Press Release  | 01/31/2007

Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico Promoting Comprehensive, Holistic Approach to Drug Issues in New Mexico

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New Mexico Legislature to Consider Medical Marijuana, Treatment Instead of Incarceration and Overdose Prevention
Medical Marijuana and 911 Good Samaritan Bills to be Heard in Senate Public Affairs Committee Thursday, Feb 1

Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico (DPANM) is working on an ambitious set of reforms this legislative session that will improve the public health and public safety of the citizens of New Mexico.

On the legislative front, DPANM will advocate for five bills in the 2007 New Mexico legislative session, including the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, which would allow qualified patients suffering from certain illnesses to use marijuana for relief from their symptoms. The Medical marijuana bill (SB 238) and a 911 Good Samaritan bill (SB 200) will be heard before the Senate Public Affairs Committee on Thursday, February 1.

DPANM staff spent the past year meeting with coalitions of community members, treatment providers, families of incarcerated persons, government officials, and nonprofit agency heads to create a comprehensive agenda.

"New Mexico is already a national model of how a state can employ public health measures to address our drug problems and save lives," said Reena Szczepanski, director of Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico. "We can build upon our successes by continuing to establish policies that promote treatment, education and compassion."

DPANM will be working on the following drug policy reforms during the 2007 New Mexico Legislative session:

  • Medical Marijuana (SB 238) - The Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act would allow qualified patients suffering from certain illnesses to use marijuana for relief from their symptoms. Eighty-one percent of New Mexico voters support allowing legal access to medical marijuana, and eleven states already allow use of medical marijuana, including 75 percent of the western states. Medical research has firmly established that marijuana is a medically valuable treatment for some conditions because it can alleviate pain, increase appetite, and decrease nausea. The bill would allow qualified patients suffering from certain serious illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy, to use medical marijuana for relief of their symptoms. The law would require a patient to receive a recommendation for cannabis (i.e. medical marijuana) from his/her medical provider.
  • Medicaid Coverage of Substance Abuse Treatment (SB 271) - As a first step to ensuring access to treatment for all New Mexicans, Medicaid should cover a range of substance abuse treatment services, including: detoxification, outpatient services, counseling, medication-assisted therapy and aftercare. Thirty-five other states cover substance abuse treatment under Medicaid. New Mexico ranked second in the nation for the rate of persons aged 12 or older who need, but do not receive, treatment for illicit drug use. The most common reason that people cite for not receiving substance abuse treatment is cost. New Mexico should help eliminate this financial barrier so people can receive the treatment they need.
  • Treatment Instead of Incarceration (SB 620) - This bill will divert nonviolent drug possession offenders into treatment services, instead of prison or jail time. Treatment instead of incarceration for first- or second-time nonviolent drug possession offenders will not only save New Mexico millions of dollars a year, but will also make our communities safer by helping individuals receive appropriate community-based substance abuse treatment. Of the approximately 5,600 people in New Mexico's state prison system in 2002, about 87 percent were assessed as needing substance abuse services and 70 percent as substance abusing or dependent. Nonviolent drug offenders struggling with substance abuse or dependence need help, not jail.
  • 911 Good Samaritan (SB 200) - New Mexico has the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the country. These deaths are preventable. People using drugs are afraid to call 911 during an overdose because they might be arrested for possession of illicit substances, even in cases where they need professional medical assistance for their friends and families. This bill would prevent those arrests, and give amnesty to those seeking medical help.
  • Medication Assisted Therapy: Women's Prison Treatment Project (HB 528) - The Buprenorphine Pilot Project at NM Women's Prison Bill would provide funding for two years of focused anti-addiction medication treatment to women inmates with a chronic history of narcotic addiction who are approaching release back into the community.

"A comprehensive, holistic approach is the only way we can solve the drug problems in our communities," Szczepanski said. "We need prevention, treatment, public health, harm reduction and public safety initiatives, working in collaboration. That's the only way to help New Mexicans stay safe and healthy.

Reena Szczepanski at (505) 669-0798 or Tommy McDonald at (646) 335-2242

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