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Justice Department warns pot festival organizers

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A warning from the U.S. Department of Justice caused some last-minute scrambling by the organizers of a marijuana festival scheduled this weekend near Las Vegas, Nev., cosponsored by a Nevada tribe and one of New Mexico’s largest medical cannabis producers.

Nevada’s U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden sent a Feb. 23 letter to Ultra Health LLC warning that “marijuana remains illegal under federal law” and threatening organizers with prosecution if cannabis is distributed at the event.

Ultra Health, which owns a medical cannabis growing facility in Bernalillo, is a partner with the High Times U.S. Cannabis Cup and Nevada’s Moapa Paiute Tribe, according to the magazine High Times’ website.

Duke Rodriguez

Duke Rodriguez

Ultra Health founder Duke Rodriguez said that organizers have taken steps to comply with the demands in Brogden’s letter, which Rodriguez provided to the Journal.

“We’re going to put in all the reasonable protections to make sure there isn’t the open sale and distribution of cannabis,” Rodriguez said Friday. “We think that’s what the U.S. attorney has asked us to do.”

High Times, which advocates cannabis legalization, describes the Cannabis Cup as the “world’s largest marijuana trade show,” including product demonstrations, according to its website.

The Nevada event was organized to celebrate voter approval last year of recreational, adult-use of marijuana. Rodriguez said the two-day event will feature 300 booths and musical entertainment.

“I think we have had good discussions with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the last 24 hours,” Rodriguez said in a telephone interview. “It has never been the intent of Ultra Health or anyone else to do anything that flies in the face of federal law.”

Ultra Health last year announced it had reached a $5 million joint venture with the Las Vegas Paiute tribe to build a large growing facility and two dispensaries on tribal land in Nevada.

That deal has no connection to the Moapa Paiute tribe, Rodriguez said.