in response to a request under the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act.
PurLife’s application showed that the nonprofit anticipated producing 800 pounds of cannabis in its first year of production and serving an estimated 1,000 patients.