Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Medical marijuana bill heads to Senate

Sun News Report
Article Launched: 02/06/2007 01:00:00 AM MST

The Associated Press

SANTA FE — A proposal to legalize the medical use of marijuana is headed for a vote by the full Senate, which has endorsed it in the past.

Supporters of the legislation steered the measure Monday through the Senate Judiciary Committee, which passed it on a 7-3 vote.

Patients with cancer, AIDS, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and some other illnesses could be certified by their doctors to participate in a program run by the state Department of Health, which would issue identification cards.

Patients in the program would be protected from prosecution by state authorities for possessing or using the drug.

"This bill is not about the legalization of marijuana for recreational use," said Reena Szczepanski, director of Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico, part of a national group lobbying for the measure.

She estimated that between 50 and 200 New Mexicans could qualify for the program.

It's supported by patients who say marijuana alleviates symptoms including nausea.

A statement read on behalf of Erin Armstrong, a 25-year-old cancer patient who has been lobbying the bill for several years, called the proposal "one more option to help us eat, help us sleep, help us from wasting away."
Law enforcement groups oppose the measure and note that marijuana is illegal under federal law and there would be no immunization from federal prosecution under the bill.

District Attorney Donald Gallegos of Taos said the controls in the bill are too loose, allowing for the possibility of illicit marijuana growing or phony certification cards.

The bill doesn't authorize patients to grow marijuana; the health department would come up with regulations governing the licensing of producers who would operate "on secured grounds."

New Mexico had a program more than two decades ago that linked the medical use of marijuana with a research project that eventually lost its funding.

For the past two years, a similar medical marijuana bill has passed the Senate but failed to clear the House.

On the Net:
New Mexico Legislature: www.legis.state.nm.us