Press Release  | 02/01/2007

Medical Marijuana Bill Begins Journey Through New Mexico Legislature

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SB 238, The Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act to be Heard in Senate Public Affairs Committee Today

Santa Fe--New Mexico legislators will once again consider a measure to allow seriously sick and dying patients to use medical marijuana for relief of their symptoms. SB 238, The Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, will be heard before the Senate Public Affairs Committee on Thursday, February 1.

A similar measure enjoyed tremendous bipartisan support last year and sailed through the Senate by a 34-6 margin. Gov. Bill Richardson voiced strong support for the measure during last year's legislative session. The bill died after passing in the House Judiciary Committee in the early hours of the morning of the final legislative day.

The bill would allow qualified patients suffering from serious illness such as cancer, HIV/AIDS and epilepsy to "use medical cannabis in a regulated system for alleviating symptoms caused by debilitating medical conditions and their medical treatments," according to the bill language. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-District 12, has 14 co-sponsors, including Senate Minority Leader, Stuart Ingle, R-Portales.

"I am confident that our elected officials see that this is an important issue for New Mexicans," said Reena Szczepanski, director of the Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico. "I sincerely hope that they realize that the sick and dying should not have to wait any longer for relief."

"For me, medical marijuana is truly a matter of life and death," said Essie DeBonet, who suffers from serious side effects due to HIV/AIDS medications.

The bill would instruct the Department of Health (DOH) to approve patient applications, issue ID cards and maintain a confidential patient registry. DOH also would be responsible for crafting rules for a licensed production and distribution system to allow patients access to medical cannabis without forcing them to obtain marijuana on the illegal black market.

"This is the humane thing to do," Szczepanski said. "Now is the time to get this done so our most vulnerable New Mexicans will have protection under state law."

Legal access to medical cannabis has been endorsed by numerous local and national organizations, including the New Mexico Nurses Association, the New Mexico Public Health Association, the New Mexico HIV Prevention Community Planning and Action Group, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Society of Addiction Medicine and the American Nurses Association.

Reena Szczepanski at (505) 699-0798 or Tommy McDonald at (646) 335-2242

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