Press Release  | 03/06/2003

Cancer, AIDS Patients in New Mexico Suffer as Legislation Fails on House Floor

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House Votes Against Medical Marijuana Bill, Preventing Relief for Terminally Ill Patients

The New Mexico House of Representatives voted 46-20 today against House Bill 242, the Lynn Pierson Compassionate Use Act. The legislation would have allowed cancer, AIDS and other seriously ill patients legal access to medical marijuana. "It's disappointing that despite New Mexican's pleas for access to this crucial medicine the legislation failed on the house floor," said Antionette Tellez-Humble, director of the New Mexico Drug Policy Project. "This bill would have provided life-saving relief. They'll now have to wait another year, and for many people that will be too late."

For many suffering patients, like the late Lynn Pierson, marijuana relieves the symptoms of cancer, AIDS, and other serious diseases when other medications do not help. When taken as medicine, marijuana can help with nausea reduction, appetite enhancement, and pain relief.

"Medical marijuana helps me keep food down," said Hank Tafoya, an HIV patient and an AIDS/HIV educator from Taos. "Marijuana is a medicine that helps me stay well to help my family. I don't know what we'll do now that this program won't be enacted in New Mexico."

The Lynn Pierson Compassionate Use Act would have allowed patients in pain to have access to medical marijuana through a doctor's recommendation and an independent board's certification. The bill proposed a system similar to the policies of Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, states that already allow medical marijuana for seriously ill patients.

David Salman, a retired legislator and House Majority Leader from Mora, carried a medical marijuana research bill in 1978. The research program has lapsed, and the new bill updates the system to take recent decades of research into account. "This was a good idea twenty-five years ago, and it's an even better idea now," said Salman. "I'm sorry to see that legislators haven't taken care of those New Mexicans who need relief the most."

According to a March 2001 statewide poll by Research & Polling, Inc. of Albuquerque, 78% of New Mexico voters support making medical marijuana available to such patients.

For more information about New Mexico's 2003 drug policy reform bills, and to stay updated throughout the session, please visit http://www.improvenewmexico.org/

Shayna Samuels at 212-613-8020 or Antionette Tellez-Humble at 505-983-3277

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